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Physical stores have always offered a lot of opportunity to create an in-person experience to lure shoppers in, build brand recognition, and drive more sales.
Now, almost everyone shops online without ever needing to leave the house.
Online shopping is very convenient, so it’s no wonder that many shoppers prefer it. But how do you enhance the customer experience without a physical space?
In ecommerce, it’s all about establishing a strong post-purchase experience, from offering fast and affordable shipping to putting extra care in the unboxing experience.
The post-purchase experience relies heavily on the retail fulfillment process. Receiving a delivery is the first interaction that your customer has with your brand physically, so you want to leave them with a great first impression to help encourage a repeat purchase.
In this article, you will learn what the fulfillment experience entails and how you can optimize your supply chain to enhance the customer experience.
What is the fulfillment experience?
The fulfillment experience refers to the process of picking, packing, and shipping packages to customers to get orders delivered efficiently and accurately.
The customer experience relies on successful ecommerce fulfillment. Even though the customer doesn’t see this process in motion, supply chain efficiency impacts the customer’s unboxing experience and is tied to brand loyalty.
Below outlines the order fulfillment stages that influence a customer’s experience with your online brand.
When a customer clicks “buy,” the customer journey is not over. Though many online brands focus a lot of attention on the pre-purchasing experience, the post-purchase experience is what keeps customers hooked and coming back for more.
It starts with establishing a communication process with your customers, starting with order confirmation. Once a customer makes a purchase, it’s important to provide any updates on estimated fulfillment and shipping time as soon as possible.
There are several ways to communicate order confirmation with your customers, whether it’s through a simple transactional email or sending a text message.
Shipping details and tracking
Once you fulfill and ship orders, customers expect an update during the last-mile delivery stage. Ecommerce order tracking allows you to monitor all of your online orders and shipments and communicate the order status to your customers (e.g., estimated delivery dates). This plays a key role in the customer experience, letting buyers know what to expect for their delivery and be notified of any delays right away.
With the rise of on-demand logistics, it’s never been easier to optimize for a speedy delivery.
Major shipping carriers, including USPS, UPS, and FedEx offer different levels of services based on your needs, from affordable ground shipping to expedited shipping via air. With that said, paying for premium shipping to meet customer expectations isn’t your only option.
Along with establishing strong carrier partnerships, a third-party logistics (3PL) provider operates multiple fulfillment centers in different regions and major cities across the globe (not to mention they negotiate discounted shipping rates with carriers).
A 3PL’s distribution model allows merchants to allocate inventory in different locations based on where there is the most demand. Once you connect your online store to the 3PL’s software, orders are automatically routed to the nearest fulfillment center.
A 3PL partner enables an ecommerce business to provide fast, efficient delivery for all customers, no matter where they live, at an affordable price that doesn’t cut into profit margins.
The unboxing experience
Did you know 40% of online shoppers would share an image of their purchase on social media if it came in branded packaging? The unboxing experience is often the first real-life interaction customers have with your brand.
An unboxing experience can help you stand out from your competitors. Getting creative with packaging is a great way to delight customers and enhance the fulfillment experience. Not only will customers be excited to shop from you again, but they are also more likely to share their experience with their friends.
Online brands that invest in a solid returns process see a 12% increase in customer satisfaction. Returns happen all the time (for numerous reasons), especially around the holiday shopping season. But returns don’t necessarily mean a lost sale. In fact, returns are an opportunity to further enhance the customer experience.
For instance, if you have a customer seeking a different size after ordering a dress that was too small, you can enable an easy exchange for both your customer and fulfillment operation by processing the return and shipping the right size within days.
A returns management process can be improved by training your ecommerce customer service team to connect with your customers, get feedback, and process returns and exchanges quickly. Feedback is important here as you can gather insights as to what’s driving the most returns.
“For reverse logistics, we have also been leveraging ShipBob’s Returns API to automate and streamline our routine RMA processes. Having ShipBob handle our returns has been a huge help in reducing our daily workload, and the ability to drive this process via API is wonderful.”
Customer satisfaction and the fulfillment experience
It’s standard for customers to expect fast shipping at an affordable price. Online brands that offer different shipping options and incentives for their customers (e.g., free shipping by spending a certain amount) can increase their average order value (AOV) and reduce their cart abandonment rate.
In other words, establishing a flexible shipping strategy that meets customer expectations is a big component of the fulfillment.
“By encouraging customers to meet a spend threshold for free 2-day shipping, we’ve seen great results without harming our margins.
Our customers who live within ShipBob’s 2-Day Express coverage zone have been taking advantage of fast delivery times. Offering this shipping option has increased our average order value in these zones from $75 to $148.”
Ryan Casas, COO of iloveplum
How to create a fulfillment experience customers will remember
From order accuracy to the type of packaging you use, there are several ways to optimize the fulfillment experience. But it often requires a robust fulfillment infrastructure and technology, especially if you want to compete with established brands.
To enhance the fulfillment experience, fast-growing online brands turn to 3PLs like ShipBob that provide the fulfillment network, technology, support, and expertise you need.
ShipBob even integrates directly with the leading ecommerce customer service and helpdesk platform, Gorgias, allowing brands to have seamless customer support and shipping data in one place to streamline any post-purchase order inquiries and actions.
Rather than investing time and money into logistics, you can allocate your time and money into other business growth initiatives, such as digital marketing and product development.
Below is an overview of how to create a strong fulfillment experience and how a 3PL like ShipBob can help.
Offer affordable 2-day shipping
Offering affordable 2-day shipping options can help you cater to different customer preferences.
Depending on the situation, some customers will pay a premium to get an order delivered quickly, but in most cases, high shipping costs is the number one reason for cart abandonment.
Rather than ship orders from a single location, ShipBob operates multiple fulfillment center locations. This makes it easy to split inventory in locations across the US (and internationally), so you can reduce shipping costs and transit times for your customers.
“Customers get accustomed to a certain service level at a low price — often free — and want it faster over time. Ever since we started our partnership with ShipBob in the summer of 2018, they’ve been able to deliver the customer service level we need at the right cost.”
Michael Peters, VP of E-Commerce Operations at TB12
Along with 2-day shipping, many customers also expect free shipping. The ability to offer shipping incentives is a major component of your ecommerce marketing strategy.
By setting up your logistics operations to fulfill and ship orders efficiently, you can offer affordable shipping incentives (such as free shipping) by setting a spend threshold to qualify.
Use branded custom packaging
As mentioned before, it’s hard to create an experience without interacting with your customers face-to-face.
That’s why many direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands invest in stand-out, custom packaging. Branded custom packaging has the ability to build brand recognition, delight customers, and ultimately enhance the unboxing experience.
Along with standard packaging at no extra costs, ShipBob offers more control over your packaging along with SIOC packaging and poly mailers options that can support your brand’s unique needs.
“ShipBob also offers the option to customize packaging and tell a story through our products when shipping to our customers, giving us more control over our business and brand. We can compete with platforms where customers are looking for 2-day shipping, great customer service, and a product that does what it’s expected to do.
ShipBob helps us deliver on our customer expectations, and they are continually evolving and getting our products into our customers hands’ faster and faster.”
Matt Dryfhout, Founder & CEO of BAKblade
For eco-friendly brands, there are several options for eco-friendly packaging. Though it can be an investment at first, shoppers tend to choose brands based on common values. ShipBob partners with several custom packaging solutions, including noissue and Arka, which specialize in eco-friendly packaging.
“We use noissue’s eco-friendly mailers that are 100% compostable, and ShipBob ships hundreds of orders out for us in our custom branded packaging each day.
We rely on a great post-purchase experience for this, and ShipBob is a fulfillment partner that is truly an extension of our brand.”
Manuel de la Cruz, CEO at Boie
ShipBob also allows merchants the ability to include branded, personal gift notes for your shoppers to make the unboxing experience even more memorable (you can even let your customers add a custom gift note at checkout if they are sending a present to someone special). Learn more here.
Inventory forecasting is one of the important components of a strong inventory management process.
Though predicting what exactly you will sell will likely never be 100% accurate, using historical data to forecast demandcan help ensure you have enough inventory available and stored at all times. You should also set reorder points and calculate how much safety stock to have on hand.
“We are very impressed by ShipBob’s transparency, simplicity, and intuitive dashboard. So many 3PLs have either bad or no front-facing software, making it impossible to keep track of what’s leaving or entering the warehouse.
On the supply chain side, I just throw in what we placed at the factory into a WRO in the ShipBob dashboard, and I can see how many units we have on-hand, what’s incoming, what’s at docks, and so on. I can see all of those numbers in a few seconds, and it makes life so much easier.”
Harley Abrams, Operations Manager of SuperSpeed Golf, LLC
ShipBob’s best-in-class technology includes built-in inventory management software, which provides inventory forecasting support. With advanced data at your fingertips, you can better understand SKU velocity, the impact of promotions on stock levels, how to prioritize inventory restocking of certain items, and much more.
Improve customer communication
So much can happen throughout the ecommerce supply chain, from carrier delays to warehouse or manufacturing shutdowns. Even with the strongest fulfillment strategy, unexpected events that are outside of your control can happen at any time.
That’s why transparency is critical. It’s important to enable a communication process that keeps customers up-to-date on their orders. It can be as simple as sending tracking information to optimizing your customer service process to ensure customer inquiries get answered as soon as possible.
You can implement technology to assist you in providing full transparency, and if you partner with ShipBob, you get access to order management tools that help you view and filter all orders by status. If there is a customer issue, you have the data at your fingertips to resolve right away.
Overall, there is more transparency with ShipBob that even helps our team manage customer service better. I can see the granular stage the order is in — if it’s being picked, packed, in transit, etc. That enhanced visibility is great.
No other 3PLs offer that in my experience. ShipBob’s dashboard looks like all the other sophisticated tools I use for ecommerce. It has a comforting familiarity. ShipBob’s tech is intuitive and functional, and I could figure out how to use it on my own.”
Wes Brown, Head of Operations at Black Claw LLC
Another way to provide full transparency is make sure you have a clear, easy-to-understand shipping policy and an ecommerce returns and exchange policy that is easy to find on your online store. Be sure to highlight how long a customer has to make a return or exchange, include international shipping information and duties, and if there are any costs in returning items.
Creating fulfillment experiences at scale
58% of customers won’t make another purchase from an online brand after a poor customer experience. To create a great experience for all customers, you need the infrastructure, technology, and support to create a reliable, consistent, and accurate fulfillment experience.
With ShipBob, you get access to a growing network of fulfillment center locations, data and analytics reporting, built-in order and inventory management, expertise, and premium support to help you create a scalable fulfillment experience.
“There are a lot of issues with shipping products like ours, but we’ve been able to do it successfully with ShipBob. I’m very glad we found a 3PL partner that can ship hundreds of 25-pound blankets everyday, while providing a great customer experience.”
Founder of My Calm Blanket
By outsourcing fulfillment to ShipBob, you can put fulfillment on autopilot and focus your time on other business initiatives that drive success, from product development to customer service.
To learn more about how ShipBob can optimize the fulfillment experience, click the button below for more information and custom pricing.