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Choosing Your Shipping Partners: Key Considerations

choosing your shipping partners

Your shipping partners will play a vital role in the success of your ecommerce business. Selecting the right shipping partners is crucial for ensuring timely and cost-effective delivery, enhancing customer satisfaction, and fostering loyalty. In this article, we take a look at the factors you should consider when choosing your shipping partners, to help you make informed decisions that align with your business goals.

Delivery Speed

Prompt delivery is a cornerstone of customer satisfaction in ecommerce. Look for shipping partners that offer a range of delivery options, including next-day or same-day delivery. By meeting customers’ expectations for speedy delivery, you can cultivate a reputation for reliability and create a positive shopping experience.

Johannes Panzer, Head of Product Strategy, Ecommerce at Descartes highlights the importance of shipping partners living up to your customers’ expectations for delivery speed:

“If the retailer promises to ship within a specific timeframe, it is essential to ensure that the carrier’s cut-off time aligns with this commitment. Retailers should check if the carrier’s collection schedule allows them to meet their delivery promises.”

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs directly impact customer acquisition and retention. Consider different cost structures offered by shipping partners, such as flat rates, weight-based, or zone-based pricing. Striking a balance between affordability and service quality is essential. Transparent and reasonable shipping costs not only attract new customers but also contribute to their loyalty and repeat purchases.

Mike Jones, Commercial Manager at ILG outlines several cost considerations that online retailers need to consider:

“Free Delivery is becoming more challenging to achieve due to escalating costs, however, consideration should also be given to the cost of upgrading to a premium or next-day service. If client retention and repeat business is crucial to your business growth, then lifestyle courier options and cheaper alternatives may not be the appropriate choice.

“Of course, it isn’t just the cost to ship the parcel that should be a factor in making a choice. Additional surcharges apply if your freight is regarded as ‘ugly’, and any carrier will add fuel surcharges to the cost of your shipment. In some cases surcharges can be in excess of 15%, so consider your ‘all-in cost’ when reviewing potential partners.

“Usually, any good or premium service comes at a price, and this is no different when shipping partners are being considered. Ask yourself whether one or a choice of shipping partners is the best way forward. For anyone looking to purchase, variety could be the deciding factor between a completed or abandoned basket at checkout.”

Delivery Options

Offering various delivery options gives customers the flexibility they desire. Seek shipping partners that provide convenient choices like in-store pickup, locker delivery, or scheduled delivery. By accommodating different preferences, you enhance customer satisfaction while potentially reducing costs associated with missed deliveries or failed attempts.

Working with a shipping partner that can offer multiple carriers is a worthwhile consideration, as detailed by Bobbie Ttooulis, Group Marketing Director at GFS:

“Shipping partners are an extended functionality of the retail purchase experience, and several crucial factors need to be brought into play. First and vital are the presence of choice and flexibility. Our latest study with thousands of UK consumers, Battling Basket Abandonment: Mastering Delivery Choice and Convenience for Frictionless Shopping has revealed that consumers expect a minimum of around 5 different delivery options and lack of delivery convenience is one of the top reasons for online cart abandonment.

“It’s essential to have a range of shipping services and carriers to choose from to ensure optimal service and coverage across different regions. Additionally, evaluating price points is crucial to strike a balance between cost-effectiveness and quality of service. Comparing rates and understanding any additional charges or fees associated with different shipping partners is important for budgeting and profitability. 

“In today’s uncertain market, the shipping partner needs to be your partner in contingency. We’ve seen since the pandemic and last year during strikes during Peak, how several retailers saw severe disruptions and losses. A strong delivery partner will have the power and expertise to offer up a Plan B to protect delivery so customers can have their products with minimal/no disruptions. This means, when you’re faced with a situation as many ecommerce sellers saw last year right now, you have the convenience of quickly switching carriers to avoid delays, or even planning for capacity in case of unexpected sales.

“It’s crucial that retailers make an informed decision after finding a reliable and reputable selecting shipping partner who can flex their muscles to offer the choice and services through their carriage buying power in the market.”

Tracking and Visibility

Tracking and visibility are indispensable for a seamless customer experience. Opt for shipping partners that offer real-time tracking, email notifications, and user-friendly mobile apps. With these features, customers can effortlessly monitor the progress of their shipments, reducing anxiety and promoting confidence in your brand. 

Johannes Panzer of Descartes concurs, “In general, the more transparent the post-purchase process is, the more consumers appreciate it. We work with many customers, for which a branded parcel tracking experience, via email and/or tracking website in their corporate design, is key to increasing their post-purchase brand awareness and promoting a growing number of repeat buyers.”

International Shipping

Expanding your business globally will need you to give careful consideration to international shipping. Partner with shipping carriers experienced in navigating customs clearance, tariffs, and shipping regulations. They can provide invaluable expertise and streamline the international shipping process, ultimately reducing costs and improving delivery times to delight your global customer base.

Customer Service

Customer service is a pivotal aspect of the shipping experience. Look for shipping partners that offer excellent customer support through channels like phone support, live chat, or email. Effective and responsive customer service fosters trust, resolves issues promptly, and ultimately contributes to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Mike Jones of ILG summarises it succinctly when he says, “In every instance, a brand or retailer should keep the end-customer in mind and consider which shipping partners will enhance the overall client experience – and which could cause reputational damage.”

Conclusion

Choosing the right shipping partners is a critical decision for ecommerce businesses. Look to prioritise factors such as delivery speed, shipping costs, delivery options, tracking and visibility, international shipping expertise, and customer service. Each of these elements significantly influences customer satisfaction, loyalty, and operational efficiency. 

By conducting thorough research and aligning your shipping partners with your business needs, you can establish a reliable and efficient shipping ecosystem that drives ecommerce success.

Remember, online retail success lies, to a large degree, in the hands of your shipping partners. Make the right choice, and you can propel your business to new heights of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and growth.

Like this article? Read more fulfilment content in the Ecommerce Fulfilment Update August 2023.