Dealing with shipping time as a marketing problem

A lot has been said about shipping costs as a potential conversion killer. The argument being made here is that customers do not like it when the price of a product showcased on your website does not include shipping costs. This serves as a stumbling block when these customers hit the checkout button and realise that they will need to shell out more money to buy your product.

But there is not nearly as much literature online about the impact of shipping time on conversions. This is a big problem for countries like the UK where the inventory carrying costs are among the highest in the world. Startup entrepreneurs tend to save on working capital by using dropshipping as a means to fulfill their customer orders.

This can have a big impact on conversions. According to one study, nearly 16 % of users abandon their cart because the delivery was too slow. Some eCommerce owners have been able to overcome this problem by simply hiding the shipping time information from their product pages. This can help you increase conversions, but can present you with a much bigger problem down the line. Customers unhappy with long waiting times tend to request for cancellations, or worse, request chargebacks from their banks. This can clog your customer support line and could potentially get your merchant account suspended.

Communicating shipping time as a small merchant

If you are a small merchant with just a handful of orders each day, hiding your shipping time can be a very tempting option. One way to sustain the high conversions without risking chargebacks is by deploying a solid communication strategy. For instance, you could make a personal call to each of your customers informing them about the shipping time. This way, you only proceed with the sale if the customer is okay with the long delay. You may choose to refund those orders where customers are unhappy with the delay. This may however not be a sustainable strategy when your business grows to several hundred orders each day.

Devising a communication strategy as a large merchant

Calling up each of your customers to inform them about a shipping delay could be unsustainable as a large merchant. In addition to this, such strategies are not appreciated from large businesses and you could be setting yourself up for a PR nightmare. As a large business, the best way to deal with lengthy shipping time is through proper communication.

Use delivery date instead of shipping time: A two week shipping may seem like a lot of time and this tends to bring the conversion rate down. Replacing this with a delivery date makes this more relatable to your customers. Studies have shown that customers are more ready to go ahead with a purchase when they see a delivery date as opposed to the shipping time.

Use ePackets: Dropshipping has traditionally received a bad rep because of the extraordinarily long shipping times. This is especially true for businesses that source their products or dropship directly from suppliers in China or Hong Kong. In such instances, make use of the ePacket China delivery option. It typically takes just 7-14 days to dropship. This is tolerable for most shoppers and should help with your conversions.

Provide tracking info: The problem with lengthy shipping times is that customers are often left in the lurch for weeks without any information on the status of their purchase. Sending them timely tracking information and also making it possible for them to monitor the package in real-time alleviates most of these concerns. In addition to this, make it a point to advertise your real-time or package tracking feature prominently on the product page so that customers feel more confident while checking out a product from your store.

The past decade has seen same-day delivery become a possibility in a lot of industries. It is thus natural for customers to feel frustrated with product deliveries that can take more than a handful of days. But with proper communication and the right positioning, it is possible to reduce the impact of shipping time in online purchase.

What has your experience been? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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