Consumer expectations are changing and impacting retail businesses large and small. The marketplace is constantly changing, particularly in the area of ecommerce as more consumers shop online.
The 2019 Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index showed that parcel volume in Australia grew ten percent in 2018 to 864 million parcels, up from 781 million in 2017. This means Australians send 2.36M parcels every day. On average, Australians receive 34 parcels each year.1 These stats are not surprising given online shopping now makes up 9 per cent of retail spend in Australia.2
With the rise of online retailers like Amazon and eBay comes a change in consumer expectations. These giants are able to offer incredible delivery times and free shipping, which smaller retailers can’t always easily match. The Parcel Shipping Index also revealed that optimising the ‘last mile’ delivery is now a key concern and motivation for innovation for almost all shipping businesses, especially as consumer expectations shift from 2-day delivery, to 1 day and now even 2 hours. This is also in line with findings from Australia Post’s 2019 eCommerce Industry Report which found next-day deliveries have grown by 31.7% in 20183.
Pitney Bowes recommends four steps to help retailers succeed in a challenging marketplace.
- Shipping is the key to a happy customer experience and customers prefer free over fast
Shipping is an important touchpoint for retailers. It is the point at which lasting impressions are formed. The rise in parcel volumes provides the perfect opportunity to improve interactions with customers. Customers like choice so it’s key to give them a variety of delivery options, costs and timings and end-to-end parcel visibility.
Free shipping remains the number one loyalty driver an online retailer can offer consumers. In fact, when given the choice between free or fast shipping 80% choose free, according to the 2019 Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study. Free shipping was four times more likely to drive consumer loyalty than any other feature that a retailer could offer.
Product and packaging is one of the simplest brand driven experiences to control. The box, the tape or ribbon used, the care that’s given to packaging and presentation, this all matters to build a relationship with the customer and to create a positive brand experience.
Integrating shipping as part of the customer journey can extend the brand experience. It can provide a strong competitive edge and a customer experience that is memorable – for the right reasons.
- Real-time tracking offers opportunities to engage with customers
Consumers crave a lot of information while they are waiting for their packages. In fact, at Pitney Bowes, we see eight tracking requests on average for every parcel shipped. Assuming most parcels arrive within three days or less, that means consumers are checking multiple times per day. And, that doesn’t even count all the information they receive from the merchant via email or SMS.
Tracking should be seen as an opportunity to engage and cross-sell. With eight tracking request per parcel, that’s a captive audience. Instead, most companies leave it to the carrier to share information, sending messages with their own branding, often asking customers to sign up for an account so they can market to them directly.
- Returns should be hassle-free for the customer and for the business
Businesses need to be clear about their returns policy; it shouldn’t be hidden in the ‘Terms and Conditions’. Successful online retailers are upfront about returns, knowing that offering easy returns and managing them well gives them a standout differentiator.
The priority on returns should be speed: how quickly can a business get that consumer their money back so they can shop again.
The Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study found that, in addition to fast and free shipping, consumers want a free and easy returns process and fast refunds. On average, Amazon refunds consumers 4.5 times faster than other brands, giving it a clear advantage over other retailers.
- Embrace technology for a streamlined shipping and shopping experience
Shipping is complex. New technologies have transformed, simplified and accelerated the sending process. Automated all-in-one shipping and mailing platforms, such as the Pitney Bowes SendPro+™, are built on innovative SaaS engines and connected through the IoT.
Integrating apps and APIs and often accessible through tablets, desktops and mobiles, these Wi-Fi-enabled technologies simplify sending. Fully scalable and with automatic updates built in, they make life easy for any business preparing for growth.
For example, Pitney Bowes SendPro+ comes with Sendle and Shippit; this gives customers the ability to choose between five different couriers, so they can pick the delivery time and pricing that suits their needs.
These next-generation shipping technologies have opened the benefits of automation to small businesses, making it accessible, affordable and scalable. Automating a manual shipping processes is a great way to help the business cope with the surge in parcel volumes. Eliminating those tasks that would be time-consuming by hand such as weighing, measuring and tracking, it frees up employees’ time and boosts productivity, so organisations can better manage budgets and forecast resources.
When retailers consider these four key things, they can create a seamless experience for the customer and it positions them well for the exponential rise in parcel shipping volume. Relying on legacy manual systems puts the business at a disadvantage, is costly and labour-intensive and negatively impacts the customer experience. Conversely, streamlined shipping demonstrates the brand’s professionalism and commitment to delivering a transparent, connected customer experience.