Special Report: 7 Operations and Fulfillment Tips to Boost Efficiency
The ability to quickly and accurately fulfill customers' online orders is a task that many retailers struggle with. The consequences of not doing so are severe, most notably frustrated customers who won't return to shop with your brand. Follow these seven tips to provide customers a better shopping experience, all the way through delivery:
1. Make your returns policy clearly visible on your site. According to a comScore survey of 3,100 U.S. online shoppers conducted in February, 63 percent of those surveyed said they look for a website's returns policy prior to making a purchase, and nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said they've returned a product they purchased online. Half of customers who plan to return a product visit that retailer's website to find its returns policy. As a result, having an easy-to-find returns policy will enhance the customer experience and reduce the number of inbound customer service calls.
What's more, a clear returns policy increases the probability of recommendations and repeat business from online shoppers, as almost half of the respondents said they'd be likely to shop more often with a retailer or recommend a retailer to a friend if the retailer has a lenient and easy-to-understand returns policy.
2. Give your customers deferred delivery choices. Consider adding deferred residential ground shipping alternatives to your website — e.g., UPS SurePost, FedEx SmartPost, Newgistics and EquaShip. What these delivery methods add in days in transit they make up for with significantly lower pricing than FedEx and UPS air and ground services. While the goods being purchased often dictate the shipping method, when presented with a choice many online shoppers choose the low cost or free delivery option, even if it means a longer wait.
3. Profile your products and adjust your target inventory levels by product to account for the timing differences of demand and return curves. If an item is only sold in one season, it's mathematically impossible to fulfill every customer order unless you purposely buy too much inventory and accept the resulting overstock. Profile your products into those that you aim to fulfill 100 percent of demand — essentially buying overstock to cover returns — and those where you're willing to purchase below demand forecast and accept a degree of lost sales to avoid the resulting overstock.