I am noticing a change in the importance of delivery, especially for small businesses with Internet-based sales activity, ranging from small eBay sellers to larger consumer product suppliers. How you structure your deliveries can give you a marketing edge over your competitors. With the large volume of goods now bought and sold over the Internet, everyone is more aware of delivery charges than ever before. Sellers are acutely aware what it costs them to ship orders to their destination.
Those with larger volumes should be able to negotiate discounted shipping costs. Small eBay sellers are often unable to beat the standard postal prices.
As a result, there is a wide variation in the cost being charged for delivery. Some suppliers are providing free or heavily subsidised delivery. Many appear to be offering free delivery in return for a minimum order value. This seems a good strategy which encourages prospects to add further items to their orders to secure cheaper delivery.
The charges for next day guaranteed delivery or weekend delivery vary widely. The smallest suppliers are forced to reflect the high costs charged by the couriers. Larger suppliers may enjoy discounts based on the volume of items they ship and this lower cost can be passed onto buyers as reduced delivery costs.
In some sectors, the cost and speed of deliveries is becoming a key differentiator. Free or low-cost delivery attracts buyers who want lowest cost and who are happy with slower delivery times. It should be noted that buyers, once they have finally decided to place an order, tend to become impatient and want their order delivered as fast as possible.
Don’t let your packaging process become a bottleneck, get orders dealt with as fast as possible.
If all other things are equal, prospects will buy from the supplier with the fastest delivery time however, they will be reluctant to pay a large premium for guaranteed Next-Day delivery. For many of your prospects, in addition to the cost and speed of delivery, there is one further factor that influences your reputation. This third factor is the quality of your packaging.
Nothing will irritate a buyer more than seeing their latest purchase arrive damaged or broken. Even if you operate the most generous compensation scheme, your client wanted the purchased item(s) for a reason. They did not want the hassle of rejecting your deliveries, returning damaged items and waiting for replacements. The time taken to replace them might well cause your client significant inconvenience and disruption. Some suppliers will insist the client pays for return postage. Once again, this will impact the client’s confidence in these suppliers.
It is, therefore, essential that you ensure your products are carefully wrapped and packaged to have the best chance of arriving safely. This is one area of your business where you must avoid rushing and cutting corners. For the sake of a little extra time and some extra packaging materials, you will avoid the cost of handling returns and (possibly) having to write off a damaged item.
To me, the risks of poor packaging are too great. The potential damage to your reputation is not worth what you will save by using inadequate packaging. When your product is delivered broken or damaged, it will cost you a good proportion (if not all) of your profits to put things right. Your clients will accept the situation if they receive broken goods caused by rough handling, provided it is clear they were properly packaged by you before dispatch.
They will be less impressed if their goods were poorly packaged, were shipped with inadequate protection and subsequently arrived broken.
Their frustration will manifest itself when it comes to follow-on orders. These clients are likely to hesitate before ordering from you again and evaluate other suppliers to ensure they are getting the best all-round service. They will buy from your competitors if they can reassure themselves that their packaging is better than yours and will protect their purchases during transit.
Small business owners must do whatever they can to secure any potential follow-on orders – they are usually the most profitable orders you will gain and should be the easiest to secure. Why make things harder for yourself for the sake of packaging goods properly before they are shipped?
- Review how you package your products for delivery. Make improvements if you identify any shortcomings that might lead them to be damaged in transit.
- Consider subsidising your delivery charges to undercut what is being offered by your competitors.