With online sales continuing to trend upward in the lead up to peak season, retailers know that efficient fulfilment is key to success. ShipStation Australia and New Zealand country manager, David Boyer shares his tips to help retailers prepare for Black Friday.

“As a starting point retailers should ensure they have basic shipping automation set up to help reduce manual errors, speed up order processing and dispatching speed,” Boyer told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“The more orders are out the door (and quicker), the higher the chance customers will be delighted with the speed of delivery and become repeat customers.”

According to Boyer, there is no reason why retailers should be doing simple and repetitive tasks that shipping software could do instead, ultimately saving them time and money.

“Retailers can also consider offering free shipping for specific products or categories, express shipping or next/same day delivery options for customers who are willing to pay more to receive their orders faster,” he said.

Why has the shipping experience become so important?

Over the last two years, consumers have not only started making purchases online more regularly, but they’ve also started relying heavily on online shopping.

“For this reason, shipping and fulfilment have suddenly become crucial components to retailers’ operations – and also winning and retaining customers – as shipping can make or break a sale. It has also become a huge part of the customer experience which, prior to the pandemic, maybe wouldn’t have been so central and prominent,” Boyer explained.

ShipStation’s Global Pulse Research in 2021 revealed that 70% of consumers say that a poor shipping experience negatively impacts their impression of the retailer rather than the carrier, “which means that shipping is now an extension of the retailer’s brand, so it’s important and imperative that retailers use this challenge as an opportunity to exceed customer expectations”.

For example, one of ShipStation’s customers, Salvos Stores has branded their tracking email notifications to not only keep customers informed every step of the way, but also to display which products are contained within that shipment. “This provides next level customer experience and keeps their brand front of mind with customers.”

Shipping strategies that retailers can adopt now

Considering the challenges with carriers causing delays across Australia, retailers should implement a multi-carrier strategy and make shipping as flexible as possible, according to Boyer.

“Multiple-carrier shipping options allows retailers to switch between carriers when needed, to get around potential delivery bottlenecks, not only nationally but also globally,” he said.

“By delegating orders to specific providers based on different business criteria, such as postcode, weight or package size and even express shipping capabilities, retailers can reduce the risk of carrier-specific struggles or bottlenecks impacting their whole order backlog and average delivery speed.

“Managing customer expectations is crucial during this peak season. Retailers should be planning for delivery delays and ensure that they communicate this early to customers, and not just on the website, but also even during checkout.

“From a shipping perspective, retailers can use a range of carriers for domestic customers such as Australia Post, CouriersPlease, Sendle and Aramex, whereas for international customers it could be DHL Express, UPS or SEKO. The ideal would be to have a combination of carriers to match and exceed customer expectations.”