eCommerce Insiders

7 Fulfillment Issues that Kill Customer Retention

Many online retailers are operating under a fatal assumption:

They believe that a sale is closed after a customer submits their credit card information for processing.

The fact is, the fulfillment and shipping processes are aspects that not only close a sale, but they can also make or break future sales for an e-retailer.

Below are seven mistakes that could kill customer retention for your brand:

1. Sending Out The Wrong Product/Color/Size

The thing that shoppers love when they visit their favorite e-commerce site is the ability to see what their product looks like, especially after they enlarge the photo.

They imagine what it would be like to receive the exact some product in the mail. They’re filled with excitement when they’re finally able to touch, hold, wear, or consume the product they saw on their computer screen.

So, it stands to reason that when a customer is sent an item in the wrong size or color, or if they receive a product that’s entirely different from what they’ve ordered, they’ll feel duped! They’ll feel disrespected and tricked.

They’ll feel that your brand didn’t  live up to the promise of what you said you’d deliver.

Bait and switch is a retail sin of the highest order because it’s a tactic that plays with the buyer’s emotions for the sole purpose of generating a sales lead.

Although using bait and switch in the fulfillment process is mostly unintentional, the same results occur. The customer will experience disgust, and they’ll often shop with a retailer who will provide them exactly what they’ve asked for.

2. Failure to Deliver Within a Reasonable Amount of Time

People understand that when they place an order online (or over the telephone), they need to be prepared to wait. However, with e-retailers such as Amazon closing the waiting game gap, shoppers have come to expect expedient delivery service.

Then again, there are special occasions throughout the year when the timing of the delivery means everything. Holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas hold high sentimental value, and it’s crucial for gift deliveries to reach their recipient on time, if not a little early.

Here’s what Multi Channel Merchant predicted in response to online retailers who regularly experiencing on-time delivery failure:

Failing to fulfill customers’ orders in a timely fashion spells disaster for retailers of any size. Delivering products late can kill sales, batter your reputation and destroy customer loyalty. It can also squander all of the time, money and resources you spent acquiring new customers.

Simply put, delivering products when you promise you will isn’t an aspect of fulfillment that you can afford to get wrong!

3. Poor Or Non-Existent Communication

Then again, mistakes happen from time to time. No matter where the mistake lies, it’s a fatal flaw not to reach out to your customers in order to keep them in the loop of what exactly has gone wrong, and how your store intends on correcting the mistake.

For example, your store might have ran out of a specific item, and you’ve encouraged shoppers to sign up on a waiting list. Guess what? Those shoppers take the waiting list seriously, and they’ll definitely take things personally when your company fails to keep them updated on when their anticipated product is back in stock, and ready for delivery.

Has your site development team made an error regarding a product’s size, color, or quantity in stock?

Then let shoppers, especially the email subscribers know this information immediately!

4. Poor Website Inventory Management

Speaking of errors regarding quantity of product in stock, nothing irritates a shopper more than believing that the item they want to purchase is available, but it’s actually out of stock. When this takes place, then all of the trust that you’ve earned from the shopper flies out the window (see the point about bait and switch).

No one wants to shop with a company brand that’s perceived to be inept at the very least, and sloppy at the worst! In order to prevent these outcomes, invest in software that updates your site’s product inventory in real time.

Every time the shopper updates a product page, they should have up-to-the minute access to the availability of the product they’d like to purchase.

5. Poor Inventory Replenishment

So, you’re temporarily out of stock on a certain product. For whatever reason, the product isn’t being replenished back into your available sales stock fast enough. If this makes you concerned and annoyed, then know that this makes the shoppers angry.

They’ll stay loyal to your store long enough for you to replenish products within a reasonable amount of time. But, it’s delusional to think that your brand loyalty is powerful enough to keep the anxious masses waiting an indefinite amount of time for their favorite products to be replenished.

6. Faulty Product Packaging

One of the number-one issues that makes shoppers practically foam at the mouth in fury is faulty, shoddy, or poor product packaging.

No one wants to receive a box that looks crumpled or dented. They certainly don’t want to open their boxes and find that their product is broken, chipped, or dinged. They also hate seeing that their product has been ripped, shredded, or possibly worst of all, the product has developed mold.

All of these mean that the customer will now how to return the product they’ve paid for and have patiently patiently for. And, all of this means that you can kiss a potential returning customer goodbye!

7. Limited Shipping Options

Finally, you might believe that any carrier will do when it comes to sending out customer products, but shoppers actually like the ability exercise shipping options, especially when it comes to delivery carriers, and speedy delivery times. For example, many customers are willing to pay more in shipping fees in order to receive their packages faster.

Some customers want to be able to select their shipping carrier, based upon their shipping needs. For example, some customers require P.O. box delivery, and some carriers might not deliver to a post office. Also, some carriers take better care of packages, protecting the packages from inclement outdoor weather, theft, outdoor animals, etc.

Fulfillment and shipping aren’t throw-away tasks in the e-commerce process. They are tasks that tie a bow on a your sales process while further cementing great brand recognition in the minds of your shoppers.

* Photo courtesy of Clarici Graphics

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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