Common Shipping Problems and How to Tackle Them

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Following the rise of e-commerce, shipping has become one of the most important parts of running a retail business.

An excellent shipping experience can create fiercely loyal customers. On the other hand, a bad experience could drive consumers away before they click “confirm order.”

The shipping process is far from perfect. It’s difficult to get a box from starting point to destination without hitting a few bumps along the way.

A great retailer impresses customers by solving shipping problems as they arise.

Here are a few of the most common shipping problems sellers encounter, as well as strategies for resolving them.

1. High Shipping Costs

Shipping can be surprisingly expensive, for both customers and retailers.

The cost of shipping a package may depend on many factors, including how much the package weighs, where it’s going and how fast it needs to get there. Sometimes, businesses aren’t sure how to handle high shipping costs.

One option is to let customers foot the bill.

By charging customers precisely what their order will cost to ship, you allow people to order your products without worrying about delivery cutting into profit margins.

Charging customers for shipping may backfire, however.

One survey found 63 percent of canceled orders result from excessive shipping costs. Charging a small, flat-rate shipping fee could help reduce costs without driving customers away. But offering reduced and free shipping could also boost business by increasing orders.

Communicate transparently with customers about shipping costs to avoid surprises at checkout. And try to keep shipping costs low by comparing shipping options with different carriers.

2. Unexpected International Fees

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International shipping can be even more expensive than domestic shipping, since packages may have to travel farther.

International packages may also be subject to local duties and taxes. These facts often lead small retailers to avoid international shipping altogether.

You want to do business with as many people as possible. But you may not have the funds to cover international shipping alone.

Instead of shutting down the possibility of international sales entirely, consider leaving the choice up to the consumer.

Retailers should make sure their websites clearly outline their international shipping policies. Often, this means telling international customers they may need to pay extra shipping fees or local duties to get their orders.

Though international shipping may cost customers more, it allows you to grow your business outside your country.

3. Shipping Delays

Shipping delays frustrate customers and retailers. Once a package is in the mail, it’s primarily out of the seller’s hands.

Though delivery services may work hard to deliver packages on time, they sometimes come up short, especially during busy periods.

Services like UPS often struggle to deliver mail on time during the holiday season, due to high volume and an uptick in online retail orders. To keep customers happy during these periods, it’s a good idea to plan.

During the holidays, emphasize early ordering and help shoppers by highlighting estimated delivery dates. Aim to mail orders before drop-dead dates to ensure packages reach their destinations on time. These dates vary by carrier and year, so do some research first.

As a best practice, communicate with customers throughout the shipping process, and alert them if it looks like their order could get delayed.

4. Lost or Damaged Packages

For a retailer, a lost or damaged package is a worst-case scenario.

People who don’t receive their orders may feel disappointed and frustrated, so retailers need to handle this problem well or risk losing customers.

The best thing you can do if a product gets lost or damaged is to make the customer feel taken care of.

You can either give that customer a full refund or offer to send the product again. People may also appreciate an extra token of apology, such as a gift or a coupon for a future purchase.

Once you’ve resolved the problem, you can investigate what caused it.

Do you need to switch carriers? Was the packing inside the box insufficient?

Reevaluating your shipping methods can help prevent similar problems in the future.

5. Long-Distance Returns

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Even if a product arrives completely intact, some customers may not feel satisfied. If a customer wants to exchange or return a product, it’s usually good business etiquette to pay for the shipping.

Ultimately, though, the decision remains up to every individual business.

Customers who understand returns are limited may be more careful when making purchases, which restricts how often you’ll need to resolve this problem.

The best way to tackle long-distance returns is to outline your policy in advance.

Ship with Confidence

Between high shipping costs and delayed delivery, a lot can go wrong during the shipping process. However, the more shipping problems you tackle, the easier problem-solving becomes.

Dealing with shipping difficulties is a part of excellent customer service. Retailers can impress customers by handling problems with grace. By planning and doing your research, you can ship merchandise with confidence.

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