With more and more merchants joining the ecommerce space, your small business needs to stand out. And, the best place to start is by reviewing your current shipping process and customer-facing policies. It’s crucial to be on the same page as your customers in order to meet their expectations. We recently conducted a study, Protect Your Growth Strategy: 2023 Consumer & Merchant Benchmark Report, where we asked both customers and merchants about their expected shopping and shipping habits. Selling on social media, offering free returns, and increasing shipping communications are important to customers and are shaping their expectations around online shopping. Let’s talk about these factors that contribute to customer satisfaction.
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Table of Contents
Utilize social media
Social media engagement is one of the best tools for small businesses. Social media platforms offer limitless opportunities to promote products in creative ways. For example, you can create posts with links to your store that show your products in action. Customers can then easily purchase items and see how products are used or worn. Additionally, social media can be used to get feedback directly from customers. Include polls in stories to see what products customers are enjoying or would like and order inventory accordingly. You can even ask customers about returns and other policies. Your customers drive sales, so implement their feedback whenever and wherever you can.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are becoming increasingly popular selling channels. When asked, our study found that 50% of merchants plan to start selling on Facebook while 40% plan to start selling on Instagram. Additionally, we found that over 50% of customers buy products from Facebook, with Instagram as a close second at almost 40%. Shoppers are turning to social media platforms for their purchases, so it’s time to move your products in front of a larger audience.
Opening your business to a new audience isn’t limited to social media platforms. Expanding to other marketplaces like Amazon and eBay gets your products in front of a larger audience. These marketplaces can be integrated into your ShippingEasy account, so orders in a syncable status will automatically pull onto your orders page. It’s that simple.
Offer free and easy returns
Don’t underestimate the power of free returns, as they’re more important to customers than ever. Our study found that 81% of consumers believe returns should be free. However, we also found that 66% of merchants don’t offer free returns. So, offering free returns can help your business rise above the competition.
Consumers also expect a convenient return policy. Imagine you’re the one returning a product. Ask yourself these questions when reviewing your current return policy:
- What kind of support options would you like available?
- Is anything within your policy confusing or unclear?
- What will you need to update for the holiday season?
- Does your return policy include carrier dropoff options?
Speaking of carrier dropoff options, our study found that 36% of shoppers prefer this option, so it’s worth considering adding this option to your current policy. You can really make your business shine by adding carrier locator options, so your customers can find the closest dropoff. Most carriers offer these resources on their website, so you can easily incorporate links on your return policy page.
Return date predictions for 2023
To help you prepare for the biggest return days of the year, we pulled some of the most popular days for returns from holiday seasons past in our study:
- January 4, 2020
- December 13, 2021
- November 23, 2022 (Cyber Monday)
- December 5, 2022
- January 3, 2023
These dates serve as a prediction for the 2023 holiday and into the 2024 post-holiday season. With returns increasing around late November, we recommend you start working on your holiday return policy at the end of October or the beginning of November.
You can find more information about returns in Shipping Unboxed: FAQs about Returns.
Tips for a successful return policy
- Regularly test all support channels to confirm all communication lines are working
- Rewrite any inconsistent or unclear information to avoid negative customer experiences
- Start crafting your holiday return policy early, so your business is prepared in advance
- Use Prime Day and other summer sales as a test run for any return policy changes*
*Note: Amazon has guidelines for handling returns, so check with Amazon before updating any return policies outside of the one on your website.
ShippingEasy user Ice Shaker has a return policy that’s easily found on their website and breaks down their return process step-by-step.
Communicate shipping progress
When asked, 42% of customers stated they wanted daily shipping notifications, even if there aren’t any updates. It might not be possible to provide daily notifications, but 37% of shoppers stated they wanted major shipping updates like:
- When their package was shipped
- When their package moved through transit
- When their package was out for delivery
- When their package was delivered
Branded tracking and SMS branded tracking are ways to bridge the gap between customers looking for daily tracking updates and those who want to be notified of major shipping updates. Branded tracking provides customers a link within their shipment confirmation emails to your customized branded tracking page.
Here, shipments can not only be tracked, but you can add a color scheme, logo, social media links, and more to promote your business with a personalized touch. Domestic shipments are also eligible for SMS branded tracking*, where customers can receive text notifications when their shipment has a delivery date, is out for delivery, and is delivered.
*Note: Some products are ineligible for SMS branded tracking, and a full list can be found in our Knowledge Base.
Learn more about branded tracking in our blog!
Matching customer expectations can lead to a boost in sales and an increase in repeat customers. It establishes a sense of trust with customers, as it shows your business is taking feedback seriously. Social media marketplaces are on the rise, so utilize social media and engage with your customers. Free returns are extremely important to customers, so make offering free returns a priority. Daily shipping notifications are becoming more popular, so use automation to your advantage. Customers are making their expectations known, so don’t be afraid to listen.
Retail Economics, which includes economic modeling and data-driven insights developed from a nationally representative consumer panel survey comprising over 8,000 households across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
Auctane-driven research, including insight from 1,000 consumers in the U.S.
Auctane-driven research, including insight from over 300 merchants in the U.S