E-commerce has dramatically changed the way that consumers interact with a business, from the shopping experience to the delivery of goods. The knee-jerk emphasis would seem to be on speed— fast site loads, quick checkout— but ultimately it's about the end result: when do I get to use the product I just purchased? Supply chain efficiency is vital to ensuring that you're answering that question correctly as a business. The fastest site or checkout in the world won't make up for disorganized or slow fulfillment practices.
Here's how customer service and supply chain can meet in the middle to keep your business on customers’ radar in a positive way.
Keep Your Departments (or Vendors) on the Same Page
Marketing and fulfillment professionals have very different job goals, but when they’re working for the same business goals, there should be a frequent meeting of the minds. By fostering and encouraging open and frequent communication between these two pillars of operations, you'll be able to increase supply chain efficiency and stay on point when it comes to meeting customer expectations.
No one, after all, wants to buy based on a two-day shipping promotion only to abruptly discover that in-house picking and packing will take three days before the item leaves the warehouse.
Balance Prices and Services Correctly
Even if the total final cost of obtaining a product is the same between two companies, phrasing or presenting that cost in a customer-responsive way will yield better results.
As writer Linda Lacina highlighted in a recent Endicia infographic for Entrepreneur magazine, a whopping 74% of respondents on an e-commerce poll cited free shipping as a top factor for improving the e-commerce experience. This clearly signals how receptive the buying public is to a free shipping offer, so bumping up a displayed price while offering 'free' shipping is likely to offer better results than an identical-sum combo of flat pricing and shipping costs.
While free shipping is certainly attractive to customers, the days where a 'gotcha' practice would go unnoticed are long gone on the internet. Modern online shoppers demand a clear, easy-to-follow path from shopping to shipping, and most are savvy enough to double-check their purchase before pulling the proverbial trigger by clicking a pay button.
Taking the concept even further, business expert Linda Bustos cites a poll in GetElastic that reveals 95.5% of respondents say that clear pricing and shipping information is the most important facet in making a buying decision. She goes on to point out that the lack of this information and experience is the primary cause for cart abandonment.
The link between customer expectations and reaction when they aren't met couldn't be clearer— you need end-to-end transparency of your supply chain to determine the real cost of every purchase.
Be Different, But Not Too Different
There are certain places where companies should proudly declare their unique personality, but neither website design nor fulfillment operations should be one of them.
Speed and accuracy—these are the characteristics that endear fulfillment to the customer. While customized packaging could, theoretically, offer a merchandising opportunity, there are trade-offs. The more personalized inserts (and skus) involved in packing a single order, the more chance you have that something will go wrong.
Likewise, if an ecommerce website is too complicated— if your customer is left looking high and low for social media share buttons or add to cart links—he or she is very likely to get frustrated enough to increase your bounce rate. Tweak sales, email campaigns or site copy, but err towards the side of traditional and expected when it comes to layout to minimize issues.
As with many considerations in business, success begins with getting to know— and continuing to listen to— your customer. By aligning your customer-focused online efforts from your website copy on through your supply chain efficiency, you'll be building a relationship that no competitor can touch.