For several years, the primary focus for most (if not all) online businesses was to attract and onboard new customers. Of course, this is completely understandable. After all, customers are revenue, revenue is capital, and capital is the lifeblood of every business — online or offline.
However, what has changed over the years – especially in the last few – is that customers are no longer exclusively evaluating their experience by what happens on the front-end of the transaction; e.g. learning about products and services, building relationships with businesses, and making a secure and easy online purchase. Increasingly, they are focusing on what happens after the transaction and, specifically, on ecommerce fulfillment.
With this in mind, here are some core best practices all online businesses should keep in mind to ensure that they are not just completing a delivery with every shipment, but they are also fulfilling a critical brand promise:
Convenience is More Influential than Delivery Speed
These days, customers are much more interested in – and influenced by – convenience rather than speed. For example, they want to know that costly items will not be left on a porch, and that items will be either delivered when they are home, or sent to a nearby (and of course, secure) collection point. This does not mean that speed is optional; obviously that is not the case. But speed without convenience is not a formula for providing exceptional customer experience.
Up-to-date Communication is Essential
In the past, shipping information typically began and ended with a generic email saying “your order has shipped.” However, today’s ecommerce customers have much higher expectations, and want to be in the loop about when their order is being prepared, when it ships, and how quickly it is heading towards them. Notably, many customers will tolerate a delay and will not punish an online business if they know about it in advance.
Packing is Part of the Puzzle
The “un-boxing” movement that has inspired thousands of YouTube videos has established beyond any doubt that people care about how things are packaged – and online businesses should, too. This not only includes ensuring that the presentation is neat and tidy, but increasingly, that minimal packaging is used to reduce environmental impact. Including inserts with each package, such as thank you letters, quickstart guides, and registration information are also part of the puzzle.
Don’t Forget to Follow-Up
Last but not least, online businesses must keep in mind that their eCommerce fulfillment doesn’t end when customers receive their shipment. Following-up with an email, text, or good old fashioned direct mail are also good ideas.
The Bottom Line
Customers are no longer settling for what they deem to be a functional buying experience. They also want, and frankly expect, fulfillment to be part of the overall service commitment. Indeed, just as how the most successful high-end car sales professionals have always known that delivery is the most vital — and the most vulnerable – touchpoint on the entire buyer’s journey, online businesses must appreciate that how customers receive their purchased items is as important, if not more important sometimes, then when they receive it, or how much it cost them.