When I was asked to write about the delivery times of online purchases, it seemed like a very daunting task. It was hard to find a central point to the text, since there are as many "right" delivery times as there are product categories. On the one hand fast delivery is definitely a competitive advantage, if you are selling the same product as the next online store. On the other hand, delivery times vary from the near instantaneous delivery of digital goods to the weeks or months it can take to craft a custom piece of furniture. There just doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution.
So I started to do some research and found some interesting information that can be of use to you (these can be found from the eConsultancy Ecommerce Statistics Report):
- Consumers like to be able to choose between different delivery options with different price points; some are willing to wait longer to receive their order to save money, others need their order soon and are prepared to pay premium for the service.
- French consumers appreciate same day delivery.
- Being able to track product delivery is important to customers (and also shapes their thinking and expectations on delivery times).
These thoughts, while valid, do not apply to all shops and products. So what so I really want to say about delivery times?
Little by little the idea formed in my head: the length of the delivery time isn’t as important as meeting the customers expectations. You can help shape your customers expectations by the information you provide in your online store as well as your direct communications with them – newsletters, email, etc.
For example, on the MyTrendyPhone website there is a clock that shows when an order needs to be placed to get same day shipping. A definite expectation of the delivery time forms in the customer’s mind – to receive the product on the following business day, maybe the day after, but no later.
This requires an efficient storage management system backing up the store. If the background systems fail, the delivery time promised is compromised. If the product isn't available immediately, it has to be communicated clearly so that the customer doesn't expect to receive the product the next day. If the delivery time is longer than 2 business days, the customers will very quickly contact the store to check the status of their order. Being even one day late on delivery will very likely mean that the customer's expectations are not met. There has to be a good process in place for handling deviations in delivery times.
Naturally unexpected situations arise that prevent you from shipping an order when promised. Resolve these situations is honest and prompt communication.
Contact your customer immediately! Let them know:
- The reason for the delay in delivery
- A realistic assessment of when their order will be shipped
- Offer compensation, free delivery or a discount on their next order
- Offer the customer the option to cancel their order or to change to a similar product that is available sooner.
Being upfront and honest with your customer helps them adjust their expectations. And what customer doesn’t like to get something for free or get a discount? Giving the option to cancel their order gives your customer the option to react if delivery time is critical for them. I personally find it harder to cancel an order if the seller seems to have my best interests at heart and cares about my needs. This is also a great opportunity to provide stellar customer service that can set you apart from your competition.
Now I feel like rambling about how to create good, even great, customer service in your online store. I can feel another post coming soon.