In the fast-paced e-commerce climate, certain things are unavoidable. Returns, customer-service inquiries, fierce competition, cart abandonment and more will all occur no matter how well a store operates. But while no remedies exist to solve these issues outright doesn’t mean you have no control over how they impact (or enhance) your bottom line, brand reputation, and customer satisfaction.
One critical business area that’ll dictate your fate is your shipping policy, specifically, how transparent you are about it with customers. Below I’ll discuss how stores can be more transparent about their shipping guidelines to build trust with customers and earn more conversions.
Don’t Surprise Customers
All the moving pieces required to run an e-commerce business means mistakes are inevitable. Some errors—such as having a typo in a blog post or not segmenting your email list enough for a particular promotion—won’t impact your bottom line drastically.
However, deceiving customers, or surprising them in less-than-stellar ways, will have a severe effect on your overall revenue. Consider your own online-shopping experiences: how do you feel when you wait until the last checkout screen to learn that shipping costs are too high or the delivery time frame doesn’t suit your needs?
Per Statista, four of the top eight primary reasons shoppers cited for abandoning carts in 2016 and 2017 involved shipping. The most common reason shoppers abandoned their carts? Yep, you guessed it: expensive shipping, with over half of consumers leaving their purchases because of it.
“No free shipping” was another major cart-abandonment driver in 2017 according to 39 percent of respondents. Other factors include “unaware of shipping costs,” (24 percent) while over a quarter of people said “slow shipping” derailed their purchase intent. It’s worth noting that e-commerce stores improved in three of these four reasons in 2017, with only “slow shipping” increasing in the percent of survey answers from 2016 to 2017 (albeit by a mere four percent).
Despite perceived progress in these areas, brands still have a long way to go. E-commerce cart abandonment rates hover between 60–80 percent, with the average settling just under 70 percent. Being upfront about shipping will reduce cart abandonment, save customer-service bandwidth, improve the customer experience and drive more revenue growth.
Build a Thorough FAQ to Communicate Your Shipping Policy
A frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) page is a must for any type of e-commerce store. It’s the place to communicate the high-level details of how your store operates and the guidelines customers can expect. Dedicate a section of your FAQ knowledge base to your shipping policy. Here customers should find information on shipping options offered (and how long they take), shipping restrictions, price tiers, and anything else prospective shoppers would want to know. If you’re in the process of launching a store or redoing your shipping policy and aren’t sure where to start, this template from Termsfeed should get the ideas flowing.
Display High-Level Shipping Details on Every Page of Your Store
You don’t want to surprise customers, and you’ve built a thorough yet concise FAQ section to aid your efforts—what else can you do? Ensure every visitor takes note of your shipping features and need-to-know guidelines by displaying them prominently on every page of your site. On your homepage, it’s best to position your important shipping details above your navigation. Displaying shipping information on such a valuable area of screen real estate does more than communicate with customers openly; if shipping features are consumer-friendly, advertising these details will generate more conversions.
It’s a good idea to also include a link to the ‘Shipping’ section of the FAQ section near high-level offers so curious shoppers can learn more about shipping terms and conditions if they want. For category pages, keep shipping features in the same fixed place in your navigation. However, for product pages, you’ll want to place the essential shipping details, along with product-specific information that affects shipping modes, timeframes and cost, alongside the product in a way that stands out from the rest of the product copy.
Use an Estimated Shipping Tool
It’s understandable that some e-commerce stores can’t afford to offer free shipping, especially in two days. Despite consumer preferences increasingly shifting toward free, fast shipping, charging for shipping (that takes more than two business days) doesn’t have to mean doom for your business. But to have any hope of success with outmatched shipping features, customers must understand how much shipping costs and/or what types of shipping are offered before they spend 30 minutes browsing your site and adding to their cart.
An estimated shipping tool is especially helpful for independent brands that sell a variety of products that range in box size and weight. A good example would be a store selling beauty products from home on a platform like Shopify. A customer might place an order as small as a few shades of lipstick or as large as hair appliances, bulk-size shampoos and conditioners.
A visible, accessible estimated shipping tool allows potential customers to get an idea of how much shipping is to their address, and updates them if shipping costs change as the shopper adds items to their cart.
Inform and Create Urgency
Most of us have experienced something along the lines of Amazon’s “get it by Friday when you order in the next 4 hours and 32 minutes” when shopping online. That’s because notifications like these enhance the customer experience and subtly ask the customer to make a purchase—and in that order.
Another way a store could do this is enticing shoppers to meet a free-shipping threshold: “Add $5.50 to your order to qualify for free shipping.” Even if you’re advertising free shipping at a specific order value, you can’t count on the customer to correlate the details with their cart. A subtle nudge reminds and encourages them to keep browsing your products. In many cases, the customer will end up adding far more than the $5.50 required to get free shipping.
Dwindling inventory is another effective way to promote through urgency. Keeping with the beauty-store example above, let’s say there are only 10 of Autumn Sunrise” lipstick shade, an item that’s been jumping off the shelves recently. By including a message on the product page that says, “Autumn Sunrise is selling fast! Only 10 left. Order yours today!” will motivate shoppers to fast-forward their product research and comparison shopping to buy the product before it’s out of stock.
The beauty of being transparent about your shipping policy (and store guidelines in general) is that it’s a win-win for brands and customers. Keeping customers aware of how you operate, and how they can get more favorable terms on their orders, isn’t slimy.
Take the time to assemble a helpful FAQ shipping section, advertise important shipping features in top-level site navigation, use an estimated shipping tool, experiment with product-specific notifications to encourage more buying, and if you’re going to surprise customers, make sure it’s a welcoming surprise.