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How your shipping strategy can boost customer loyalty

Man happily opening box and looking inside, smiling

It might seem at first glance that customer loyalty and shipping have nothing to do with each other. The former is about retention and the latter is about logistics, right?

Not so fast! In ecommerce, your shipping strategy IS a method for fostering customer loyalty and increasing your retention rates. 

As consumer expectations grow for ever-faster shipping and delivery, this has quickly become one of the biggest areas for customers to judge your long-term suitability as a vendor. If you want to turn first-time buyers into long-term supporters of your brand, your shipping strategy needs to showcase your commitment to providing a positive customer experience.

In this post, we’re going to explore how your business can transform shipping into a powerful touchpoint for fostering customer loyalty.

Why does customer loyalty matter?

It’s an age-old question within retail – why do I need to worry about bringing customers back when I could just go out and get more? 

Customer acquisition might feel easier in the short-term, but it’s significantly more expensive. It costs around five times more to attract customers than to keep your existing ones! 

The reason is simple: Customers who’ve shopped with you before already know your brand and how it can benefit them, which makes it significantly easier to convert them again in the future. Furthermore, a loyal customer base gives you a significant advantage in form of free word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing, which helps your brand to build credibility and trust. 

Let’s take a look at some ways that your shipping strategy can help to enhance the loyalty of your customers:

Offer multiple shipping options (not just free shipping)

When industry insiders talk about consumer expectations for delivery, it’s free shipping that receives most of the attention. There’s a good reason for this: According to BigCommerce 84% of respondents to a recent survey said they have made a purchase from a retailer in the past 12 months specifically because they offered free shipping.

But this is by no means the only option available to your business, Free shipping isn’t feasible for all merchants due to the impact on their profit margins. Moreover, many free shipping offerings come at the expense of speed – which is what consumers value above all else.

When 70% of online shoppers are willing to extra for expedited delivery, it’s clear that choice is now a deciding factor in customer loyalty. Offering two-day and same-day shipping options, as well as free pick-up in-store or at a collection point, puts you in a much better position to meet consumer expectations.

Good communication via multiple channels

It’s important to appreciate that the fulfillment and shipping process is completely invisible to your customers, which can create a lot of anxiety around the status of their order. 

So, the only way they’re going to know what’s going on is if you make the effort tell them!

Providing quality after-care in an ecommerce setting requires a strong chain of communications that guide your customer through the post-purchase experience. For example, your business could set up automatic email notifications that are triggered when the following milestones are reached:

  • When the order has been received.
  • When the order has been dispatched to a fulfillment facility.
  • When the order has shipped.
  • When the delivery has been made.

Furthermore, you should also make it straightforward for your customers to reach out to you when they want assistance. Today, 64% of consumers wanting the ability to interact with companies in real-time. Investing in a live chat function for your website increases transparency and person-to-person interaction, which helps to promote trust in your business.

A memorable delivery experience

If you want to make a genuine impression on your customer, it isn’t enough for goods to appear on their doorstep within the expected timeframe; this is the bare minimum that consumers expect in the age of instant gratification.

If your objective is to build loyalty, you need to make the most out of this all-important touchpoint. Why? Because this is the final impression you’re going to leave your customer with – and you need to be a positive one if they’re going to buy from your brand again.

A well-thought-out unboxing boosts the customer experience because it shows how much you value their support. Whether it’s a thank-you note, a 20% off coupon, or the use of branded packaging, making the effort in this area will make a world of difference to your retention rates.

Flexible return shipping

In ecommerce, your returns process can be the difference between a customer buying from you again or jumping ship to a competitor (no pun intended). When many online shoppers prize convenience above all else, they expect to be able to navigate a seamless returns process – and this also includes return shipping. 

According to the JDA Consumer Survey, 62% of consumers are very frustrated by having to pay for return shipping and packaging. It adds a huge amount of friction to the returns process – which isn’t going to do your customer retention rates any favors.

Using return-ready packaging and including return shipping labels with your orders make it far easier for your customers to initiate returns. Moreover, creating ‘drop-off’ points for returned items, either within your own retail stores or other locations, helps you to save on shipping costs while offering another convenient option to customers. Check out Happy Returns, which integrates seamlessly with our Whiplash ecommerce platform.

By developing a more customer-centric shipping strategy that prioritizes convenience and positive touchpoints with your brand, you’ll be much better able to build loyalty within that crucial post-purchase phase of your customer journey. Consider reviewing your existing shipping processes with your 3PL or logistics team to see how your business can achieve better retention rates.

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