Congratulations on your flawlessly-executed online store. With compelling product descriptions, killer bargains and every pixel in its place, your spiffy new ecommerce site is sure to keep the virtual cash registers ringing all day, every day.
But they aren't. And the culprit is often a critical part of the online shopping experience that small merchants—in fact, businesses of all sizes—often overlook.
Shipping is arguably the make-or-break portion of an online sale, according to Jeremy Bodenhamer, CEO of ShipHawk, a shipping automation software provider. Successful online purchases of physical goods consist of two major, inextricably-linked components, he argued.
"If you think about online transactions, one component is shipping and the other is transaction processing," Bodenhamer told Small Business Computing, a concept that reverses how businesses typically approach their ecommerce strategies. Prioritizing the shipping process, effectively turning the concept of online sales on its head, has helped his company combat a vexing problem that plagues online merchants.
How to Save Shopping Carts
Abandoned shopping carts are packed with more than $4 trillion worth of merchandise each year, said Bodenhamer, citing data from a BI Intelligence report. Five of the top eight reasons why online shoppers ditch their carts relate to shipping, he added.
A top reason is the "lack of [disclosing the] cost at the point of sale," noted Bodenhamer. Often, shipping information arrives too late during the transaction, turning that once-in-a-lifetime deal into a waste of the buyer's time.
Other shoppers react badly to an all-too-familiar occurrence: sticker shock. As many shoppers can attest, high shipping costs can break the budget and sour their attitudes toward a particular vendor. Good luck getting them to complete the purchase, now or in the future.
ShipHawk turns shipping from a rude surprise late in the game into a transparent and cost-effective part of the online shopping process for both consumers and small businesses.
Hawk-Eyed Shipping Logistics
You can’t expect small business owners to be shipping logistics experts, at least not while they're trying to deliver excellent customer experiences and grow their ecommerce sites, Bodenhamer said. Some carriers excel at transporting certain types of parcels, while others keep their cargo containers full by offering low rates. Then there are package size and weight concerns, along with complex pricing matrices that can change at any time.
ShipHawk provides shopping cart integration, initiating and managing the shipping process from the moment shoppers place items in their carts so there are no surprises on either the part of the customer or merchant.
The company's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, a mix of application programming interfaces (API), online tools and a cloud-based back-end for merchants, is unique in the industry in that it's "available at the point-of-sale," he noted. It converts "online orders into shipments; it doesn't matter what the seller is selling."
From fragile knick-knacks to furniture to commercial equipment, ShipHawk takes the guesswork out of getting packages to their intended destination safely, cost-effectively and on-time, said Bodenhamer. The platform "automatically optimizes each order and matches it with the best carrier," he noted. Intelligent packing technology helps avoid shipping overages due to oversized boxes.
ShipHawk also puts customers in control, offering them the choice of shipping options that fit their timetables and budgets. More importantly, it allows merchants to calculate the total cost of an item upfront and to display shipping information during the entire process, creating a transparent checkout experience for shoppers.
ShipHawk currently integrates with Magento, Shopify, and Woo Commerce, and Bodenhamer teased that more ecommerce platform integrations in the works. An online dashboard provides order tracking and management from a single location, and it alerts business owners to status changes, including exceptions that can hold up a delivery.
Online stores can link their existing shipping services with ShipHawk. Otherwise, they can get up-and-running with the company's own money-saving option. "If you don't have any carriers, we're ready to go with pre-negotiated pricing" for Fedex, UPS, USPS and several other shipping companies, said Bodenhamer.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|