3 Ways to Improve the e-Commerce Customer Experience
So like many other e-retailers, you have put a lot of effort into developing your e-Commerce website. You have focused on providing multiple payment options, developed a mobile app, created a great product line and focused on search engine optimization to attract plenty of shoppers. What often gets lost in the shuffle is what happens after your customer does the final click of the mouse to complete their order. Online retailers are not only facing intense competition from internet giants, but also traditional bricks and mortar retailers. What happens after this transaction is often what defines your business in regards to repeat customers and positive online reviews to attract future customers. Here are three tips that will help you keep a leg-up on the competition.
1. Strategic Inventory Placement
The first thing to consider is where are you placing your inventory? You want to stock your inventory in a location(s) that can reach the majority of your customers in a normal one day transit for parcel or freight carriers. Columbus, OH is a prime location for many e-retailers as you can reach up to 60% of the US population in a one day transit time. Not only does this improve customer experience, but it also reduces your transportation spend when most online retailers are offering free shipping. Depending on your product line, size, scale and inventory carrying costs you can consider regional distribution options or go highly local with forward stocking locations in metropolitan areas. The bottom line is you need to be flexible on where you stock your inventory. 3rd party logistics providers can help you stay fluid and pay only transactional costs for storage and handling, while avoiding long term capital investments in distribution for real estate, IT infrastructure and labor.
2. Make Returns Easy
Returns are part of any retail business, and most online retailers average around a 30-40% return rate. No matter what the reason good or bad you need to make it easy for the customer to return the product to ensure repeat business. For parcel sized shipments, any of the major carriers have a PRP or Package Return Program. They can integrate with your website to make it easy to print return labels and have an international footprint for solid coverage. If your product is large and has to go via freight, returns can be a bit trickier. Best practice would be to seek out a 3rd party logistics provider that can provide reverse logistics and white glove pick-ups at residential locations within a 4-hour window. A good white glove carrier can manage the entire process from pick-up, line-haul and return to your dock. If you can make the returns process painless for the customer, it will go a long way towards building brand loyalty.
3. Offer Same Day Delivery
In a new mobile world, the consumer's desire for instant gratification is growing exponentially. The e-Commerce giants are rolling out same day delivery in some of the major markets in the United States. Your in-house DC or your outsourced logistics providers needs to be able to provide accurate sameday order fulfillment to allow enough time for the courier to make the customer's delivery window. Also your product will need to be regionalized or even allocated to a local level with forward stocking locations. This will mean higher inventory carrying costs, but should lead to more sales if your product line demands this type of service.
While the digital world of e-Commerce is the sexy front end of the store, don't forget about the physical world of logistics that is the life blood of your service. Not only do you have to attract customers, but logistics is the key to keeping them. If you execute these 3 strategies effectively it should result in better sales and increased market share.
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