How to Create an Exceptional Retail Shipping Experience!

Imagine someone is telling you an entertaining story. He’s taking time to mention all the important details and pauses periodically to make sure everything is making sense. He’s just about to get to the best part when he suddenly stops and walks away.

An hour or so later, he comes back and just hops right back into his story, ignoring the noticeable gap in the conversation. He rushes through the rest of the tale quickly, not putting in near as much effort as he had been previously. While you got to hear the conclusion of the story, the end of the interaction was pretty disappointing.

This is what happens when an eCommerce merchant’s commitment to the customer experience stops as soon as a shopper completes check out. Think about it this way …

  • A shopper browses a well-designed, easy-to-navigate site and finds exactly what she’s looking for (because the retailer invested time in creating a great UX.)
  • She adds her items to her cart, gets to the checkout page, and is invited to choose from a wide range of shipping and payment options (because the retailer wants to meet each consumer’s unique needs.)
  • She clicks “Place Order” and receives an email with all the information she needs about her purchase (because the retailer knows she’ll want a record of it.)
  • Then, a member of the retailer’s team receives the order notification, grabs a plain brown box, tosses in the generic packing slip, closes the box with clear packing tape, affixes the typical shipping label, sends it out the door, and calls it a day.

The merchant was building this great connection with the customer and then just abruptly ended it. There were multiple opportunities to continue the conversation, but the retailer either ignored them or didn’t even realize they existed.

There shouldn’t be a lapse in communication between when the shopper places an order and when the package is received. An online retailer must dedicate the same effort to each part of the shopping experience — including shipping.

Here’s how to create a retail shipping experience that’s memorable (in a good way.)

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Maintain Brand Consistency

Every aspect of your digital presence (including your website, emails, social media, and marketing communications) likely follow a standard set of brand guidelines. Whenever possible, your content has the same font and colors, uses the same types of imagery, and features your logo.

Many online retailers are under the impression their branding opportunities are limited to those four areas. But there are actually three other places an ecommerce retailer can (and should) feature its brand:

  1. Tracking page. A tracking page bridges the gap between purchase and delivery. It provides a customer with real-time updates about her shipment and helps reduce the number of unnecessary, “Where’s my package?” emails. Sending a consumer to a carrier’s tracking page breaks the customer-brand connection. But using a branded tracking page keeps your brand front and center and helps promote you, not a carrier.
  2. Shipping label. The shipping label is the last thing a consumer looks at before they open their package. Again, they should see your brand — not the carrier’s. Include your logo, your tagline, and a personalized message. The message can be as simple as, “Thank you for your order!” or include specific product information. It’s one more small detail that can make a big difference.
  3. Packing slip. Designing the packing slip is the final step in creating a positive shipping experience; it can’t be an afterthought. With a branded packing slip, you have control over how every element appears — from the header and footer to individual line items. You can be confident your customers have what they need to end their experience on a high note.

By branding your order tracking page, packing slips, and shipping labels, you’re preserving consistency throughout the shipping process. And consistency is important.

Pro Tip: Consider branding the outside of the box, as well. Use packing tape with your logo and add fun graphics.

Be Available and Attentive

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Some ecommerce brands feel a single order confirmation email is sufficient post-purchase communication. But what happens if the shopper accidentally deletes the email? If she didn’t register an account on your site and now can’t access her order number, her package tracking options are limited.

She can either a) reach out to your customer service team or b) communicate with you via social media. If you’re especially busy and/or short-staffed, she may not get an answer for days. And if you don’t have someone keeping an eye on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, she may never hear from you.

Your customers should never be in the dark about their order. Create triggered emails that are sent each time a package moves to the next step in the shipping process. If possible, set up an automated email to alert the customer about any unexpected delays. And include a link to your branded tracking page in every message.

On your Contact Us page, tell customers the standard response time for an email. And most importantly, abide by it. If you know your customer service team can’t consistently reply to inquiries in under 24 hours, don’t claim they can.

If you’re truly committed to offering a positive shipping experience (and want to outshine your competition), pay close attention to your social media accounts. Almost 35% of consumers say social media is their top choice for requesting help from a brand. They also expect a reply within four hours. However, not only is the usual response time 10 hours, but 89% of social messages are ignored entirely. While you certainly can’t provide 24/7 support, if a customer reaches out at a reasonable time, you need to respond as quickly as possible.

A good post-purchase and shipping experience encourages brand loyalty. And a negative post-purchase experience can turn a shopper off from your brand entirely. Make sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by ignoring the impact of the shipping experience.

This post was contributed by Callie Hinman, Content Marketer & Writer at ShipStation, a leading provider of shipping software for eCommerce fulfillment.

Shipstation leads the e-commerce world with our web-based software designed to make e-commerce retailers exceptionally efficient at processing, fulfilling, and shipping their orders from all the most popular marketplaces and shopping carts using all the top carriers.