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How to choose an ecommerce courier service

By Chris Dawson May 7, 2019 - 11:27 am

Matthew Robertson, Co-CEO at NetDespatchHow to choose an ecommerce courier service is all too often a simple price decision, but there is so much more to think about when choosing the right courier for your business. Today Matthew Robertson, Co-CEO, NetDespatch, discusses how to choose an ecommerce courier service this is the right fit for your business and gives the consumer the experience they most prefer, rather than the one that’s most convenient for you as the merchant.

What to think about when choosing the right courier for your business

Choosing a courier service is one of the most important decisions ecommerce companies make. You’ll be trusting your chosen provider with not only your product, but also your reputation. As the main physical link between your business and its customers, your courier leaves a lasting impression of reliability and customer service – good or bad! Get it right and you enhance your brand, get it wrong and you’ll be left with frustrated customers who won’t be keen to order again.

There is an enormous array of courier companies offering a wide range of services, so what are the questions to ask that will help make your decision?

How to choose an ecommerce courier service

Put customer priorities first

Bear in mind that, when a courier service is marketing itself to you as a business, its focus will be heavily on the cost-savings and convenience it can offer. For example, it’s tempting to opt for the pick-up times that integrate most easily with your existing operations, or simply the lowest cost service. However, the fundamental principle of business is that the customer comes first, so what you really need to do is think about the service that best fits your target customers’ lifestyles and expectations. While cost is of course an important consideration, approaching the decision from the customer viewpoint will pay dividends in the long run.

Much depends on your core market demographic – are your customers predominantly tech-native teens or silver surfers? Do they prefer delivery to the home, or to business or other locations? What level of tracking will they expect? Their differing preferences could have a big impact on what the best courier service looks like for you.

Be alert to changing delivery trends and innovations. Next day delivery is a standard customer expectation, and a basic free delivery option is desirable, but you don’t necessarily need to combine the two – research shows that customers are generally still willing to pay a premium for faster delivery.

Click and collect deliveries are now a popular option for busy consumers who prefer to pick up their purchase while they’re out and about. If this is an option that is likely to appeal to your target market, you need to find out whether your proposed courier supports locker deliveries and has its own infrastructure or access to a network.

At the same time, remember that you don’t need to offer every delivery option under the sun – that won’t be financially sustainable and may create confusion for customers. It’s best to offer a select menu of choices popular with customers and use site layout and language to digitally nudge them towards your preferred option.

The outward product journey is one thing, but returns are one of the most challenging aspects of ecommerce. Research regularly shows that consumers find it the most frustrating part of shopping online. A straightforward, no quibble returns service helps to create the kind of customer experience that gets customers coming back to your brand, so explore options for returns management as part of your courier selection.

Pick a service that suits your product

It sounds obvious, but it’s important to think about the product you’re selling and ensure that you choose a courier that can handle it well. Does the package fit through a letter box or will it require the door to be opened or a safe space for delivery if the customer is out? How about the value of the item, if it is high value customers may demand greater tracking and confirmed delivery options.

If you sell bulky items, will they require two-man delivery and assembly? Will the customer have an item to dispose of on delivery of your product, such as the item it is replacing? Would choosing a courier that supports packaging collection and recycling make a difference for your customers? Picking a courier service that can offer these features offers potential to add value to your customers’ experience and boost your brand.

Product resilience is another factor to consider. If your product is fragile it may need extra care and the services of a specialist courier.

Challenge couriers on customer care

While you don’t have total control over the service your chosen courier provides, your customers will nevertheless strongly associate your brand with the delivery experience they receive. Consistently poor service implies a lack of both judgement and customer care on your part and can really damage your business, so it’s absolutely right that you challenge couriers on the standards they operate to before making your choice. Explore figures for on-time deliveries and ask for information about courier codes of conduct and the quality control processes that are in place to make sure that your brand is protected.

Remember too that you’re the customer in this scenario. What level of customer service will the courier provide you, what are its SLAs on query response time, etc?

Research around different couriers’ reputations and taking references from similar ecommerce businesses to your own is worthwhile prior to making a decision. Don’t just accept general testimonials, ask to speak to a customer that has similar needs to your business.

Ultimately, it is well worth investing significant time and research into identifying the right courier service for your customers, because if it’s right for your customer, it will be right for your business.

  • Darren
    2 years ago

    Don’t go for the cheapest unless you want to get lots of negative feedback. Retailers that choose couriers like Yodel are committing suicide.

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