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The power of SMS messaging in the e-commerce fulfillment process

Illustration of a person sending a text message about a product to customers.

So, a customer has discovered a new brand, browsed the website, and placed an order. But what happens afterward?

It’s the ‘after’ that often receives little attention from e-commerce brands. This crucial stage, which includes fulfillment, shipping, and delivery, is when consumers expect robust communication from brands. In fact, 90% of consumers say that the post-purchase experience is just as important as the quality of the product.

Yet the post-purchase stage is so often home to lackluster customer experiences. If shoppers don’t feel supported or considered by the brand after they’ve placed an order, customer retention is going to take a nose dive.

SMS and order fulfillment may not be thought of as going hand in hand, but SMS communications hold the key to supercharging post-purchase communications, boosting transparency, and fostering increased trust with customers as they await their orders. 

In this blog, we’re going to explore how SMS messaging can be deployed during the e-commerce fulfillment process, and how partners like Ryder E-commerce and Attentive can help! 

Why it’s important to engage with customers post-purchase

Giving real-time order updates

When a customer places an order on an e-commerce website, they expect a prompt acknowledgment from the brand that their order has been received. But this is far from the only time during the fulfillment process that brands should be giving customers proactive updates about their orders.

Remember that once a customer hits ‘buy now’ they are no longer in control of the shopping journey; your brand is. Steps like order processing, fulfillment, and shipping take place behind closed doors, meaning your customer has no idea what’s happening – unless you make an effort to inform them. 

Keeping customers in the loop reduces the number of WISMO (Where is My Order?) support tickets that your customer service team needs to respond to, freeing up their bandwidth to manage more complex issues.

Build trust and loyalty with your customers

Out of any stage in the customer journey, it’s the post-purchase phase that’s neglected the most. Why? Because once a purchase has been made and the order is on its way, brands may feel little incentive to keep engaging with shoppers. 

But if customers only receive radio silence after a sale, this can damage their perception of the brand and make them reconsider purchasing in the future. In addition to keeping customers informed, proactive communications post-purchase are a valuable opportunity to keep engaging with your customer and fostering a closer relationship that leads to future purchases. 

Avoid order cancellations

Shopping online might be convenient, but big-ticket purchases in e-commerce can also provoke stress and anxiety, especially if consumers have had poor delivery experiences in the past. Suppose your customers aren’t being reassured via regular updates that everything is in hand. In that case, they might feel driven to make radical decisions, such as canceling their order and demanding a refund. 

Not only does this mean a loss of revenue, but the risk of those unhappy customers leaving a bad review and dissuading other shoppers from using your brand!

5 ways to implement SMS in the order fulfillment process

Although email is the most frequently used channel in e-commerce to communicate with customers, SMS has several unique advantages for brands. 

Unlike emails, which have a high risk of getting buried in someone’s inbox, SMS is more immediate and boasts much higher open rates. Moreover, the limited character count makes it easier to action quick order updates about shipping or delivery, rather than having to design an entire email for the purpose.

Here are five ways that e-commerce merchants can put SMS to use during order fulfillment:

1. When an order is received

Customers must receive some kind of acknowledgment that their order has been received by the business. Otherwise, this will spark concern that the transaction didn’t go through or the order wasn’t processed. 

Sending out an SMS notification at this stage not only reassures customers but also helps to establish a good cadence for the communication that customers should expect throughout the fulfillment and delivery process. Your SMS should include key information such as:

  • Order summary
  • Order number
  • Expected delivery date
  • A thank-you message for supporting your brand

2. When an order begins the fulfillment process

Depending on your order volumes at different points in the year, there can be a sizeable lag between when an order is received and when it is fulfilled. This is especially common during peak sales periods like the holiday season when fulfillment operations can get bottlenecked due to the sharp increase in demand. 

Offering transparency to customers during the fulfillment stage is important, as they may have unrealistic expectations over how quickly their order is going to be shipped. An SMS alerting them to the beginning of fulfillment helps to manage expectations and avoid frustration or demands for updates. Your SMS message can include information such as the items being prepared for shipment and any potential delays to shipping.

3. When an order is shipped

Informing a customer that their order has shipped is crucial to managing expectations surrounding delivery and also building anticipation for their purchase. To prepare customers for the delivery of their order, the SMS should include a link to track their package in addition to an estimated delivery date. This makes it easy for customers to monitor the progress of their shipment, increasing their confidence in your business.

4. When an order is out for delivery

In the age of porch pirates and failed deliveries, it’s really important to inform customers when their order is out on its delivery round. This ensures that customers can make preparations to receive their order if they are home, or to provide instructions for it to be left in a secure location so they can retrieve it later. SMS delivery alerts should include another link to the tracking page for more precise real-time updates, as well as a rough time frame for when a package is expected to arrive.

5. When a customer has returned an order

It’s important to remember that not every order ends in a successful sale. Some customers may want to return items or exchange them for a different color or size – and they will expect the same level of communication and transparency during the return process as they received during the initial fulfillment process.

E-commerce returns can be stressful and confusing for customers to navigate, so it’s important to be proactive in reassuring them that the process is underway. SMS messaging is a useful tool to keep customers updated throughout the return process, such as:

  • When the returned merchandise is received by your warehouse.
  • When the refund has been processed.
  • When the exchanged item has been dispatched to the customer.

A seamless post-purchase experience is essential in e-commerce to foster brand loyalty and grow repeat business. This means informative brand messaging and support should never stop at the point of purchase. To achieve seamless SMS messaging and updates during the fulfillment process, brands need the support of an advanced SMS marketing solution and a reliable 3PL provider

Combining these solutions makes it possible to manage the entire customer lifecycle from start to finish, rather than losing crucial touchpoints with your customers once a purchase has taken place. Together, these services make it possible for e-commerce businesses to exert full control over the brand experience, helping to build higher levels of trust and loyalty.

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