Forget sales and marketing. In 2023, supply chain challenges might be the death of many Shopify brands - as 66% of surveyed brands said they are bracing themselves for major logistics hiccups in the near future. (According to Shopify’s 2023 Commerce Report.)
And not a single one of them is a Debbie Downer, Shopify merchants are getting a lot of things working against them here. Accelerated climate-change events, drawn-out pandemic impacts, escalating trade tensions, and cyber-attacks are all putting a significant dent in our production and logistics capacity - making it an uphill battle to meet customer demand and expectations. Production times lag, shipping times drag on, and inventory management becomes a Herculean feat.
It doesn’t help that massive marketplaces have set unrealistic expectations for same-day delivery and easy returns that not even they can keep up with anymore.
Even the big guys struggle, what are the chances for the Davids of eCom?
Here’s How You Fight, Shopify Advised
In the same report, Shopify outlined a few ways to future-proof your logistics network, including:
Increasing inventory: Carrying more inventory is the most popular way to combat supply chain issues, with 8 out of 10 companies surveyed by McKinsey increasing their inventory in 2021. This makes it easier to meet customer demand, but it's important to strike a balance between cushioning inventory and overstocking. It’s also reported that brands that increase inventory holdings little by little (depending on cost, space, and demand) lower their risk of trapping funds in inventory they can't sell.
Diversifying product sources: Creating a resilient supply chain means looking beyond low cost and high productivity. One-third of Shopify Plus merchants are diversifying their product sourcing by finding new suppliers or countries, while others are sourcing products closer to home.
Reducing return rates: Returns are a major source of loss for businesses. To minimize returns, companies need to provide a comprehensive pre-purchase experience - with detailed product descriptions, (real) customer reviews, and 360-degree views of each product to set the right customer expectations. Augmented reality is also becoming a viable option to bring products to life for customers and reduce return rates. Fewer returns mean happier buyers, less pollution from transportation and packaging, and less strain on a key aspect of supply chains: inventory management.
By taking these steps, brands can improve their inventory management, increase their resilience, and reduce losses from returns.
But it’s always easier said than done, I know.
The above advice might be harder to apply when you’re local businesses selling daily delights - restaurants, florists, bakeries - where cushioning inventory is much harder (florists can store more flowers, but they won't stay marketable for more than 02 days)
and AR-augmented technology might not even move the needle (do people really need 360-degree views of a croissant before purchasing it?)
How exactly can you follow the above practices?
Take a step back and scan the scene. Let our gaze wander and our mind keen. Then, we'll see that many of the most effective strategies for shipping and delivery might boil down to one thing, one thing only.
Customers Expectation Management Is The Key
If you’re a Shopify merchant, let's take a moment to flip the script and step into the shoes of an eager online shopper, eagerly awaiting the arrival of your coveted purchase.
Can you recall the moments of frustration when reality failed to meet expectations?
Your package finally arrived, only to reveal a product that was nothing like what you had seen online.
Or maybe you endured a never-ending wait for shipping, far beyond the promised delivery date.
And who hasn't experienced the agonizing uncertainty of not knowing where their package was or when it would arrive?
All of these mishaps stem from one source - mismanaged expectations. When the promises made by the seller don't align with the realities faced by the buyer, disappointment ensues.
I'd argue that the gist of the above best practices is simple - set the right expectations, and keep the lines of communication open throughout the post-purchase journey.
By keeping this essential principle in mind, you'll discover a host of techniques to safeguard your delivery process from potential pitfalls. Think SMS notifications, real-time tracking updates, transparent shipping costs, return fee estimates, or even creative packaging - the possibilities are abundant.
The Shipping App For Local Business
And again, managing customer expectations is much more challenging when it comes to local delivery: expectations are much higher - you have to deliver within hours, and returns often come as a loss to sellers - you don't often re-sell a returned bouquet (do you?)
This is where apps like DingDoong come in handy.
DingDoong is a game-changer in the world of local delivery and pickup, offering a host of Delivery management features that will operate as your personal assistant to make sure deliveries are butter-smooth and expectations are well-managed.
(Sounds like an overhyped plug? It's not, I guarantee. Look at these reviews, can't help but feel like DingDong is your friendly neighborhood super-deliveryman.)
With DingDoong's date picker, your customers will love the convenience of being able to choose the date and time that works best for them. No more waiting around for hours on end, hoping that their package will show up.
You can also set specific delivery rules for different sets of products, or set up lead times, cut-off times, and black-out dates to make sure customers have the right expectation for delivery.
But that's not all.
With DingDoong's newest feature (they shipped quite often!) - Group Order, you can let your customers shop with their friends, making the whole buying experience more fun and enjoyable.
This is how you stand out: By managing expectations like a diplomat and using tools like a craftsman.