Practical Ecommerce

How Shipping Methods and Policies Affect Conversions

Ask any group of online shoppers their top reason for abandoning a shopping cart and they’ll likely refer to shipping. However, it’s not always about the cost of delivery.

The way etailers ship orders plays a big role in customer satisfaction. That includes the carriers used, estimated dates of delivery, and how orders are packed. Consider the needs and desires of your customers when it comes to shipping practices to build more trust and a loyal following.

Not All Carriers Are Equal

Many online shoppers have a carrier of choice, and it’s typically dependent upon how those companies deliver packages. Are envelopes too big for the mailbox? Are boxes left in a place where weather affects them? Or do the drivers take the time to knock on the door and, if the recipient is not home, leave the package in a discreet location? Practices vary from location to location.

Just because UPS might be good in one area doesn’t mean it ranks best in all areas. So consider what’s of the utmost importance after an order is placed: It is delivered in perfect condition.

While it may not be feasible to offer various methods across all major carriers, giving customers at least two carrier options puts them in more control, and that makes for happier shoppers.

Many online shoppers have their own preference. Some refuse to select certain carriers or methods based on previous experience. For the shopper referenced above, frustration over a delivery person would lead customers like him to steer clear of FedEx. <em>Source: MainStreet.com.</em>

Many online shoppers have their own preference. Some refuse to select certain carriers or methods based on previous experience. For the shopper referenced above, frustration over a delivery person would lead customers like him to steer clear of FedEx. Source: MainStreet.com.

If you offer UPS and FedEx, be sure to include on your shipping policies page that packages may ultimately be delivered by USPS. Both carriers utilize USPS for delivery of certain package types to certain areas. (See “Pros and Cons of UPS SurePost, FedEx SmartPost.”) Also, be sure to list which carrier you use for a shipping option of “standard” or “ground.”

Delivery Times Matter – Even with Free Shipping

Many storeowners assume that if the shipping is free, consumers will be okay with waiting more than a week to receive their order. Most online shoppers expect orders to be packed and shipped within a business day. They also expect to receive shipments within a calendar week, regardless of the method used.

You need to not only process orders quickly, but also ship them using a timely service. More importantly, you need to tell shoppers in advance how long delivery should take.

People want to know how much shipping will cost, but also how long it will take for the shipment to arrive. Many prefer to see this information before completing checkout fields. Source: VanHalenStore.com

People want to know how much shipping will cost, but also how long it will take for the shipment to arrive. Many prefer to see this information before completing checkout fields. Source: VanHalenStore.com.

Even if delivery times are listed elsewhere on the site, including them during checkout gives shoppers a clear understanding.

Even if delivery times are listed elsewhere on the site, including them during checkout gives shoppers a clear understanding.

Pack It Well and Reap the Benefits

While a post-order issue, shoddy packaging affects future conversions. Customer reviews can help and hurt sales. So reviews that call out items damaged due to packaging can play a big role in someone’s decision to purchase from a certain store.

One of several reviews for a computer hard drive point out the lack of proper packaging. Amazon’s “Helpful / Not Helpful” feature indicates that many shoppers may have avoided this product.

One of several reviews for a computer hard drive point out the lack of proper packaging. Amazon’s “Helpful / Not Helpful” feature indicates that many shoppers may have avoided this product.

In 2013, Amazon experienced a flurry of bad reviews and returns due to its packaging of the PlayStation 4. More than 1,000 customers gave the product a one-star review after receiving a damaged console. Although some of the problems were because of a factory issue, Amazon replaced an undisclosed number of consoles after customers pointed out units that were damaged in shipping.

Sometimes people are happy with the product, but they’ll still point out packaging and shipping issues.

A product on Amazon – Nellie’s Laundry Soda – comes in a retro-style tin. Though most reviews are positive, many customers complain about dented and crushed tins as a result of poor order packing.

A product on Amazon – Nellie’s Laundry Soda – comes in a retro-style tin. Though most reviews are positive, many customers complain about dented and crushed tins as a result of poor order packing.

When choosing shipping carriers and when calculating delivery times and packing orders, take responsibility and strive for greatness. Keep the following pointers in mind.

  • While cost matters, most online shoppers prefer to receive orders in a timely fashion, and delivered in one piece.
  • Shoppers want to know when to expect their order. By displaying estimated or guaranteed delivery dates, one can determine if he should upgrade to a faster method.
  • No matter what the product, damaged goods are just that. Yes, even laundry detergent may be purchased as a gift. Always pack items in sturdy cartons with ample padding.

Should customers leave bad reviews or comments about shipping or packaging issues, take the time to address their concerns. Then use their feedback to reexamine your current policies.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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Comments ( 8 )

  1. Elizabeth Hollingsworth April 7, 2015 Reply

    Great article, Pamela! Is there any research on how online ordering with free in-store pick-up affects conversion?

    • Pamela Hazelton April 7, 2015 Reply

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I’ve not dug into that, and have only worked with two stores that offer in-store pickup. For them, it’s popular during the holidays – locals take advantage of last-minute sales for gift-giving.

      I’ll put that on my list to hopefully analyze this next holiday shopping season.

      • Elizabeth Hollingsworth April 8, 2015 Reply

        Thanks Pamela, I’d be really interested to see the findings.

  2. Janet B April 15, 2015 Reply

    Our big problem with our shopping cart is that it cannot get the shipping right. We live on the west coast. If we get the shopping correct on the west coast, it under charges on the east coast. So now we have the east coast correct and give refunds to the west coast customers, but it costs us still. We get charged on the credit card for the postage and do not get credit on the refunds. Who has the best shopping cart with the best shipping interface? Thanks, Janet

  3. Mocking Fish April 28, 2015 Reply

    All the points covered under this article are subjective. One of the biggest downsides of online shopping is the amount of time it takes for the product to reach the customer. To counter this issue, retailers can implement “Same Day Shipping” policy on a wide range of products to pacify this particular customer woe. If customers new that their product would be shipped on the same day as it was orderd, they are more likely to shop from the website that offered this service.

  4. Steven June 1, 2015 Reply

    Good article. All too often online retailers forget that what is really important to a customer is getting the product, safe and quickly.

  5. Johnson McGee November 11, 2015 Reply

    I like how you said, “…most online shoppers prefer to receive orders in a timely fashion, and delivered in one piece”. My wife shops online sometimes for home decor. Also, she loves getting presents from Amazon. I love when I see a package waiting for us on our front porch. How much does next-day shipping cost? http://www.bontime.com/Services

  6. Stewart Boomer January 12, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for pointing out that even though cost is important, most people really do prefer to receive orders fast and in one piece. I know as a personal shopper, I always appreciate when things I order are well packaged and delivered on time, so from a business perspective it makes sense why people would enjoy the same things. http://www.adashmessenger.com