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As our shopping habits move further online, the pressure on online retailers to improve customer experience has accelerated in recent years. Arguably the most significant make-or-break factor in their shopping experience is order fulfilment.
Retail giants like Amazon and ASOS have changed the game regarding the delivery experience. These firms provide fast and seamless delivery and are reaping the rewards. Amazon has gone one step further and now can provide same-day delivery.
While most online retailers don't have the resources to match these industry juggernauts, they still need to provide an effective order fulfilment process to ensure a happy and satisfied customer base and a positive company reputation. The statistics certainly back this up:
- 53% of online shoppers say that delivery speed is vital when deciding whether to place an online order.
- 38% will never use a store again if they have a poor experience.
- 25% have cancelled an order due to slow delivery times.
The people have spoken! These findings, mixed with an uber-competitive market, mean your order fulfilment must be seamless, transparent, and quick.
In this guide, we will explore the reasons for unhappy and dissatisfied customers in the order fulfilment process, the implications of this, and what can be implemented to improve customer experience.
What are the Main Areas of Complaint Around Order Fulfilment?
Online retail has revolutionised the way we shop. It is usually quick, easy, and saves us time in our busy lives. However, when it goes wrong, it can be an infuriating experience. One of the biggest complaints eCommerce companies face is a poor order fulfilment process. Here are the main areas of dissatisfaction felt by customers.
The impact of delivery time on the customer experience can be enormous. Customers expect their orders to arrive on time, and any unexpected delays or missed delivery rates can lead to significant dissatisfaction. Ensuring a customer order is delivered on time is crucial to building trust and loyalty and can impact customer feedback and repeat business. With so many choices on the market for customers, one bad experience may lose them forever.
When customers purchase on a website, they expect their product to be delivered within the promised delivery time when they check out. If this delivery is delayed or missed, the customer will be disappointed, resulting in a negative customer experience.
This experience can influence a customer to leave a poor review on your company, damaging your business's reputation, as news travels fast on social media. This reputation can deter the customer from making a future purchase and may prevent other potential customers from buying your products and services.
However, if a store consistently meets or exceeds customer expectations, it can increase loyalty and improve the chances of repeat purchases. Customers who are always given a first-class experience are far more likely to return to your store and recommend you to friends and family. These satisfied customers are also more likely to leave positive feedback on social media and other feedback sources, which can build a reputation and drive new business.
Customers return their items for all sorts of reasons - incorrect sizing, unwanted presents, not as advertised, and in unfortunate cases, the item is damaged. Whilst not ideal for a business to refund and exchange items, it is an integral part of the customer experience. It needs to be done with the same level of care and attention that when into the customer purchase process. A poor experience can lead to unhappy customers and a damaged brand image.
Some common areas that influence customer experience include:
- The ease of the returns process
- The speed of the process
- The speed in which the customer receives their refund or exchange
A smooth returns process shouldn't just be seen as a lost sale but as an opportunity to further enhance the customer experience. To highlight this, it was found that online brands with excellent returns processes see a 12% increase in customer satisfaction.
As with meeting delivery timeframes, the more effective the returns process is, the more likely the customer will return and shop with your business. So lost sales can turn into loyal customers who return time and time again.
Consistent stock availability is essential to providing an elevated shopping experience and building a loyal customer experience. Poor product availability can lead to angry and frustrated customers relying on stores for shopping. This is particularly true in the holiday periods such as Christmas when customers need products quickly and by a specific date.
Not having the products available will simply lead to customers going to a competitor, and if they receive excellent service there, they may never return to you. Furthermore, dissatisfied customers may leave negative reviews on feedback sites such as Trustpilot and social media sites, damaging the company's reputation.
What Can eCommerce Businesses Do to Improve Customer Experience?
Businesses should never stop trying to improve their customer experience. This is particularly true in order fulfilment, where, as we have seen, customer expectations are increasing. Here are some key areas to consider when improving your order fulfilment process.
Access to Tracking and Shipping Details
Once a customer order has been placed, you can improve customer experience further by providing shipping details, including courier, expected delivery day and time, and, in some cases, the driver's name. This enables the customer to plan to be at home to receive the parcel if needed.
Providing these details puts pressure on the company to ensure the package arrives correctly because if a customer arranges their day around the arrival of the parcel, they will be deeply frustrated if it doesn't arrive or is late.
You can go a step further by providing order tracking, which means that the customer can monitor the process of the parcel, including receiving a more precise delivery time and how many stops the courier has before getting to them. Tracking also means that businesses can communicate if there are any delays rather than leaving them in the dark. Whilst delays will cause disappointment, communication and honesty will reduce the negative impact on their experience.
Improve Customer Communication
Lack of communication is one of the biggest bugbears of customers. 53% of customers said that lack of communication was the most significant issue preventing them from having an excellent customer experience. So it pays to be open and honest with your customers about their orders.
Even with a highly effective order fulfilment strategy, issues out of your control can occur. Order delays can happen for several reasons, for example, courier transportation breaks down and adverse weather conditions. This is why transparency is vital. It is essential to allow a communication process that keeps customers updated on their orders.
It can be as simple as sending the tracking details, as mentioned above, or ensuring your customer service process and teams are seamless and well-trained to ensure customer order inquiries are handled efficiently and to the highest standard possible.
Another method to communicate clearly with your customers is to ensure you have easy-to-understand and straightforward shipping, returns, and exchange policies. Areas to cover in your policies include how long a customer has to exchange or return their order and if there are any costs, information on international shipping and duties, and clear delivery timelines.
Your returns policy should also include a clear list of products exempt from returns, e.g., food items, jewellery, and clothing items. Providing this information at the point of purchase will reduce the likelihood of customers returning these items and becoming disappointed when rejected.
Forecasting demand is one of the most vital factors in an effective inventory management process and a crucial way to improve customer experience.
Robust inventory management allows you to analyse market trends, past sales data, and customer behaviour to forecast demand more accurately. This enables you to carry out proactive inventory planning and ensure you have the right products in the right quantities at the right time, for example, during the busy Christmas holiday.
If products are not available, especially at crucial times, there is an increased risk that customers will get frustrated and will go to a competitor to satisfy their demands. In the eCommerce world, there's a lot of competition.
At the same time, with effective demand forecasting, enough products will be available to meet demand, helping you improve customer experience. There is also a strong financial motivation, as more availability will mean more sales, and happy and satisfied customers will be much more likely to become loyal and make repeat purchases.
Many online retailers will ship products in dull and generic brown boxes. Traditionally, the packaging has not been given much consideration. As long as products were well packaged and arrived safely and on time at the customer's door, it didn't matter.
However, due to the explosion of eCommerce and the increased competition in various markets, businesses increasingly have to ensure they stand out from the competition and provide an elevated order fulfilment process.
Innovative and forward-thinking businesses have realised that a plain and dull cardboard box is a missed opportunity to advertise their brand and improve customer experience.
Customised packaging means that the packaging is designed around the product and your brand. This can include adding a logo, colours, and branding to the box to highlight that your business is sending the product. This can be particularly useful for smaller eCommerce businesses as a personalised experience can give them an edge over large 'faceless' organisations.
Customised packaging elevates the customer's unboxing experience, increasing brand loyalty and awareness from positive reviews, word of mouth, and sharing on social media.
Let's Wrap Things Up
In the ever-evolving world of eCommerce, providing an exceptional customer experience has become a make-or-break for online retailers. The significance of order fulfilment cannot be underestimated, as it is one of the critical drivers of customer satisfaction and brand reputation.
While retail giants like Amazon and ASOS have set high standards with their fast and seamless delivery service, smaller eCommerce businesses can still excel in this aspect. By focusing on understanding and addressing the main areas of dissatisfaction, optimising communication, forecasting demand, and incorporating personalised packaging, eCommerce brands can set themselves apart from the competition and improve customer experience.
As the online shopping landscape continues to evolve, those who prioritise the customer journey and the order fulfilment process will be the ones who thrive in this fiercely competitive market.
Looking to Elevate Your Order Fulfilment Process?
Are you looking to grow your eCommerce business and improve customer experience? Our mission is to assist ambitious eCommerce brands, from startups to multinationals, by offering an efficient and seamless order fulfilment service that enables you to better serve your customers.
If you want to become a trusted partner, explore our dedicated order fulfilment page, where you can find comprehensive information about our processes and contact details. We are eager and prepared to embark on our order fulfilment journey with you, so contact us today.