How Your Startup Can Offer Better Shipping Than the Competition This Holiday Season

In today’s world of Amazon Prime, it has never been more critical for small online retail businesses to keep customers happy with appropriate shipping policies. With the holiday season here, deadlines for shipping should loom large in retailers’ minds.

When deciding on your startup’s shipping and return policies, keep in mind the following aspects of customer satisfaction. After all, you want to keep your best customers coming back for more after the holidays are behind us.

Set Realistic Expectations

The most important element of customer satisfaction is to clearly communicate what your consumers can expect. Your company’s policies regarding shipping options, times and returns should be clearly outlined on your site. Equally critical is providing clear contact methods for how customers can reach you if their package is late or fails to arrive. Few things frustrate customers more than having to waste time figuring out what to do when problems arise.

Utilize Multiple Carriers

Businesses new to online retail often make the mistake of utilizing only one shipping method. However, using multiple carriers allows you to offer your customers more options for how quickly they receive their package while providing you with alternatives should you encounter repeated issues with a particular carrier. While many are familiar with FedEx and UPS, don’t overlook modern same-day services, such as UberRUSH or Deliv.

Keep Customers Alerted

Modern technology now offers a host of applications your business can utilize to keep customers alerted as to the location of their item as well as when it arrives. These apps also build communication between you and the customer and can show them you care.

For example, you can set up an automatic email or text alert to be sent whenever a customer’s package is delivered just to follow up and ensure they are satisfied with their purchase. With package theft high this time of year, such alerts also let customers know when their package is at their door so they can arrange for a neighbor to gather it for safekeeping should they be away when their items arrive.

Ship Free When Possible

Polls indicate that when given the choice between free shipping and fast shipping, free shipping wins out 88 percent of the time. That means retailers who fail to offer at least one free shipping option to consumers risk losing a good deal of business.

This doesn’t mean you need to eat shipping costs entirely. Customers willing to pay more for faster shipping should be given that option, and charging slightly more for this can help offset money spent on those preferring free shipping. Consider a membership option, too. Take Amazon’s example, where Prime members pay a once-a-year fee to enjoy free two-day shipping.

Be Clear on Return Policies

Online retailers must be clear on return policies and prominently provide an easily-seen contact customer service link on their site so customers can easily find out to get in touch when there is a problem.

In today’s world, many online shoppers expect free and hassle-free returns, especially on items such as clothing, where slight size differences can lead to customer dissatisfaction. If you have a niche site that offers personalized goods that are nonrefundable unless the item arrives broken or fails to arrive, you need to inform consumers of that upfront in the product description. Likewise, if your business chooses not to offer free shipping on returns, that must be communicated to the customer as well to prevent potential conflicts and stinging Yelp reviews.

Having clear shipping and return policies are critical for online retailers any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season when the Dec. 25 deadline looms large. Developing a clear policy and communicating it clearly on your online retail site will help keep your best customers coming back and recommending your startup to their friends and family. That will get your business thriving and in the black.

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