Meeting customer expectations for e-commerce order fulfillment

E-commerce has broadened and matured dramatically over the last two decades. With more online options to choose from and the most successful sites establishing a high bar for service, e-commerce customers have come to expect more from the sites they purchase from. Online customers are also well-informed, much more than they had to be in the past. They keep on top of all the choices they have in the e-commerce landscape, and what sites meet their priorities the most.

That's why smaller, more localized, or more specialized e-commerce sites need to consider what their customer base wants from their service. Those customer expectations can be broadly defined in three general areas:

Transparency

With so many options available, the everyday e-commerce consumer seeks online retailers that offer the most straightforward, reliable service. Curveballs and surprises are never welcome elements in online ordering, but they occasionally happen. Customers expect e-commerce businesses to be upfront and honest about their policies, and to be able to access clear explanations about them as simply as they can.

Information that an e-commerce company should have handy for their customers to view include:

  • Company policies. Every stage of the placement, shipping, and delivery of customer orders should be clearly and thoroughly explained.
  • Frequently asked questions. By now most online customers have deep experience with e-commerce and know the most common issues and inquiries it entails. Summarize and answer the ones that come up most.
  • Order status and confirmation. Automatic confirmations of each stage of fulfillment reinforce the faith and believability customers have in your organization—let them know when each order is submitted, processed, and shipped.
  • Accurate delivery dates and tracking. Provide dependable estimates for delivery of customer’s products according to their shipping preferences. Most customers also like the ability to track their package while it's in transit with links to the postal service or commercial carriers.
  • Explanation and apologies for order delays. Orders sometimes face unexpected hitches. Proactively acknowledging delays, preferably with some level of explanatory detail, can go a long way toward lessening the chance of confrontation.
  • Customer service options. Pop-up chat boxes with responsive employees are especially prevalent now. Along with those, customers should be able to easily reach e-commerce reps via online submissions, email, and phone, preferably toll-free.

In all your communication efforts, be clear and concise—always try to leave little room for misinterpretation or confusion.

Adaptability

There is no truly “typical” e-commerce customer. Each one has a different set of priorities when they place online orders. Some prefer every item of a complex order delivered at the same time; others are okay with individual units being sent separately. Some are okay with spending more to get a shipment faster; others can wait if it means paying less.

In a similar vein, every e-commerce company’s capabilities are different. But those with a boilerplate, uniform service policy are under-serving their customer base. The more flexibility you can offer customers, the more confident they’ll be about returning to visit.

Adaptability can be the model for virtually all aspects of your company: ordering, shipping, returning, service options, even customer settings for automatic suggestions for additional purchases. If you can make elements of your service less rigid and more customizable, you’ll be better positioned to meet more of your customers’ expectations.

Shipping options and policies

Speaking of adaptability, the most clear-cut example of how e-commerce companies provide customer flexibility is shipping policy. More than half of all e-commerce customers feel delivery is the most important aspect in choosing which e-tailers to use.

Speed of delivery is one of their most major concerns. When choosing between two vendors, customers overwhelmingly pick the one that will get their shipment to them the quickest. Conversely, slow delivery speeds are one of the most frequently cited reasons for canceling an order in progress.

Other customers care more about saving money. Some are willing to wait a little longer for their products if it means they’ll pay less in shipping fees. Some are immediately enamored with the prospect of free shipping.

Again, it’s best to offer a range of delivery options, especially for customers who are willing to pay more for expedited or next-day service. In general, it’s good practice to keep shipping costs as low as possible while keeping an eye on profit margins—for example, offering free shipping for orders that surpass a certain monetary threshold (“Free shipping on orders over $100!”) is a particularly popular strategy.

Another big factor e-commerce customers look for is a clear return policy. Many of them simply won’t order from a website without a clear and convenient way to return merchandise. A customer-centric, all-inclusive return policy gives customers a more favorable perspective

For more information, contact the team at Overflo Warehouse at (800) 626-061600 or overflo.com for a free quote.

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