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Different types of shipping methods that are essential for your retail or e-commerce store

illustration of a package being delivered by a shipping service

If a customer places an order online, the brand has to find a way to transport that order to the end destination specified. But why is it necessary for e-commerce businesses to offer multiple types of shipping to their customers?

When e-commerce was still an emerging channel, it was considered acceptable for online stores to offer one standard shipping method. But as expectations for customer-centered experiences have grown, a single shipping option is no longer enough to meet the needs of every shopper.

For instance, if a customer is purchasing a gift for someone’s birthday, and the birthday is just a few days away, economy shipping won’t be satisfactory. If there is no express shipping option available, they will be compelled to buy from another retailer.

Conversely, some customers are willing to wait a few extra days for their order, especially when shipping large quantities, if it means qualifying for free shipping. Others still may prefer to pick up their person in person, rather than leave it up to the uncertainty offered by some postal services.

In sum, one size does not fit all with it comes to the types of shipping methods preferred by consumers. By only offering one type of shipping, your brand is likely going to miss out on valuable sales because there isn’t enough choice and flexibility.

So, what different types of shipping should e-commerce brands consider incorporating into their shipping strategy?

Cost-saving shipping methods

It’s no secret that shipping services of one of the biggest costs incurred by e-commerce businesses – especially when consumers increasingly expect brands to offer free shipping on most orders. To negotiate this divide between customer expectations and maintaining profitability, brands, and ecommerce companies must search out cost-effective types of shipping methods that satisfy the demand for fast delivery while still keeping shipping costs manageable.

Order consolidation

Split shipments are a frequent occurrence in e-commerce. There are some situations where using a split shipping method is unavoidable, such as when a customer is placing a very large order or wants items to be sent to multiple addresses. However, split shipments also occur for preventable reasons, such as items not being stored together in the same warehouse or being out of stock.

Not surprisingly, split shipment can quickly become very costly for e-commerce businesses. Paying shipping rates twice or even three times over for a single order quickly becomes unsustainable, which is why brands should consider offering their customers an order consolidation shipping service.

Order consolidation is when customers have the option to delay the delivery of their items until they can be brought to the same distributor or fulfillment center for packing and shipping. Not only does order consolidation lower shipping costs; but it also minimizes packaging waste and carbon emissions, which is highly appealing to eco-conscious consumers.

Flat-rate shipping

Flat-rate shipping methods are calculated according to the size of the container that is being shipped, instead of using DIM weight. Shipping carriers will either provide packaging as part of the rate or require brand-supplied packaging to fit specific dimensions.

Flat-rate shipping options allow e-commerce brands to standardize their shipping costs, rather than the cost of each order fluctuating based on size, weight, and the number of shipping zones that a parcel is traveling. This makes it much easier to predict how much shipping is going to cost you, especially when your customers are spread all around the country. If you’re wanting to add a free shipping offering to your e-commerce store, a flat-rate option is one of the best shipping methods to optimize cost and speed.

However, it’s important to note that flat-rate shipping methods work best for non-local delivery of heavier items, as you could end up spending more than needed to get orders to their destination.

Ship from store

Shipping online orders directly from a storefront is one of the best strategies to achieve faster, cheaper shipping for local delivery. In ship from store strategies, the storefront is responsible for completing the order fulfillment process, including picking, packing, and labeling packages for the courier.

When warehouse space is at a premium, being able to ship mass quantities of orders from storefronts is a great way to optimize storage and prevent stores from being stuck with inventory that isn’t selling well for in-person sales.

Click and Collect services

Click and collect is an umbrella term referring to different fulfillment methods where the customer places an order online and picks it up at their local storefront. Typically, the shopper will add products to their cart on the retailer’s website or app, select their favored click and collect option at the checkout, and pick up their order at a designated location or counter.

A local pickup option is a must-have delivery service for omnichannel brands because it brings together the convenience and accessibility of shopping online with the instant gratification of brick and mortar stores.

Plus, click and collect is the cheapest option to get orders to customers, because it doesn’t actually involve shipping! It offers a way for both retailers and customers to avoid high shipping costs and uncertainties involved with home delivery, especially for small businesses with less order volumes.

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In-Store)

One of the best-known click and collect options, BOPIS has gained widespread popularity as consumers seek out ever-faster local shipping methods that don’t break the bank. Moreover, BOPIS enables customers to avoid time-intensive store visits in-store and guarantee that an item is available for purchase, which helps to bridge the experience gap between shopping online and buying in person. Where brands may struggle to have popular shipping carriers achieve same-day delivery capabilities due to cost or logistical challenges, BOPIS can have orders ready to be picked up in as little as two hours.

The biggest advantage for retailers is that in-store pickup provides another reason for customers to come into storefronts – and potentially be inspired to make another purchase! (stats)

Curbside pickup

Curbside pickup carries a lot of similarities to BOPIS, but ups the convenience factor by allowing customers to have their order bought to their car outside instead of going inside the store.

Not surprisingly, curbside pickup gained strong popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when customers wanted to keep social contact to a minimum. It continues to be a popular in-store pickup choice with busy consumers who want to skip queues in-store and get their order as fast as possible, or those who have disabilities that make in-store visits challenging.

Expedited shipping services

It’s no secret that expedited shipping methods are highly sought after by online shoppers. These speedier types of shipping have hit the mainstream thanks to marketplaces like Amazon, who made fast delivery times the norm and kickstarted an era of almost instant gratification in e-commerce. Unless options like expedited and overnight shipping are available, many shoppers will choose to shop with competing brands that can get products into their hands faster.

Same-day delivery

Same-day delivery has set a new competitive benchmark in e-commerce, as it requires a business to process, ship, and deliver an order within the same business day. It’s important to clarify that same-day delivery differs from same-day shipping methods, which only means that an order was shipped the same day it was received.

While same-day delivery might be preferred by online shoppers, it comes at a cost. It also requires extremely efficient last mile capabilities to guarantee delivery, which may not be available beyond a certain metro area. Brands who want to offer same-day delivery should consider whether they can offer service guarantees to all customers, and how they should pass on that cost.

Overnight shipping

Overnight shipping is a type of shipping service where an order is delivered to a customer the following business day after the order is placed. Overnight shipping gives businesses a bit more leeway from same-day delivery, but still allows for rapid shipping in cases where a customer’s order is time-sensitive.

Two-day shipping

Two-day shipping has quickly emerged as the standard shipping option within e-commerce in the eyes of customers. It’s important to note that the two days normally start from when the order is shipped, not from when it is placed. This means it could be longer than two days by the time the customer receives the order, especially if the order was placed after the daily cut-off.

White glove delivery services

When brands want to wow their customers during the post-purchase experience, they should consider investing in white glove delivery methods that enhance convenience for their customers. White glove delivery refers to high-touch, premium shipping services that are often reserved for a brand’s most loyal customers, or for items that are fragile or involve some kind of special handling or specialist set-up to be used.

While white glove services are typically more expensive to execute, they have the benefit of increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction with the shipping experience, helping to increase retention.

Specific day delivery

While expedited shipping has been the big trend in e-commerce, the rise of porch piracy and failed deliveries has led many consumers to prefer certainty over speed. Specific day delivery options allow customers to opt for guaranteed delivery on a specific day or a shipping partner of their choosing. This means they can make arrangements to be at the delivery location to receive their order, instead of having to worry whether a parcel will be safe on their porch.

Moreover, specific day delivery makes it easier for e-commerce brands to control shipping costs. For example, if a customer requires an overnight shipping option to receive their order on their chosen day, the business can charge accordingly for express shipping methods. If a customer is happy with standard domestic shipping with a slower delivery time, the brand can either offer a discount or free shipping.

Membership-based shipping programs

Charging customers upfront for shipping services may seem like a strange strategy, given that most online shoppers dislike paying for shipping. But there’s more to it than meets the eye; a survey by Clarus Commerce found that 64% of consumers listed free shipping as the perk they wanted most in a paid loyalty program,

In the push towards streamlined online shopping experiences, selecting a shipping method at the checkout is a source of friction that can push shoppers away from committing to a purchase. By paying an annual fee to access unlimited “free” shipping, customers are much more open to impulse buys or frequent purchases. Moreover, this offers a great starting point for expanding into a bigger paid loyalty program with other perks.While it might not be possible to offer every delivery type in this list, e-commerce brands should strive to build a multi-option shipping strategy that provides customers with choice and flexibility regarding how they receive their orders. This approach enables you to transform shipping into a competitive advantage that attracts more customers to your brand and demonstrates your commitment to a customer-centered retail strategy.

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