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Tips & tricks for merchants & delivery times

To over deliver or under deliver? Top tips for improving your delivery offerings on Amazon

Fast delivery speeds are one of the main things customers look for when purchasing products online. Unfortunately, for a lot of sellers, delivery is often an afterthought.

When Amazon first started becoming a household name in the UK, the idea of getting any product delivered to your doorstep within 5 days of asking was almost unprecedented.

Fast forward a few years however and what was once considered fast now looks painfully slow. While 89% of consumers think 2-day shipping is “fast”, that figure drops to 42% in regards to 3-4 days shipping. In fact, so high is the demand for speed that 41% of consumers are willing to pay an extra charge for same-day delivery, while 24% would pay more to receive packages within a two-hour window of their choosing.

But here’s the stat which really matters. While 75% of shoppers want same-day shipping, only 50% of online retailers are actually offering it.

Amazon’s revolution of the online market means that customers have come to expect near-instant delivery as standard. Unfortunately, if you’re a self-fulfilled Amazon seller (and therefore not using FBA), then hitting these exceptional delivery benchmarks can be difficult.

But it isn’t impossible, and it’s one of the most important things you need to be focusing on as an Amazon seller. Here are 5 tips for ensuring your business is offering the best delivery options possible.

Front AND back

In an ideal world, Amazon would prefer sellers to use Amazon fulfillment methods, as this is the easiest way for them to ensure consistent delivery. For that reason, Amazon has really strict performance metrics in place, especially around delivery times, which you’ll need to hit in order to avoid a potential account suspension.

Now, most people know about updating the delivery times for each of their products on their front-end product pages, but less people know about an important trick behind the scenes.

Amazon sets the default handling time (the amount of time it takes for a seller to dispatch their orders) for all of its sellers to 1-2 business days. But let’s say you’re a manufacturer of heavy furniture or large goods… it could take you more like 1-2 weeks before you can ship an order. Unless you change these parameters in the background at an early stage, you could be setting some overly-optimistic delivery expectations on your Amazon product pages.

Find your balance

It’s really key to get the balance right between meeting customer expectations while also being realistic. The further away the delivery date is, the less attractive your product is going to look to a customer. Then again, being consistently late with your shipments can incur some heavy penalties from Amazon.

Which begs the question – to over deliver or under deliver?

As is often the case on Amazon, being conservative at first and then ramping up as you gain better forecasts is a good rule of thumb. It may be tempting to follow the same metrics as your ecommerce platform, but remember the Amazon process is slightly different, and immediate success isn’t guaranteed. Focus on gaining traction with customers first, and then you can start to improve your delivery offering and keep that sales wheel rolling.

But, if you can ship an order the same day, then do. Don’t play it safe with a vague 1-5 day offering. Sure, this covers your back, but it also pushes potential customers to faster competitors, when in reality you could have gotten it there just as quickly – if not quicker.

Pick your moments

You don’t have to offer miraculous delivery speeds 24/7, every day of the year. Instead, consider upping your game in the run up to naturally busy trading periods such as Black Friday or Prime Day.

With more people shopping online, you should naturally have extra stock and staff capacity in place anyway, which will make offering a quicker shipping service much easier. It’s all about foresight. Once you start getting close to the delivery cut-off point, Amazon will automatically tell the customer that this product “will not arrive in time for Easter”, meaning you might have two weeks of trading where no chocolate egg addicts will buy your product.

Don’t set it and forget it. Tweak your delivery times at different points of the year to match your varying levels of demand.

Keep an eye on stock

Another key to success is ensuring that you have the necessary stock to support your delivery capabilities. You can do everything possible to offer exceptional delivery speeds but, at the end of the day, you can’t ship a product if it isn’t in stock.

Amazon is strict, and order defect rates can occur whether you were late shipping an order, you’ve had to cancel an order before you were able to ship it and even if orders were shipped on time but not delivered on time. The higher these order defect rates, the more likely you are to receive an account suspension. So make sure you have the necessary stock available and follow these simple steps to get your back-end sorted.

Choose the right courier

There aren’t too many restrictions about which couriers you can and can’t use, but choosing the right courier can have a big impact on your overall performance.

Firstly, it’s a question of cost. What is the cost to you? Will the delivery service be profitable? How much will it cost the customer? Those questions are important, but remember it’s also about reliability, and ultimately whether the product will get to its destination on time.

To aid this, Amazon has introduced Valid Tracking Rates, a performance metric which requires you to ship your products with a valid tracking number. This gives you some slight protection by discouraging you from using an untracked service, and it’s worth it too – Amazon reports that tracked orders have 60% fewer order defects. But ultimately it’s your choice, so do your homework first.

You can opt for one of Amazon’s recommended partners, such as Royal Mail or DPD, but even these aren’t a get out of jail free card. If you ship with DPD and the order doesn’t reach the customer successfully and on time, you’d still receive a penalty.

The bottom line is that there are a number of ways you can get it wrong when it comes to delivery, but there’s even more ways to ensure that you get it right.

Delivery should never be an afterthought. If you need any help identifying ways in which you can improve your delivery offerings, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.