Whether it's a wide selection of payment options, customer-friendly returns processing, customised after-sales services or an optimised customer experience: a positive shopping experience for the customer doesn't end with the click on the shopping basket. As an online retailer, it is precisely at this point that you decide whether your customers will return and possibly even become regular customers. Here we look at the role fulfilment plays as a customer loyalty measure.

Securing competitive advantages

Today, the entire fulfilment process is relevant for a convincing customer experience: This includes warehousing, picking, transportation, delivery, but also after-sales services and returns processing. At this point, join us on a digital shopping tour. While researching this article, we noticed that many studies focus primarily on negative experiences: for example, 36.7% of consumers do not buy from the same online retailer again within a month after a negative delivery experience (https://info.metapack.com/rs/700-ZMT-762/images/Post%20Purchase%20Experience%20Report%202022-DE-DE.pdf). 27% even leave a negative review.

Since the number of negative experiences increased almost fivefold during the pandemic (https://info.metapack.com/rs/700-ZMT-762/images/DE_2021_Ecommerce_Delivery%20_Benchmark_Report.pdf), it is worthwhile for online retailers to review their own purchasing process and ask themselves how they can offer their customers a comfortable and secure shopping experience. The more payment and delivery as well as return can be arranged individually by the customer and the more they function reliably, the more likely they are to buy again and recommend your online shop to others.

A full shopping cart is far from being an ordered shopping cart

According to the EHI study "Online Payment 2022" (EHI), German customers prefer purchasing on account (28.3%). This means that payment after receipt of the goods is still the most popular option, but the PayPal payment service is just 0.1% behind, influenced primarily by the pandemic. While customers expect fast delivery, they are also willing to make an equally fast and semi-automated payment. Payment methods by direct debit or credit card are still present at 17.4% and 11.4% respectively but have long since ceased to dominate the market. It should be noted here that the high ranking of direct debit in the statistics is driven by Amazon. Amazon accounts for a 22% share of e-commerce sales.

Excluding this retailer, direct debit lands in 7th place among the most popular payment methods. Despite the popularity of purchase on account, most online retailers offer credit cards in first place as a means of payment. This is understandable when you consider that purchase on account involves a fairly high risk of default for merchants.

Against this backdrop, check as a shop owner whether the payment options you offer are sufficient. After all, in the purchase process, the selection of payment options is the first fulfilment component your customer is confronted with. It is also advisable to mention possible payment methods in the footer. This helps to reduce the purchase abandonment rate. One indicator is a high bounce rate during the checkout process.

Flexibility meets innovative delivery options

If you want to serve satisfied customers in the long term, you must demonstrate flexibility here, too, because inadequate delivery options are a reason for one in two online shoppers to cancel their order. Whether it's Sunday delivery, 24-hour shipping, or shipping to a store, customers have individual preferences about when and where they want to receive their goods. As a supplier, you must deal with individual industry-specific requirements. The fact that around one-fifth of consumers in relevant markets are increasingly working from home since the pandemic means they prefer convenient home delivery (https://info.metapack.com/rs/700-ZMT-762/images/Ecommerce%20Delivery%20Benchmark%20Report%202022%20-%20DE.pdf).

Naturally, customer requirements in the B2C sector differ from those in B2B retail. Therefore, enter a discussion with your customers and weigh up which options are realistically feasible, whether from an economic perspective or from technological aspects. Also keep in mind that with new, innovative delivery options, the demands on your logistics increase. Therefore, check how future-proof you are in terms of delivery and warehousing.

Communication close to the customer

According to the Meta Pack Report, 86% of consumers demand information on the current delivery status, ideally even real-time shipment tracking (https://info.metapack.com/rs/700-ZMT-762/images/DE_2021_Ecommerce_Delivery%20_Benchmark_Report.pdf). As a retailer, take the opportunity to inform your customer about the progress of the delivery. Show interest in his concerns after your customer has made a purchase. Ask specifically how satisfied the customer is with their merchandise and what their experience was with your services. Perhaps your customer received a damaged product? Or the item looked completely different from the product picture? Apologize and offer him an exchange, price reduction or similar in an unbureaucratic way. Above all, make your customer feel appreciated and show that you are always looking to improve your customer service.

Returns - One way back please

Not every industry has to deal with the same rate of returns, it depends a lot on the product. Are you a mail order fashion retailer? Then your company has the highest number of returns with over 55% (sometimes even 70-80%). It is also not uncommon for multiple items to be purchased with the intention of returning at least one of them (https://info.metapack.com/rs/700-ZMT-762/images/DE_Metapack%20Returns%20Guide%202020.pdf). Do you sell books? If so, you can consider yourself lucky, because at around 11.5%, your customers return the fewest products. Returns cannot always be avoided. Making returns as easy and convenient as possible for the customer can be a wise investment in repeat orders. Conversely, 46% of consumers say they will not buy from a retailer if they are not comfortable with the returns policy.

Returns always involve effort on both sides. While for the customer the return is ideally free of charge and only requires a trip to the nearest return point, the store operator incurs various expenses for transport, processing and administration. If you add up the process costs and loss of value (for example, due to the goods being used or transport damage), costs are incurred per return that can be avoided in some cases. But even if returns are sometimes unavoidable, it is worth making this route as convenient and uncomplicated as possible for customers. After all, 92% of all customers who have had a good experience will buy from the same online store again. This is a factor that should not be underestimated when it comes to customer loyalty and sales.

Fewer returns thanks to optimised customer experience

As a retailer, it is important that you give your customers as few reasons as possible to return ordered goods. Make sure you provide detailed product descriptions and informative product images. Maybe even use virtual fitting rooms, include product reviews and be available for queries. Keep delivery promises and avoid damage in transit. Solicit feedback on return reasons and identify frequent returners to engage in dialogue with them. Many online retailers now reward customers for keeping goods, for example with a merchandise voucher for the next order or regular customer discounts. Be creative and surprise your customers.

For example, our customer Olymp has established the size finder in the online store, which helps customers find the right and, above all, suitable product. This reduces the risk of returns in advance and increases customer satisfaction as well as their trust in the online store. The information content of a product page can do a lot for an improved conversion, but also for a lower return rate. Many and high-quality product photos from different perspectives in combination with meaningful and customer-sensitive descriptions are more likely to give the potential buyer the feeling of being well advised and choosing the right product.

As a full-service digital agency, the optimal customer experience for us and your success is an absolute focus topic when we talk about successful e-commerce. We would be happy to put our experience and expertise to work for you, too. Contact us and together we will talk about your individual business case.

Customer needs always in focus

Which innovations revolutionise mail order in the future depends on how harmoniously they are aligned with customer needs and how seamlessly they are integrated into your store's technologies. In the long term, only those online retailers will be able to exist on the market that focus on continuous optimisation of customer service and always keep a consistent focus on customer needs. Don't be afraid to learn from the big online retailers. But don't forget to work out your own individual strengths. We have had good experiences with our customers using interactive, agile implementation methods. That's why, for example, we recommend an iterative approach with low-risk pilot projects to test how your customers accept new features. We also focus on microservices instead of complete systems to achieve ROI faster: This is because new implementations can be developed with manageable effort and delivered in a timely manner. But above all, generate unique selling points and see the investment in fulfilment as securing your digital business future.