This week we are sharing a guest blog by Chris Crane of Excelsior Integrated.
Improving your product delivery can have a substantial impact on your customer satisfaction and overall success. If you want to grow your business, then you will want to evaluate your shipping methods, among many other aspects that can delay your products getting to your customer's front door.
Consider aspects that delay your shipping, such as:
- Customers ordering out-of-stock products
- Growing too quickly to keep up with demand
- Using shipping services that don’t prioritize your company
The fact is that the holidays are coming up, and it's the time of the year for shipping delays. Fortunately, if you start planning now, you can eliminate delays, or at least navigate your setbacks very well.
Let’s Talk Optimization
Optimization for shipping tackles a few issues head-on specifically before and during the ordering process. You'll need to look at your manufacturing operations. Shipping delays happen long before your products go out for delivery. In fact, most delays happen early into the supply chain, specifically during manufacturing. Improving your material handling and quality control can significantly reduce unnecessary friction, and interruptions in work as well.
Then, implement a distribution or shipping system that syncs with your inventory. It’s true, there are a thousand different software solutions that companies need now, but you do need to use an eCommerce platform that will sync up with your inventory control system, preferably through a business or resource management software.
Shopify and Magento, two of the largest names in eCommerce, both have extensions available to business management software solutions. Connecting your resources with your sales platform can optimize shipping by keeping each department up to date with real-time information.
Communicate with Your Customers
Don’t ghost your customers when things start to fall apart. Communicate and be upfront with them as quickly as possible. You can even automate some tasks so that your customers will know right away when something is amiss.
Take these actions to communicate with your customers quickly and effectively:
- Use your resource management software to update items as “out of stock” or “Going Quickly” immediately.
- Always provide users with tracking information on their packages. Be sure to test your codes, so customers don't receive incorrect tracking info.
- Send out emails when there are known delays due to schedule or delays with primary parcel services.
Now more than ever, customers don't see any excuse for companies not to provide clear and quick communication. You might even go so far as to commit to communication through multiple channels now that 57% of customers prefer to communicate through email or social media.
Although emails are always more personal, if a customer made their purchase through Instagram, it may be best to send them a message regarding their shipping delay through Instagram.
Even a simple social media post alerting people to check their email will help use the multiple-channels to ensure that your communication efforts are consistent and apparent.
Keep Your Scalability Under Control
Can growth ever be a bad thing? Yes, it absolutely can. There are countless examples of companies that couldn't control their growth, and it led to shipping nightmares and usually a business failure. This holiday season could be your company's big break. But if you can't monitor and handle your growth, it can also spell disaster.
One example of a company that couldn't scale correctly and grew too quickly is Wise Acres Frozen Treats. In a nutshell, this was a healthy option for adults to have a treat. It was actually a health-conscious choice. At the time, it was the only thing on the market that was organic and not packed with a ton of fake sugar, but it only lasted for about two years. They grabbed attention from Food Network and ultimately failed (See “My Company Grew Too Fast and Went Out of Business”) because they couldn't meet distribution demands and maintain operating expenses. They had too many orders to fill, and they couldn't do it.
There are ways to manage rapid business growth, and it is keeping your focus on the customer. Always circle back to whether you can meet customer needs and meet them with the level of quality you've established for your brand.
If you realize that you are growing too quickly, then weave the exclusivity of your products into your brand's voice. Create the volume of products that you can sustain, at the quality you want, and within your production capacity. By taking this approach, you may even work your way into becoming known as a luxury brand or the next elusive experience.
Enlist a Reliable Partner
If you’re a do-it-yourself type of business, then it isn’t surprising that you experience shipping delays. There are some businesses that genuinely can do everything. Amazon has proven that a company can rise from nothing to controlling an international distribution network. But it doesn’t work out that way for everyone.
Instead, look into your outsourcing your distribution and shipping through a 3PL. Typically a 3PL fulfillment provider will have you stock up their many warehouses, and when an order comes in, they'll immediately send out the product. Rather than directly responding to each order, you can focus on keeping the warehouses well-stocked.
When looking for the right shipping and distribution partner, make sure you find someone that looks out for your customers too.
Handling Delays and Perks
Amazon and UPS are just two significant companies that have gone under public scrutiny for not keeping up with their shipping promises. It happened in 2013 (“Amazon UPS Offer Refunds for Christmas Delivery Problems”), in 2018, and surely it will happen again, people didn’t get their packages on-time. For some Amazon users that “on-time” referred to the promised two-day Prime shipping, while for others, it just meant they received their package after the estimated delivery date.
Ultimately, you may need to draw back on your perks. If you can’t manage free delivery, then consider other options. Some 3PL services offer free delivery for a substantially lower cost than what providing free delivery yourself would be, or you can offer lowered delivery costs on large orders.
Additionally, give careful thought to your delivery dates, mainly through the end of the year. Be reasonable with estimations and if you generally honor two-day shipping and can't manage it through the holiday season, communicate that with your customers.
What it always comes back to is putting your customers first. Shipping delays happen, and you can get ahead of them with careful management of your manufacturing processes, setting realistic shipping expectations, and choosing the right shipping solution.
About the author:
Chris is the Technology Lead at Excelsior Integrated, a 3PL Fulfillment company serving high growth eCommerce clients from warehouse locations in Massachusetts and California. Chris has been with Excelsior for 7 years, through an exciting period of evolution. He now lives in New York City.