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15 eCommerce Shipping Best Practices

by Justin Palmer - December 7th, 2007

Ahh the shipping page. The un-welcome step in every eCommerce site’s checkout process. Because many sites fail to answer basic questions such as “how long will it take?” or “how much will it cost?”, many sales are lost at this important juncture. Some research shows that shipping concerns top the list of reasons why people abandon shopping carts. Below, I’ve listed some shipping best practices that I’ve used that help streamline the process for both the consumer and the company.

  1. Don’t Require Login to View Pricing: Don’t make your customers jump through hoops in order to get a shipping price. Customers should be able to see the cost for shipping on the shopping cart page. If you base your prices on the location where the order will be shipped, give people the ability to enter their zip code for a quote.
  2. Info on Product Page: Questions about shipping should be addressed early and often. A popup link on the product page is a great way to give customers price quotes or shipping time estimates.
  3. Link to Shipping Page from Shopping Cart: In the shopping cart where customers select the shipping method, be sure to link to a page with more information regarding each option. On this page, specify estimated delivery dates for each region.
  4. International Shipping Page: International shipping can be complex, so be sure to give a detailed explanation in order to calm the fears of international shoppers. Explain possible delays, and well as customs fees the customer can expect to pay.
  5. Don’t Make Shipping a Profit Center: Customers are very sensitive to high shipping prices, so don’t jack up your rates for profit. Some companies, like Columbia House, got in trouble for deceptively profiting off shipping and handling charges.
  6. Offer Free Shipping at Level Above your Average Order: If your average order is $50, consider offering free shipping at $60 in order to increase your average order.
  7. Rate Shop the Carriers: By having your shipping software rate-shop the major carriers, you’ll be able to select the cheapest shipping method to a specific regions. One of my clients saved an average of $1 per order by rate shopping UPS, Fedex, and USPS with shipping software from HarveySoft.
  8. Show Delivery Estimates by Region: On your shipping page, show a map of UPS or Fedex estimated delivery times based on region.
  9. Ship Next Business Day: I can’t stand it when companies sit on your order for days before it ships. Make it a point to process orders within 1 business day.
  10. Ship Express Same Day: If possible, ship 2 Day or 1 Day Express orders the same day, up to a certain cutoff time. I’ve found that many customers don’t realize that when they choose “1 Day” shipping, there may also be 1 day of processing, making their package arrive a day later than expected.
  11. Email Tracking Number: I would guess that most companies do this, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Email your customers promptly with their tracking information. Also, be sure the email contains a link directly to the tracking detail page. I find it highly irritating when companies just send you to the carriers’ tracking page and you have to enter the tracking number manually from the email.
  12. Discounted International Shipping: Don’t forget your international customers when it comes to shipping promos. While its probably not feasible to offer free international shipping, you should give your out-of-country customers a discount of some type. Karmaloop offers free domestic shipping and $5 off international shipments when you reach a certain level.
  13. Branded Packaging: By having your company imagery on the packing, you’ll build brand awareness as well as reduce the rate of unclaimed packages. Oddly enough, family members or roommates will sometimes reject a package because they don’t know who its from. Branded packaging helps to alleviate this issue.
  14. Take Responsibility for Lost Shipments: Sure, it’s not your fault, but in the eyes of your customers, you’re the only one who can resolve the issue. If a customer calls about a package that was supposed to be delivered by the carrier and was not, take the matter into your own hands and mediate between the customer and the carrier. If the package cannot be found quickly, re-ship the merchandise regardless of whether the carrier will take fault.
  15. Under Promise, Over-deliver: Under promising and over-delivering is important in all aspects of customer service, not just shipping. To ensure that you don’t promise and unrealistic delivery times, you may want to add 1 day of padding on to your delivery times estimates.

About Palmer Web Marketing

Justin Palmer offers expert eCommerce consulting services and SEO services in Orange County, Ca. Justin also has written an eCommere e-book entitled eCommerce Roadmap.

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5 Responses to “15 eCommerce Shipping Best Practices” by Justin Palmer

  1. sir jorge Says:

    I wish all companies did this, too bad they are usually horrible.

  2. Tim McGuiness Says:

    How keeping the tracking on your site instead of sending them to UPS or FedEx to track a package?

    It makes it easier for the customer to review the order and it brings them back to your site (and your branding) one more time.

  3. Linda Bustos Says:

    Great advice here. As a Canadian, I’m also concerned about shipping cutoff date information – we may be wrong to assume that the Dec.18 (most common USPS cutoff date I’ve seen) is enough time to cross the border. It probably isn’t.

    I also would like to see in-store pick-up/returns information for multi-channel stores. American Apparel just opened up here in Vancouver. I’ve bought online several times and did again yesterday – but there was no information about in-store pickup options. I may write them an email about that…

  4. palmerwebmarketing Says:

    Good point Linda. I’m planning on doing a post on best practices for returns and exchanges soon, I’ll be sure to mention that one.


  5. Bloggers Digest - 12/14/2007 - Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog Says:

    [...] Palmer shares 15 best practices for shipping policies. Excellent as [...]

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