October 27, 2016
Blame Amazon; specifically Amazon Prime. The other day I placed an online order from a large retailer and then waited…and waited…and waited…for the order to arrive. To the large retailers’ credit, they sent me a confirmation email, they sent me the shipping tracking number, and I’d paid for normal shipping. But still, compared to Amazon Prime, it felt like it took such a long time that I had to check the tracking number several times to make sure the package was actually on its way.
Amazon Prime is changing what consumers feel is acceptable in terms of shipping time and, for small businesses, that’s a hard expectation to meet. So what are food entrepreneurs who ship product supposed to do?
We may not be able to ship as quickly as Amazon but we should make it plainly clear to consumers how long it will take to receive their shipment. Set the expectation that their product will arrive in 10 (for example) days and make sure that you can meet that. This means that you know it will take no more than X days for you to produce (if it needs to be produced and is not a product you’re pulling from inventory), pack, ship, AND the transit time to get to far-flung domestic destinations. Then add a few extra days on top of this number just to give you a little bit of a buffer & account for weekends when you may not be working or shipping carriers may not be delivering. Far better for your package to arrive a day or two early than a day or two late.
You want to make this information available up front when they’re making the purchase but also remind them of the timing in confirmation emails that you send after they pay for the order. This way if they go back into their email looking for notice about their order they can be reminded of how long it’s expected to take.
And lastly, send that tracking number once you have it. That reassures customers that progress is being made on their order and it hasn’t gotten lost or forgotten.
While we may not be able to ship as fast as Amazon, proactive communication can go a long way in helping alleviate consumer concern. Plus, it never hurts to remind them that as a small business owner, the product you’re sending them contains a lot more 1 minute of labor (not sure what I’m talking about – check out this CNN video about Amazon’s automated warehouses).