How to Improve Shipping Speed Without Breaking the Bank

- Total Retail


Erik Morton is Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development for CommerceHub


Today’s shoppers expect lightning-fast shipping speed. That's not news to anyone within the retail industry. knows it, brands know it, and retailers know it.

But how fast exactly do consumers expect online orders to arrive? Less than two days, according to a recent Deloitte study. The study found that 83 percent of consumers define fast shipping as two days or less. Less than half (43 percent) consider three days to four days as “fast.”

Amazon is likely the driving force behind these growing customer expectations, as the marketplace giant has managed to guarantee two-day shipping on approximately 46 million products, with Prime membership, according to a study by investment firm Robert W. Baird. In effect, shoppers today know that it's possible for their orders to appear on their doorsteps within 48 hours, and so they've come to expect nothing less.

Another factor contributing to this expectation is what consumer psychologist Dr. Kit Yarrow describes as the “I want what I want when I want it” phenomenon. Consumers will choose to purchase in the channel that can provide the products they want when they want them.

This phenomenon has blurred the lines between brick-and-mortar and online expectations. If shoppers can go to a local Target store and leave with a new TV on the same day, why can’t they get a TV delivered just as fast (and for the same price) when purchased online?

Therefore, the cold hard truth many retailers face today is that to attract and retain customers, they need to improve shipping speed. And they need to do so without breaking the bank.

3 Strategies for Faster Fulfillment and Delivery

Improving shipping speed is simple in theory. Just look at what Amazon has done in the past few years — invest in more warehouses with more inventory and improve supply chain management to speed up fulfillment and delivery times.

For most retailers, however, this isn't a realistic option. It’s too costly to make large, up-front investments in more warehouses, inventory and employees, as well as better technology. So instead, many retailers are re-evaluating resources they already have, such as their own brick-and-mortar locations and their relationships with brands and suppliers. Here are three tips:

1. Use your brick-and-mortar stores strategically.

Retailers can use their physical stores to improve shipping speed by exploring “order online and pick up in-store” offerings, or actually using brick-and-mortar locations as warehouses for “ship from store” offerings. In most cases, consumers live closer to a retailer’s physical store than an actual warehouse, so shipping to stores can often get packages closer to customers, faster.

And there's a major ancillary benefit to this strategy — when you push customers to pick up their products in-store, you increase foot traffic and, ideally, incremental sales.

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