In this fourth post in the Bridgeline blog series 17 Ways to Deal with the Top Pain Points of eCommerce – we look at fulfillment.
One thing that will trip up even the best marketer is a failure to clinch order fulfillment after making the sale – a task which often rests entirely on logistics that aren’t always entirely within your control. Whether it’s because of a failure to build a clear and complete logistical support flow or cost – much depends on your ability to manage the far side of the sale. Dealing with any failure on the part of anyone else down the logistics line – packing, shipping and tracking of purchased items, and, even more problematic, returns – eats away at your margin.
There are real costs associated with poor logistics from a lowering of ROI, loss of customer goodwill and loyalty, and employee time spent trying to fix the problem. And that’s not even taking into account warehousing, storage, shipping and other fulfillment costs.
Logistics play a key role in customer satisfaction. Customer order fulfillment is one of the biggest challenges in eCommerce. Most online vendors are dependent on third-party partners. Failed transactions are costly, and inventory and delivery management can create a lot of headaches. Dealing with logistics takes time and resources away from your sales effort, but merchants ignore these vital pieces at their peril – bad logistics will quickly start affecting the bottom line.
- Take the case of an online item ordered before Christmas 2011, which finally arrived in early February 2012, an experience that made the customer think twice about ordering from the same company again. When the customer chased down the delivery company, it turned out that they had never received her phone number to arrange delivery. In this case, while the order went through perfectly, the fulfillment failed. “This is a classic example of process pain points occurring at ‘hand-offs’ between a business and its supplier,” writes Gartner blogger Samantha Searle – the unfortunate buyer. It’s also a situation easily avoided with logistics and inventory management more closely integrated with your website.
Let Customers know the status of their order. Being able to track delivery was recently rated the number one fulfillment feature for online shoppers. 75% of consumer think retailers must offer tracking options and almost half have abandoned shopping carts over delivery features, especially speed. Keep them happy with trackable options. Set up systems to let them know the status of their order every step of the way – from when the order is received, to when it’s shipped and delivered – a process even more vital if purchases are backordered. Or better yet, choose an eCommerce tool with such options built in.
- Along with providing tracking information, consider using address verification. Verification reduces the chances of orders going astray in the delivery process and decreases the number of fraudulent transactions – a win-win for any vendor. For customers, knowing how and when the order will reach them is an essential part of a seamless checkout process, starting with estimations of shipping costs and delivery timing through payment processing and confirmations.
Failed transactions frustrate customers, so paying attention to your logistics helps ROI. Moreover 46% of consumers have said they recommended their online retailer because they received their product when expected.
Maximize your logistics ROI. Consider ways to optimize your shipping process, such as finding the smallest containers for your material to reduce costs in packing materials and in shipping. In addition, drop shipping or zone skipping can help reduce shipping costs. Can you consolidate your delivery process into fewer numbers of warehouses or fulfillment vendors? Getting a handle on logistics is a necessary part of eCommerce. worldwide. LiveMint reports that investors are shying away from offshore eCommerce companies that can’t handle “characteristic pain points such as logistics and warehousing, courier services that could handle cash on delivery, website creators for online stores and payment platforms that can ensure safe online transactions.”
The final installment in Bridgeline’s five-part series on 17 Ways to Deal with the Pain Points of eCommerce involves finding a complete solution. We’ll deal with putting all the various pieces together to create happy, loyal customers while finding a total eCommerce solution that ensures you’re happy as well. Check out the other posts in the series on drawing customers onto the site, converting them once they’ve arrived, and finding new customers overseas, or visit the Bridgeline Digital website for more information on eCommerce solutions or to download a whitepaper version of this blog series.