As a small business owner, you may think operations is something that only large businesses need to pay attention to – but optimizing operations is critical to the success of any business.
When you set up your operations with care, you can reduce your costs and improve your customer experience – motivating customers to keep coming back to your store.
In part two of our article series on e-commerce operations, we focus on returns, delivery and international shipping – providing essential tips and guidance that can help you strengthen your business. If you missed part one of this series, “How to set up your e-commerce operations for small business success,” read it now.
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Optimize returns for your business
No business likes returns, but they offer an opportunity to build customer trust and create long-term value. The trick to unlocking this value is to approach them the right way.
Here are some tips for how you can optimize your returns:
Make your returns policy easy to find
It’s not enough to just have a returns policy – you need to make it easy for online shoppers to find. Don’t worry – this doesn’t inherently encourage more returns. What it will do is put your customers’ minds at ease. It tells them that if something does not meet their needs, there is a policy in place to support them. It signals that you’re reputable and that you want to ensure their satisfaction. It helps build trust.
Many customers expect to find a link to your returns policy in the footer area of your site, so that’s a good place to include yours.
Make returns as easy as you can
Your small business’ return policy is critical to building customer trust. It’s important to keep it as simple as possible so your customers don’t feel like it’s prohibitive. This helps to remove doubt from your customers’ minds before making their purchase.
Think about your bottom line
Free returns are something many retailers offer, but they may not be right for you. Think about what makes sense for your business and your bottom line. For instance, you can charge a restocking fee or share the cost of return shipping.
On your site, remind shoppers that you’re a small (and local, if applicable) business. Weaving this information into your story can help manage expectations around things like free returns.
To minimize a customer’s need to make a return, do everything you can to ensure they have the information they need. For instance, invest time in your product descriptions. Make sure your images reflect the true look of your products. Provide accurate information about sizes, dimensions and materials.
Once the sale is made, ensure you package the item(s) securely to avoid damage in transit. Double check that the packaged items are correct before shipping the order to ensure customers receive the right items.
Reassess as you grow
As you grow, you may reach a point where you can invest in better technology integrations to give your customers an easier returns experience. For instance, you can offer a free returns shipping label to download from your site or include a return label in their package. Stay on top of what’s new and what’s available for returns from your e-commerce partners, including Canada Post.
Optimize e-commerce delivery for your business
When it comes to e-commerce delivery, retailers can do a lot to ensure their customers have a good experience.
Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re covering your bases:
- Be upfront about delivery delays, such as any delays stemming from COVID-19, to manage expectations from the get-go.
- Provide a tracking number, so customers know where their package is throughout the delivery process. Note: this may be provided automatically by your e-commerce platform.
- Create accurate shipping labels. They need to include the correct address and postal code. Addressing errors can delay delivery and potentially result in the package being returned to you. Ensure your packages can be handled easily by automated shipping equipment. Make sure the barcode on the shipping label can be scanned (use labels with a white background) and that it isn’t obstructed.
- Don’t attach string or ties to any packaging as that can get caught in shipping machinery. If you’re reusing boxes, make sure they are sturdy and that you have removed any old labels that could be mistakenly read by the scanning equipment.
- Package items securely so they can endure what may be a bumpy shipping journey without getting damaged.
- Offer delivery preferences to strengthen relationships with your customers. For example, if you accept a PO Box as a delivery address, your customers can use FlexDeliveryTM which ensures Canada Post will deliver their parcel(s) to the post office of their choice.
Optimize international shipping for your business
Going global is easier than you think and it’s an opportunity to strengthen your business.
Offering international shipping lets you expand your customer base and reduce your reliance on a single market. It also offers you the ability to capitalize on exchange rates – which can be surprisingly lucrative.
Getting started isn’t difficult – many e-commerce platforms offer a lot of what you need to sell internationally. They can enable you to sell in different currencies, accept foreign credit cards and customize your international shipping fees based on the destination country.
Here are our top 4 tips for getting started with international shipping:
Know what you can and cannot ship abroad
Items that are restricted or prohibited to send in the mail vary across countries. If you don’t follow the rules, your packages won’t make it across the border. Consult the Canada Post International Destination Listing to check if your products pose any issues for cross-border shipping to particular countries.
Learn about duties and taxes
Having a basic understanding of how international duties and taxes work will make your life easier when it comes to international shipping. Start with the De Minimis, which is an exemption value that dictates if your orders require duty. Any orders under that threshold may enter the country duty-free. The U.S. has a De Minimis of $800. However, the De Minimis varies greatly depending on the country.
If your orders tend to exceed the De Minimis value, you will need to decide who will pay for duties and how. The cost can be passed on to your customers or covered by your business – in which case you may want to adjust the prices of your shipping and/or products to offset the cost. This payment can be applied at checkout or at the door. Whatever you decide, make sure you are upfront about any extra costs your customers may have to pay upon delivery before they complete their purchase.
Fill out the customs form properly
Don’t be daunted by the words “customs form” – they are actually quite simple to complete. The customs form is often part of the shipping label. You’ll just need to fill out a few more details when you create the label for international shipping: the value of the item being shipped, a detailed description of the item(s) and where the item(s) was/were manufactured. Taking a few moments to accurately fill out the fields that customs officials need to clear packages will go a long way to ensuring your order(s) sail across the border hassle-free.
Think about your shipping rates
You need to spend time figuring out the optimal cost of shipping for your international customers to ensure your global expansion will be profitable. You could charge a flat shipping fee, set a free shipping threshold or have your customer pay for some or all of the cost of shipping. You can test and adjust these shipping fees as things progress.
Make sure to include all the information about shipping costs upfront – clearly – on your shipping page so that your international customers know what to expect.
With these practical tips in hand, we’re confident you can optimize returns, delivery and international shipping for your small business to reduce costs and improve your customer experience.
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