As an online store owner, you might be putting lots of efforts into marketing, buying Google ads to increase the number of store visitors, experimenting with your emails subject lines, and doing many other tricks. However, if your shipping and delivery are not streamlined, those efforts might turn out useless. Because on one hand, delivery is the time when your customers get the actual products and thus complete their impression of your store. On the other hand, this is a stage when you (in case of most businesses) become dependent on other companies and many external factors. Thorough planning of different shipping scenarios and ways to handle them is crucial.
Below, we will consider some of those scenarios with an example of the nopCommerce shopping cart and its plugins. nopCommerce is the leading ASP.NET based open-source eCommerce platform. It is a solution with comprehensive features that is applicable for all types of users from new online businesses, who are going to grow fast, to the most demanding eCommerce experts.
Imagine if a customer orders four items, but you only have three of them available in stock. There are few questions for you to consider. First of all, are you going to wait for the missing item to come and ship them all together, or will you send the ones you have immediately and ship the fourth one when you get it? Either way, don’t forget to notify your customers about the delay, in order to avoid complaints. Also, plan ahead how you are going to charge your customer in this situation. Don’t surprise your shoppers with unexpected delivery expenditures.
Another question refers to tracking those partially shipped orders. It is recommended to have a system that would inform you when remaining items come to a warehouse, so they are not left forgotten. And again, make sure you let your customers know expected delivery dates and update them if that delivery date changes.
The described scenarios should be implemented in your ecommerce solution, and this is where nopCommerce’s Backorder Notifications plugin can come in handy.
This extension helps to inform your shoppers about items which were not included in the shipment. A message with “Partial shipment” in the subject includes items ready for shipment, as well as those which are backordered. Store admins can also use a button for manual operation, which allows you to trigger an email to the customers with a notification that an order cannot yet be fulfilled. Informing shoppers about the delay demonstrates your high customer care standards and prevents complaints.
Shipping area restrictions and rules
Let’s say you’re based in San Diego, and you want to offer local delivery within California for free. In other areas, you need to charge depending on the distance or other conditions. Or probably you want to limit delivery to certain countries. For such cases, it is recommended to mention your delivery constraints and conditions on the product page. This helps to enhance user experience, as shoppers become aware of delivery possibilities before placing an order.
Our Shipping By ZipCode extension can be a good assistant if some constraints are required. This plugin limits delivery area by country, state, and ZIP code, or only within a defined region, and also allows you to limit delivery by store and warehouse. The extension can work with fixed prices or percentage-on-subtotal pricing for products at a separate store and warehouse or for a specific product category and location.
When you have multiple pickup locations, it is good to display product availability in each of them. It’s a time-saver for both you and your customers. You can even set up to show customers only those locations that are close to them based on their address.
In nopCommerce, you can use the Multiple warehouses stock availability plugin to handle this. This extension shows availability of an inventory item by warehouse. As a store owner, you can choose either to show warehouses which have an item in stock or to display all warehouses but mention where the item is available and where it is not, to show or hide the quantities in each warehouse. The plugin works automatically, so when a product becomes unavailable in a particular store, that store may be automatically hidden from the list. When the product is again in stock, the store is back on the list.
Sometimes you may want to offer free shipping promotions to generate a boost in sales. To do so in nopCommerce, you may use the coupons or discounts functionality. Coupons refer to particular orders and are used at checkout (e.g. buy this product and get free shipping with this coupon) whereas discounts are applied automatically (e.g. get 10 percent off your first order if you buy before midnight on Sunday).
Complex scenarios calculations
Let’s say you sell printers and a cartridges and decide to ship the printer for $15 and the cartridge for $5. If a customer orders either one of these separately, everything is charged accordingly. But if you sell these two items as a bundle but still ship separately, the customer might incorrectly be charged $20. So when configuring your deliveries, you should use a special calculator. It should apply the delivery cost of the most expensive item ($15) as it will cover everything.
A good way to improve customer service is to notify your customers when their orders have been shipped, and to include tracking information. Depending on a shopping cart, you may be able to integrate with a shipping supplier and retrieve their tracking codes or enter your tracking codes which then can be used in emails relating to an order.
Shipping and delivery are definitely a challenging aspect to any online store. Every business has its own unique challenges and it takes time to determine the most efficient business shipping strategy. However, this effort pays in the long term as it helps to reduce shopping cart abandonment and avoid unhappy customers.
About the author: Alexandra Lykova is a marketing and content manager at nopCommerce, where we daily do our best to prove that a good quality product can be free. I’m curious about all eCommerce trends, and anything related to international marketing.