Theft during the last mile of product fulfillment is a growing problem in ecommerce. According to a report by InsuranceQuotes.com, 23 million Americans had packages stolen from their doorsteps in 2015. Even worse - a DropOff study found that 94% of consumers blame the e-tailer for poor delivery, while only 42% blame the delivery provider. Not only are you losing product from theft, you're also losing repeat customers and brand reputation.
While there isn’t much you can do to directly prevent this type of “shoplifting,” there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of theft and provide customers with a better delivery experience.
Secure delivery options
Unattended packages are the ones thieves like to target, so secure delivery options can be a major deterrent. Some common solutions are:
- Signature request
- In-store pickup (if you also operate brick-and-mortar locations)
- Delivery to a storage locker (Amazon Locker is a good example)
- Customer-supplied delivery instructions (for example, you can add a new checkout field where customers write instructions, like “Please leave package on the back porch.”)
Proactive shipping notifications
Most ecommerce sites allow customers to passively check the delivery status of an order. Taking a more proactive approach to this idea can not only make your deliveries more secure, but improve your customers’ experience. Encourage customers to sign up to receive delivery notifications via text message, email, or even app push notifications.
Work with your carriers to offer your customers the ability to select a specific delivery date and time. This can be a value-added shipping option at checkout, or you can offer it for free with a minimum order.
Most omnichannel retailers take an ad hoc approach to selecting fulfillment management software; opting for solutions designed to suit the needs of each sales channel. For example, you may utilize POS software for brick-and-mortar locations and an ecommerce platform (such as Shopify or Magento) for your ecommerce site.
Ideally, a 3PL provider should have no problem integrating your current technology and software solutions to keep everything working seamlessly. But if your expansion into omnichannel is recent, you may not know what features you need or which vendor to go with. In this post, we'll go over some tips for selecting fulfillment operations software and providers that will enable you to give your customers the best possible experience – no matter which channel they purchase through.
Brick-and-mortar Point-of-Sale Systems
There are many inventory management features you should look for in a POS. From an omnichannel perspective, it's critical to have real-time product availability from all store locations, and the ability to receive orders from your other sales channels (like your ecommerce site). This level of inventory oversight confers numerous advantages: store personnel can see inventory status across the chain, customers can buy online and pick up in store, and overall product availability is much clearer.
Shoppers rely on various types of product information in their purchasing decisions. Therefore, you need an ecommerce platform that allows you to easily manage lots of merchandizing attributes like photos, product features, etc. The goal is to have detailed, searchable product information on your ecommerce site so customers can comfortably "add to cart" without needing to leave your site and find the information elsewhere – possibly from a competitor.
Choosing a vendor
Ideally, you'll want a software vendor that specializes in working with omnichannel clients. In addition to providing robust support for omnichannel processes (such as inventory synchronization), an important thing to look for is a commitment to building software with free and open APIs that allow your sales channels to share data and work together. At Fulfillment Works, our fulfillment management system has a fully-supported, real-time SOAP XML API that allows a client's programming team to write their own code for custom features and functionality.
In today’s digital age, reducing usability hurdles and simplifying your ecommerce site's “path to purchase” for mobile shoppers is crucial. Responsive web designs and simplified navigation are key to creating a positive mobile shopping experience. Unfortunately, form fields tend to be overlooked in this regard.
A simple but essential part of any ecommerce site, forms allow e-tailers to collect customer information to complete orders and set up user accounts. However, forms can produce frustrating hurdles for mobile shoppers who must manually input information via small touch screens. To keep mobile customers from bouncing off of your site or abandoning their carts, make sure that your website forms abide by these design guidelines:
Minimal form fields
For mobile users, each blank form field is a step in the registration and/or checkout processes. In ecommerce, each step is an opportunity for users to bounce. By reducing the length and complexity of your forms, you reduce cart abandonment rates too. One common mistake is requiring customers to enter the same information for multiple form fields, such as for email and password confirmation. The purpose of repeating form fields is to reduce user-submitted errors - but there are other ways to achieve this. For example, you could make password creation forms visible by default to allow customers to easily see if they have made an error. You can also show new customers the bare minimum of forms for their first purchase, then follow up with additional forms via email.
By streamlining the process of inputting information, you reduce your customer’s exposure to checkout friction. Incorporating autofill features into your forms accomplishes this while also reducing the amount of user errors that come from unassisted manual input.
Streamline form navigation
To make it easier for mobile shoppers to input information and navigate between fields, make sure your forms are vertically aligned. With this layout, users see multiple fields at once and only need to scroll up or down to see more (as opposed to up, down, left, or right with side-by-side form fields). You can further streamline forms by combining single input fields that request related parts of related information. For example, instead of having fields for First and Last name, area code and phone number, or month/day/year (3 types of information, split among 7 fields) - combine them to create a Full Name field, Phone Number field, and Birthdate field, respectively.
Providing customers with a good experience the first time (and every time) they purchase from you is an important part of building customer loyalty. Loyal customers grow your company, so it's critical to assess your customer service from multiple angles and improve where necessary. Below are some tips you can use to get the full picture of your strengths and weaknesses in customer service.
Shop your site
What better way to evaluate customer service than by becoming a customer? To get an authentic experience, you’ll need to do more than just place an order. Contact your company with product questions or for help with placing an order. Buy something from yourself and evaluate your checkout process. After the order arrives, call customer service to troubleshoot some issues. Go through your returns process. Browse your website with a critical eye and ask yourself: are products easy to find and compare? Do product descriptions provide the right kind of information? Is the shopping experience the same on mobile devices?
Review customer feedback
If your customer service department uses call monitoring tools, that’s another excellent resource for finding areas of the customer experience that need improvement. Reviewing customer service calls can reveal patterns or errors you may not find by manually browsing your site, such as pricing errors, frequently asked questions, or even areas where customer service reps need more training. Additionally, you can review the most recent product return codes to look for recurring issues.
Improve your reporting
Is your customer service perfect, or could there be issues you’re not hearing about? Review the customer service and fulfillment reporting you have in place and look for gaps to fill. For example, there are opportunities to create new product return codes to get more granular customer feedback. If your reporting is thorough, you may be able to supplement it further with customer satisfaction surveys.
In order to increase their customer appeal, more B2B ecommerce sites are refreshing their design and functionality to mimic some of the strategies employed by B2C ecommerce sites. For the most part, this is an effective strategy. However, B2B customers can have motivations and needs that are different from their B2C counterparts. In this blog post, we'll cover a few common reasons that shoppers are visiting your B2B ecommerce site – and what changes you can make to better appeal to these users.
B2B customers are often required to compare the cost of materials from multiple vendors before placing an order. Putting your prices front and center can help your customers finalize a purchasing decision. If price is not the competitive factor for your products, be sure to draw customer focus to the valuable differences or features of your products.
If you have technical content for your products (e.g. spec sheets, video demonstrations, performance testing results, etc.), don’t force users to dig for it. Keep your product pages organized and keep your content in a designated area to help customers easily find the information they need.
Ready to purchase
If a customer visits your site intending to place an order, don’t change their minds with a difficult checkout process. If your B2B customers place orders for large amounts of different SKUs, the B2C approach of including lots of product info (like images and descriptions) in the cart can add unnecessary complexity. A better approach may be as simple as an order form with fields for SKUs and quantities.