Use online shipping to build customer loyalty

Small Business Guides

6 min read

Annual online sales are due to top US$1 trillion in 2016. Just two years later, they’ll pass $1.5 trillion. The way you ship your product could affect how much of that spend you get. We spoke to Shopify – an online sales platform – to find out more.

Choose your shipping method

Online shipping is more than just another step in the sales process. It’s an opportunity to create a customer experience and build loyalty. The strength of your online shipping options may even help you make the sale in the first place.

There are plenty of shipping options you can offer through ecommerce platforms like Shopify. Some will be very attractive to your customers but you need to consider the costs to your business.

Your standard options are:

  • Free shipping 

    Free shipping makes it easier for a browser to buy your product because what they see is what they get. It’ll generally work for you too – if the shipping cost is no more than 20 percent of your product price.

    See what your competition’s doing. If they’re all offering free online shipping, it’s going to be hard for you not to.

  • Flat-rate shipping
    Flat-rate shipping is an extra cost for your customer but it’s fixed and uncomplicated. They know what’s coming before they make the purchase.

    This method works best when your products, packaging and shipping costs don’t vary much. It can also save you time – simply calculate the shipping costs once and apply it across your business.

  • Real-cost shipping

    Real-cost shipping is what it sounds like. Customers are charged the precise cost of shipping a product – based on its size, weight and destination. It’s accurate and transparent but the calculation takes time and the costs can seem unpredictable to your customers.

    On the other hand, it’ll protect you from picking up the bill for heavy or oversized parcels and is especially helpful when your product sizes vary widely.

  • Same-day delivery
    If you’re targeting local customers, same-day delivery can be a real selling point – especially as the holidays or Valentine's day draw near.

    It’ll take more time to set up this service. You’ll have to work out a deal with a local delivery company, and you may have to customize your ecommerce platform – depending on who you’re with.

    Shopify and UberRUSH offer same-day delivery to customers based in certain cities within the United States. When a customer requests same-day delivery, you simply pack the order and schedule pick up. Within minutes, an UberRUSH courier will arrive, pick up the order and hand deliver it.

Whichever of these options you use, make it easy for customers to understand your shipping fees on your website. You should also be aware that you’ll probably work with a mix of local and international shipping providers to deliver these services. Whoever you choose, make sure they allow your customers to track and trace their items en route.

Online shipping is a branding opportunity

As an ecommerce merchant, you don’t have a lot of contact with your customer. That means fewer brand touchpoints. High-quality or innovative packaging is one of your best ways to make a lasting impression.

A study by Dotcom Distribution found that customers are more likely to make a repeat purchase if their delivery comes in quality packaging. And 40 percent would share an image of a uniquely packaged delivery on social media. That’s a lot of free advertising.

There are many ways to build brand awareness and loyalty through your packing, such as unique design or package shape. Try to think outside the box.

Use inserts to bring your customers back

When sending a package to your customer, don’t just put your product inside. Use the opportunity to encourage them back. Consider inserts like:

  • discount offers, such as a free shipping voucher or a discount on their next order
  • samples of other products they might like
  • small gifts, such as sample stock from your suppliers
  • personalized thank you cards – large companies don’t have the resources to do this, so it’s a competitive advantage

Use online shipping to enhance the customer experience

Every step in the online shipping process is an opportunity to win your customers over. They care about cost, they care about convenience, and they care how you present their new product. Use these things to your advantage. Treat online shipping as an opportunity to delight customers, build brand loyalty and encourage repeat business.