Discover the key to online retail success: an incredible customer experience

Five ways UPS can help retailers retain business.

Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, where a sales staff can guide customers through their shopping trip, online retailers can’t provide the same kind of human interaction or browsing space. This creates challenges–and opportunities.

“Retailers must make it as easy as possible for customers to come online, find what they want, purchase it, receive it on time and in good condition, and return it easily,” says David Sisco, UPS corporate retail segment manager.

Sisco shares five ways you can set your business apart and keep customers coming back.

1.  Set Shipping Expectations. Rather than just quote a range of dates, the smartest retailers tell customers specific dates. Let them know up front that if they order by, say, 2 p.m. today they will receive their purchase by a specific date. Some retailers also offer consumers a chance to upgrade shipping to get the product sooner for a nominal fee.

2.  Provide E-mail Confirmation and Tracking Number. This simple but critical piece of information is one of the first things customers ask for once they place an order. Provide it proactively.

Sisco recommends you take it further and send a branded e-mail with a tracking link that returns to your website to communicate order status. “Driving customers back to the website to track their order can trigger additional sales, and using a branded e-mail will keep the retailer top-of-mind with the consumer,” Sisco says.

One way to do this is by using the UPS Developer Kit. This kit includes website tools that integrate UPS functionality into your storefront to improve order accuracy, automate fulfillment, and give customers visibility into order tracking.

Another “alternative is to use Quantum View Notify®, which will send the consumer to for order tracking,” Sisco says.

3.  Encourage Peace of Mind with Returns. “Consumers will choose one retailer over another, all else being equal, simply based on the returns policy,” Sisco says.

“Including a preprinted return label in the outbound package has emerged as a best practice,” Sisco says. It’s easily done within WorldShip® at the same time the original label is printed.

Additionally, consider making the return shipping “free.” According to a Forrester research study, 41 percent of consumers who returned a product ranked paying for shipping on the return a top frustration.

4.  Give Customers More Control. Another way retailers can make the shopping experience more comfortable is to encourage customers to sign up for UPS My Choice®. Customers can enjoy a variety of benefits including delivery preferences; e-mail, text, or voice alerts; and the freedom to electronically authorize the release of packages.

They can also reroute or reschedule packages. Membership gives customers the ability to view a calendar of all inbound shipments and provide “leave-at” instructions such as “garage.” Premium members can select a confirmed two-hour window for package delivery.

“This helps ensure that the consumer gets their delivery on the first attempt,” Sisco says. “It’s another way to enhance the online shopping experience and please your customers.”

5.  Encourage Sales with Free Shipping. One creative strategy is to apply thresholds based on cart order size, Sisco says. “If your average cart order is $75, you might offer free shipping if they spend more than $100, and charge a nominal amount or flat rate for orders below that threshold.”

Recent comScore data from its “Q4 State of Retail” report shows that average order values can be as much as 9 percent higher when free shipping is offered as a promotion.