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A Guide to Shipping for Magento Stores

A Guide to Shipping for Magento Stores

Shipping is an integral part of eCommerce and the delivery and fulfilment service offered by companies can be a deciding factor in whether a customer chooses to use them. Onerous checkout processes, overcomplicated delivery options, slow shipping and delivery charges can all have an impact. In this post, we’ll look at how Magento users can implement a shipping strategy that works for your business and your customers.

Create clear policies

Your shipping policy explains to customers how you will deal with the delivery and possible return of any products you sell. As such, it is not only a statement of intent, it can also be the part of your marketing strategy that makes a customer choose your business over one of your competitors.

For this reason, your delivery and returns policies need to be written in plain English, be easy to understand and need to be clearly visible and conveniently linked to on your website. You can also go further, by promoting the benefits in strategic places, for example, making sure that free shipping offers are one of the first things a visitor sees.

In today’s marketplace, users are looking for convenience when they make online purchases, This means creating policies that are flexible enough to meet the various needs of different customers. To get this right, you may need to offer multiple shipping options.

Offering free shipping

Delivering a customer’s goods costs money and this can make many Magento store owners baulk at the idea of offering free shipping as it eats away at profit margins. Failing to offer free shipping, however, can massively reduce the number of customers who buy from you. You only have to look at Amazon and eBay to see how important free deliveries have become. People even pay Amazon a yearly fee to join Amazon Prime in order to get next day, free deliveries, while eBay promotes those sellers who offer ‘Fast ‘n’ Free’ shipping. Indeed, according to a recent study by Pitney Bowes, over 90% of buyers are prepared to abandon a sale if free delivery isn’t offered.

Offering free delivery doesn’t necessarily mean the you have to pay for it – you can simply include delivery in the price. Surprisingly, many customers are willing to pay more for the product if delivery is free – just take a look at the price of Prime products on Amazon. So, instead of selling a product at £20 with £3 delivery, change the details to £23 with £0 delivery.

Another option is to offer free delivery for orders over a certain amount. This can incentivise consumers to buy more products and ensure that free shipping is offered on a cost-effective basis. Alternatively, you can offer free shipping as a standard delivery option alongside paid for next day or weekend delivery.

Providing a flat rate for deliveries

If free shipping is out of the question, an alternative is a flat rate fee, where the same price is charged regardless of the size or weight of the products. The difficulty with this option is that some products will obviously be more expensive to ship than others. Although you can work out your average annual shipping costs and divide this by the number of deliveries you make each year, this doesn’t always work out fair or offer good value to those ordering smaller, lightweight items – why should a customer buying a table lamp pay the same delivery charge as someone buying a sofa?

Essentially, this means you’ll need to offer a low flat rate that seems reasonable for even the smaller items you sell. It won’t, therefore, cover the costs of shipping bulky items but may help offset some of the expense.

Table rate deliveries

As the term implies, table rate shipping requires you to create a table of different delivery rates for different shipping scenarios. This enables you to charge different prices based on the package’s size, weight and destination.

The advantage of a table rate is that it enables the company to cover the costs of the shipping and this can help you charge a more competitive price for the product. However, there are a number of distinct disadvantages. Firstly, it makes it difficult to advertise the final shipping cost alongside the product if you don’t know the destination to where it will be sent – which is why some companies refuse to deliver to places that are not on the mainland and where goods have to be transported via ferry or plane to reach the customers.

A second reason is that table rates make setting up shipping on your website more complicated. You will need to make sure that you have the right add-on that can deal with table rates. This will mean linking delivery details with product sizes and weights so that the right shipping charges are displayed on the right products. It must also be able to calculate overall shipping rates if customers purchase more than one product – they will obviously expect some kind of shipping discount if everything is being delivered in one go.

Display carrier shipping rates

Where you provide users with the ability to choose their own shipping provider, it is now possible to link your Magento site with the providers in order to show customers the pricing options. Companies such as UPS and DHL enable prices to be shown so that the customer knows exactly how much they’ll pay for the service. While this is not normally the preferred option for retail to the general public, it is something that can be used in B2B sales.

Don’t forget the packaging

There are a number of considerations you need to make when it comes to packaging items for shipping. First and foremost will be ensuring that your items are packaged well enough to survive the journey. There’s nothing worse for a customer than seeing your eagerly awaited item arrive in pieces only to be told you need to organise and pay for its return. This results in nothing but bad reviews and a loss of income.

Another important consideration, today, is the environmental impact of your packaging. Everything you use is going to be thrown away, so customers want far less of it and whatever is necessary should be recyclable.

Finally, remember that packaging adds to the weight of the product and this can add to the cost of shipping. Keeping this to a minimum can reduce shipping overheads and improve margins.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot for Magento store owners to consider when it comes to finding a shipping strategy that works. The policies you put in place, the shipping options you offer and the packaging you use all have an impact on the cost of delivery and on how attractive your company is to potential customers.

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