With the pressure on retailers to offer smooth and immersive online experiences, it’s easy to see how shipping can become something of an afterthought. Yet according to research, many shoppers judge stores by their so-called ‘last mile’ capabilities – and if you’re not up to par, it could cost you valuable sales.
So, what are US consumers’ expectations of the shipping experience? And what can your business do to ensure a great shipping experience possible?
Why the last mile matters
In a recent study, more than 1,500 male and female shoppers across the US were questioned on their needs and expectations around shipping, and which aspects they deemed most important.
Almost all (98%) said shipping impacts their loyalty to a brand – and 84% claimed they’d be unlikely to return to a store after just one negative ‘last mile’ experience.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the key features US consumers now expect when it comes to you shipping their purchases.
38% of large-item deliveries failed due to appointment scheduling issues, which end up causing inconvenience to shoppers.
Nearly 3 in 4 shoppers (73%) expect to be given either a morning or afternoon delivery window. Just under half (45%) expect a two hour window, or less.
55% of those questioned need to reschedule their appointment windows at least 20% of the time.
Route changing features:
70% of respondents expect an option allowing them to change the delivery address – either to a new location, terminal or pick up locker.
Most shoppers (52%) now expect their shipping costs to be refunded or at least discounted.
98% of shoppers want to interact with brands to resolve delivery issues. For example, tracking a product shipment or accessing FAQs that address common problems.
89% of shoppers are likely to share feedback on poor delivery experiences. Just over 42% say email is their preferred channel, while 28% would rather call a customer service line. Surprisingly, only 3% of those questioned would choose social media to voice their frustrations.
The challenge for retailers
Many retailers are starting to look more carefully at their shipping experience and how it can impact the overall brand offering.
As a result, new job titles have emerged – such as Chief Delivery Officer and Head of Customer Happiness. And CPGs (consumer packaged goods) have also experienced a huge growth in sales by by embracing omnichannel and direct-to-consumer models.
But despite their best efforts, things can inevitably go wrong once the product leaves your store or warehouse. According to research, 3 in 10 large-item shipments (35%) take at least one attempt to schedule, and more than 1 in 4 (28%) of those scheduled appointments fail, which adds more time and cost to the process.
Next steps for improving your shipping
No shipping solution is completely foolproof, and no amount of planning can prevent a one-off delay or even a total loss.
That said, there are steps you can take to improve your shipping experience and keep customers happy.
Start with when: Provide customers with the specific date that they can expect their order to arrive to ensure holiday timelines are met.
Self service: Allow shoppers to schedule delivery appointments that work can accommodate their needs.
No news is bad news: Provide customers proactive status updates throughout their order journey to ensure they have full transparency to the delivery process.
Fulfillment solutions: Aim for faster deliveries, without incurring extra costs in areas such as forward stocking inventory in key markets.
Integrations: Connect your delivery system with your customer data to give deliveries a more accurate and personalized feel.
Visibility solutions: Look closely at how your current shipping experience is impacting your CSAT (customer satisfaction score) or NPS (net promoter score).
Customer care: Automate and improve your response time to ‘where is my order’ customer enquiries.
Courier partnerships: Explore options around potentially offering a same day delivery service.
Remember, offering your customers an easy, efficient and speedy shipping service can make or break a sale. Rather than simply seeing it as an ‘add on’ to your overall retail experience, look at how it can become a key selling point for you – and a way to set you apart from competitors.