ShipperHQ Customer Story: Intelligentsia Coffee

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  January 14, 2019

Intelligentsia

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With ShipperHQ we finally have a push-button shipping solution

Intelligentsia Coffee stands on the forefront of specialty coffee in the U.S. In fact, when it comes to coffee, these coffee crafters decided that Fair Trade wasn’t quite fair enough – at least to the customer.

Not only does Intelligentsia Coffee practice Fair Trade, which ensures that coffee growers are treated and paid fairly, they pioneered the even more stringent Direct Trade coffee buying model, which has become the benchmark for the entire industry.

Applying their Direct Trade principal, Intelligentsia’s buyers travel to 18 countries to meet each and every farmer they work with and sit down together for a cup to ensure each crop’s quality. When someone orders a mug of Intelligentsia Coffee, they know they’re going to sip coffee perfection.

With such high quality standards, it’s no wonder that Intelligentsia Coffee is in demand from coffee sellers and drinkers all over the world.

But Intelligentsia Coffee’s thriving wholesale business demands shipping software that can keep up. When they first built out their wholesale platform, shipping posed an immediate challenge. The biggest issue was cartonization.

“Our initial software didn’t understand that shipping one box that weighs 30 pounds is a whole different story than shipping six boxes that weigh five pounds,” said Matt Riddle, Director of Systems and Strategy.

They even had one employee whose entire full time job was working with a marker and highlighter system to manually guess weight on shipments, cartonize them, and create labels on UPS WorldShip™. Ouch.

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To compound that limitation, their old software’s UX was clunky, and left them unable to provide services like offering shipping promotions and special pricing.

When they decided to migrate to Magento 2, they listed their shipping requirements and began searching. ShipperHQ checked all their shipping solution boxes.

With ShipperHQ, Intelligentsia Coffee can now charge their customers correctly for shipping, offer special pricing, and easily pack the right products into the right boxes.

“With ShipperHQ we finally have a push-button shipping solution,” said Matt.

By the way, now that that cartonization problem has been solved, it’s no longer anybody’s full time job. We’re happy to report that the person who previously wrangled all those markers and highlighters has moved on to a much more fulfilling role in the company.

But that’s not all.

“We can provide inclusive pricing on some items, which means offering our customers free shipping,” said Matt. “ShipperHQ has allowed us to provide a value-add for the customer.”

Visit Intelligentsia Coffee to find out more, including where to get your own Direct Trade coffee fix.
Intelligentsia Coffee

Click Here to View ShipperHQ’s  Customer Story: Intelligentsia Coffee

Start a 30-day no-risk free trial to learn about automating your eCommerce shipping with ShipperHQ

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The UPS CGI Rating API and It’s Impact on UPS Rates for Magento 1.x and 2.x

Author: Liz Van Hoose  |  January 8, 2019

UPDATE: JAN 11 – UPS has restored service on the HTTP endpoint for their CGI Rating API, but action is still required

UPS has re-activated the HTTP endpoint for the CGI Rating API, meaning rates will now be returned via this endpoint. The HTTPS endpoint continues to work as expected. For background on this issue, see our original post below.

However, the CGI Rating API is still a legacy, deprecated API and:

  • Produces inaccurate results
  • Does not support newer UPS services
  • Has no uptime or EOL guarantee
  • Has no official support from UPS.

This means remaining on the CGI Rating API via HTTP or HTTPS continues to presents a risk to your site.

How do I know if my site is at risk?

You are not at risk if you use ShipperHQ
ShipperHQ uses the latest version of the modern UPS XML API and is continuously updated to account for any future changes. No action is required.

You are not at risk if you use WebShopApps extensions which rely on live UPS rates
WebShopApps extensions like Dimensional Shipping use live UPS rates and already require the use of the XML API. Therefore, these extensions are not impacted.

You are not at risk if you use Magento’s native implementation of the UPS XML Rating API
You can confirm this by checking the “UPS Type” set on the UPS Shipping Method in your Magento Admin Panel. On Magento 1.x this is found under System > Configurations > Shipping Methods > UPS. On Magento 2.x this is found under Stores > Configurations > Sales > Shipping Methods > UPS.

If the “UPS Type” is “United Parcel Service XML” you are using the XML API and are not at risk. If the “UPS Type” is set to “United Parcel Service” you are using the CGI API and are at risk.

What Actions Should I Take?

To avoid future impact, we continue to recommend that all merchants move to Magento’s native XML implementation or a service like ShipperHQ which is continuously updated with any UPS API changes.

If you are unable to immediately move off of this deprecated CGI API, we recommend as a stopgap that you move to using the HTTPS CGI Rating API endpoint following the steps outlined in our original post below.

If you need assistance with generating XML credentials for Magento’s native implementation, contact your UPS Account Representative. If you’re interested in learning more about how ShipperHQ helps protect merchants from incidents like this, please contact us.

Thanks to Kris Brown (@kab8609) for flagging this issue and the temporary resolution using HTTPS to us via Twitter!


 

Original Post from January 8, 2019

Changes to UPS Support for CGI Rating API

If you’re a meScreen Shot 2019-01-07 at 5.31.05 PMrchant on Magento 1.x or 2.x who is not seeing UPS rates returned as of Sunday, January 6th, this may be due to changes in UPS support for their legacy CGI Rating API.

UPS has made a change requiring that rating via their CGI Rating API, which is a native Magento option, and no longer allows HTTP connections but instead requires HTTPS. By default, Magento attempts to connect using HTTP.

Since the CGI Rating API is a legacy API with no official support by UPS, we recommend switching to the UPS XML API. The CGI Rating API does not return accurate shipping rates and may be disabled entirely in future.

If you are unable to immediately move to XML, as a stopgap steps to move to HTTPS for the CGI Rating API are below.

ShipperHQ/WebShopApps Customers

ShipperHQ customers are not impacted by this change, no action is required. All WebShopApps extensions that require live UPS rates (for example, Dimensional Shipping) require XML rating and are therefore not impacted.

Merchants Using UPS XML Rating API

All merchants using the UPS XML Rating API are not impacted by this change.

What to Do if  You are Impacted

While we and UPS have recommended moving to the XML Rating API for many years, if you must continue to use the CGI Rating API as a stopgap measure, you can change to using HTTPS and reactivate your rates for the time being using the steps below.

  1. On the M1 dashboard, go to System > Configurations  > Shipping Methods > UPS
  2. On the M2 dashboard, go to Stores > Configurations > Sales > Shipping Methods > UPS
  3. From UPS, set “UPS Type” to United Parcel Service
  4. Under “Gateway URL,” manually add an “s” to “HTTP” to the website address listed in this field

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DDP vs. DDU Defined for eCommerce Sellers

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  January 2, 2019
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When shipping cross-border, you’re quickly going to run into the acronyms DDP and DDUHere are those acronyms defined:

  • DDP stands for “delivery duty paid” and means that you, the merchant, have paid all customs, duties and associated fees on the shipment. Generally the shipping carrier you’ve contracted with will handle the heavy lifting on customs and duties and then bill you the total.
  • DDU stands for “delivery duty unpaid” and means that your buyer is responsible for paying any customs and duties fees associated with the purchase. Your buyer will be contacted by a customs broker and will be required to pay duties before receiving the shipment.  DDU is also sometimes referred to as DAP (Duties at Place).

What do DDP and DDU have to do with my eCommerce business?

When shipping cross-border, many countries will impose a duty or tax on your shipment. Whether a duty or tax is required depends on factors like the declared value of the shipment, the purpose of the shipment and origin and destination of the shipment.  

Every country sets it’s own customs and duties, and they can get complicated. For example, the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (i.e. the U.S. government document spelling out what customs and duties are owed on what products) is 3,863 PDF pages long and updates annually. Ouch.

When shipping products cross-border, a duty or tax may be owed on your product. As an online seller, it’s up to you whether you want to pay the duty or pass that cost along to your customer.

Should you ship DDU or DDP to your international customers?

The short answer is: It depends.

Shipping DDU Cross-Border
If you choose to ship DDU, your customer is ultimately responsible for paying customs and duties before she can receive her package.

Your carrier will deliver the package to a customs broker in your customer’s home country. A customs broker can be your carrier, the local post office, or another company who handles customs fees. Your customer is then responsible for paying the duty before she can take final possession of the package.

Shipping DDU has advantages when it comes to winning a sale. Without taxes and duties factored in, your price-conscious customer sees a lower price at checkout. A 2017 KMPG survey found that 57% of online shoppers hit “buy now” on the lowest price they can find.

If you aren’t careful to spell out during checkout that taxes and duties may be due on arrival, this may create a negative experience with your store when your customer realizes she has to pay even more just to spring her package from customs jail. Worse, if your customer isn’t quick to pick up her package, storage fees and other fees may apply. Or if she abandons the package, you may be on the hook for fess, return shipping and fines and penalties. In the worst-case scenario, your customer abandons the shipment at customs and cancels the sale, meaning you’re liable for paying the penalty yourself.

Shipping DDP Cross-Border
If you choose to ship DDP, you pay the cost for shipping, VAT or sales tax, customs, duties, etc. Because the duty has been paid upfront, your customer does not have to deal with the delay and hassle of paying a customs broker in her home country before she can receive her package. Your carrier will bill you for the customs costs.

However, this still leaves you with the expense. You may take the cost on yourself, pass this on at checkout, or include it in your item’s price.  ShipperHQ’s upcoming cross-border feature will help merchants finally understand total landed cost before shipping, and arm you with the knowledge you need to mitigate the cost of shipping DDP. 

Shipping DDP also has advantages.  Your shipment will arrive more quickly because it isn’t delayed in customs. And as eCommerce matures, savvy online shoppers now expect that they will have to pay customs and duties on cross-border purchases.

Conclusion

Whether you ship DDP or DDU will ultimately depend on the mix of products you ship internationally, and how receptive your customers are to either paying taxes and duties up front or dealing with customs brokers after the fact.

We want to hear from you. Do you ship DDP or DDU? What made you decide this? Do you plan on changing up your shipping strategy in the future?

ShipperHQ is actively working on a solution to make cross-border shipping easier for merchants.  Want in? Contact us to learn more about this .

 

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The Core Values of ShipperHQ

Author: Karen Baker  |  December 20, 2018

As CEO of ShipperHQ its a job that requires a great deal of effort, and comes with it a great deal of responsibility. My husband was a small merchant, which is how I got into this space, I was there with him and understand fully the demands of eCommerce, and how small changes can cause big successes or big failures. I also understand as a company owner myself that stability is key, you want integrity and trust from the vendors you work with.

Not many people know this but I never actually wanted to start ShipperHQ, I just had merchants reaching out to me back in 2008 and I responded to their needs. I still feel in a way I’m doing that today, all I really want to do is help people, of course I’ve realised that as part of that I need to ensure I maintain my own stability and that of my family and co-workers.

ShipperHQ is proud to serve this space, and takes its responsibility very seriously. We have worked for years with massive merchants, many that you see on the streets of US, UK and other countries around the world. We know shipping is important, and we are innovating daily to make life better for you. I wish we could do more and faster, but let me say we are trying.

As part of the work at ShipperHQ as CEO when you grow a company you have to ensure that your own ethics and reasons for doing this are translated to your staff. As much as I’d personally like to sit on every client call, answer every mail, deal with every agency, well I can’t, someone needs to steer the ship and right now thats me. I’m also pretty technical (female yes) so that takes up a fair bit of my time trying to get better solutions for you all.

We decided therefore this year to work out 3 core values that we would all adhere to. A lot of companies do this. For us as a bootstrapped company that has been profitable since day 1, and single founder owned, I think its important to say we did this to help make our business better. We will have this prominently displayed in all our offices, it will be a factor in every decision we make, in every new hire we take on, and how we do business from today, in late December 2018. That you have my word on.

So I’ll share them, I hope you find it interesting.

Core Value 1: – Always Responsive

This was key to me, and about how we scale this company. Its very hard to get staff to care about something as much as the CEO. We as a company need to be responsive, on every level. Whether thats a support email, a question around partnership, a new enquiry on our services. We are here, on many channels, you can reach us.

Already we have a Chat channel on our website, we can be reached by phone, email and our agency partners have a slack channel to communicate directly with us.

If you see us not being responsive reach out to me, I’ll sort it.

Core Value 2: – Unflinchingly Honest

I’ve a terrible memory, which means I kind of have to speak the truth all the time else I’d fall over! But thats not why I’m honest, I just like things in black and white, ultimately I’m a programmer and thats how my mind works, its logical. Even when I worked in London I really couldnt stand the boring business meetings where there is a lot of fluff and no action. Lets cut that bullshit I say. Time is short, we want to do things and there is a lot to do. So honesty I think works well, yes its blunt, have I annoyed people over the years, yep, but I’ve also found I’ve got a lot of stuff done with clients as a result of just being honest. I also try not to say we can do something if we can’t, lets just be honest. Here is my situation, this is yours, lets try to find a solve. I’m fed up of tech companies that promise the world and don’t deliver. Do it else be quiet. We would rather under-promise and over-deliver, and because we don’t have funding we can do that, the buck stops here.

Core Value 3: – Focused Innovation

As a programmer/tech architect I obviously love technology. But I’ve always loved it from the perspective of solving problems. I’m not into theory, I’m not into writing code for writing code’s sake. I want to advance eCommerce and I want to get merchants to a better place. Its that simple. To do that we need to innovate, and do so fast. But it needs to be directed in the right areas, where there is most benefit. I’m a big believer in the 80:20 rule, and I’m a big believer in reality. I’m not here to play games, I’m here to help people with technology. And this company is too.

The Company

What’s interesting about the above is that the team actually came up with them, not me. These values are personal to me, I strongly believe in them, but I know it takes a team.

I wish all our clients, our staff, and the general eCommerce community a great holiday and happy and healthy New Year.

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ShipperHQ Customer Story: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 20, 2018

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ShipperHQ isn’t just an add-on or 3rd party integration piece to us. They’re a partner

When your business sells perishable products over the Internet, you have very specific shipping needs.This is especially true for Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, because they’re more than just a trendsetting purveyor of artisanal ice cream.

“People go on first dates at Jeni’s Scoop Shops, people get proposed to, and have their weddings with us,” said Chelsea Clements, Director of eCommerce at Jeni’s.

“Our customers send our ice cream for Mother’s Day, bereavement gifts and anniversary gifts. We are a part of people’s lives.”

This focus on customers means that Jeni’s wants to create a delightful experience whether in one of their Jeni’s Scoop Shops or when opening up a signature Jeni’s orange delivery box in the comfort of their own home.

That’s where the need for a shipping partner comes in.

“We were opening Scoop Shops across the country, but only shipping out of one fulfillment center,” said Clements.

“We realized that in order to sustain our online business and our cold storage supply chain, we needed multi-warehouse fulfillment. This wasn’t native to our platform Bigcommerce, so we knew we needed a solution.”

Enter ShipperHQ.
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“ShipperHQ helped us enable multi-warehouse fulfillment logic, which grew the business. Beyond that, they also helped us with things like guaranteed delivery date, because that’s very important to our customers who often send Jeni’s as gifts.”

After all, a box of melted ice cream on your doorstep the day after your birthday isn’t exactly festive.

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 2.22.35 PM

“ShipperHQ also helped us in times of crisis, like when landslides meant we couldn’t get shipments out of one of our fulfillment centers. If that had happened before we used ShipperHQ, we would have had to shut down our entire eCommerce business until the roads re-opened. We don’t have any developers on the team, but with ShipperHQ it was as easy as changing some settings, and we were able to keep our business up and running.”

Clements estimates that just relying on ShipperHQ to calculate delivery dates has saved the company 131 hours per year.

ShipperHQ also partnered with Jeni’s to enhance their customers’ eCommerce experience in other ways, like setting shipping cutoff times, and automating flat rate shipping and real-time FedEx Priority overnight delivery.

Clements added, “They’re very knowledgeable in all aspects of eCommerce, and have been great with helping us with our tech stack, and giving us advice and honest feedback about things we could try or avoid. ShipperHQ isn’t just an add-on or 3rd party integration piece to us. They’re a partner.”

Visit their website to learn more about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and order your own pint.
SaltyCaramel-pint

Click Here to View ShipperHQ’s  Customer Story: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Start a 30-day no-risk free trial to learn about automating your eCommerce shipping with ShipperHQ

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7 Cross Border Shipping Options Online Shoppers Expect

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 19, 2018
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In part one of this series, we talked about what your cross-border customers want when it comes to customer experience. But now we want to talk about the aspect of online commerce we live and breathe here at ShipperHQ – shipping.

Shipping fails can derail your cross-border sales, but perhaps not always for the reasons that you think. Here are the 7 main things your customers are looking for when it comes to cross-border shipping options.

1. Clear shipping costs

Spell out shipping costs clearly and as early in the checkout process as possible. The last thing you want is for your customer to reach the final page of checkout and be hit with a huge fee.You should also be very clear on what each line item represents and why they are reasonable charges. Cross-border shoppers are accustomed to paying for shipping and fees.

Avoid showing shipping, handling, customs & duties and VAT all together in one lump sum, or you may risk scaring the customer off with sticker shock.

2. Options on shipping cost and speed

Some of your cross-border buyers need their product now, and are willing to pay a little more for shipping speed. Others shop around based on price and will try to stretch every dollar, euro or yen.

How you show shipping prices may depend on the market where you’re selling. Pitney Bowes’ survey found that Australians are more concerned with shipping price than speed, while Korean buyers were more concerned with speed than cost.  PayPal’s survey found that nearly and equal number of customers cited delivery cost (25%) and delivery time (24%) as reasons to abandon their cart.

According to the Pitney Bowes’s report, retailers are meeting cross-border customers’ shipping needs by offering a choice of carrier. They found that 83% of high-growth retailers used three or more carriers vs. just 53% of low-growth retailers.

3. Clear information on taxes, customs and duties

When shipping cross-border, retailers have two options when it comes to handling customs and duties. Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) means that the retailer pays all customs and duties. Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) means that the customer pays the final tally of customs and duties upon receiving the shipment.

Cross-border buyers want clear information about these fees, and taxes like VAT, and who will be responsible for paying them. The Pitney Bowes report found that some international shoppers (especially Canadians) prefer to see prices both DDU and DDP so they can compare and make a decision from there.

However, PayPal’s report found that 24% of global buyers cite having to pay customs and duties as a deterrent to making a purchase.

4. Doorstep delivery

Often called “last-mile” delivery, the process of getting your buyer’s shipment from the nearest shipping hub to their doorstep can be surprisingly tricky. Everything from laws curbing emissions in urban areas to underdeveloped shipping networks can make it difficult to delivery directly to your customer’s hands.

Retailers are looking at solutions ranging from courier services to drones to close the last mile. Use caution when choosing a last-mile carrier. Your customer will associate all aspects of shipping with her purchase from your online store, and a bad last-mile delivery experience will likely reflect poorly on your brand, and not the carrier.

5. Pickup options

But not every online buyer wants a package delivered to their door.

Forrester found that many buyers in France and the UK prefer picking their packages up from a central location or locker rather than trying to receive them at home or the office.

6. Tracking

PayPal’s report found that fraud and security are still top concerns when it comes to buying cross-border.

One way you can reassure your customer is to provide them with tracking so they can follow their purchase as it makes its way to their waiting hands. Not all carriers will provide, tracking, however, so make that one of your criteria when choosing a carrier.

7. Free shipping

Even though cross-border buyers are aware that international shipping comes with costs, they are also enjoying more free shipping as large online stores and marketplaces vie for their attention and purchasing power. In fact, PayPal found that 44% of shoppers cited free shipping as driving their cross-border purchase. This was the second biggest factor encouraging them to buy now, next only to price. 

Free shipping is an option for your retail store, even cross border.

Need help optimizing your shipping for cross-border customers? ShipperHQ has your back. Sign up for a 30-day no-risk free ShipperHQ trial and start delighting your cross-border buyers.

 

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6 Cross Border Customer Experiences Online Shoppers Expect

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 18, 2018
cross border ship internationally

Global buyers are buying from retailers outside their own country or region. According to PayPal’s 2018 Cross-Border Consumer Research Report, 25% of online buyers around the world made a purchase from a retailer in the U.S. Cross-border shoppers purchase based on elements like price and product availability. But studies have shown that shoppers are looking for signs of trustworthiness from online retailers before clicking “Buy now.”

As global markets mature and eCommerce gains in popularity, more and more shoppers are making purchases across borders. So what exactly are online shoppers looking for when they make a purchase from an international retailer? And how can you attract these shoppers and keep them coming back for more?

1. Choice

PayPal’s report found that 38% of all online shoppers shopped cross-border to find items that they couldn’t purchase domestically.

A KPMG report found that 15% of U.S. shoppers, who are among the least likely demographic to buy from international retailers, still go across borders in order to obtain products that are unique or specialized.

PayPal’s report found that 38% of all online shoppers shopped cross-border to find items that they couldn’t find domestically.

2. Price

Not surprisingly, online shoppers shop based on price. PayPal’s report found that nearly half, 44%, of online shoppers make purchasing decisions based on price (shipping included.) According to PayPal, three quarters of buyers would prefer to pay in local currency, and 60% of those who don’t see that option report looking up exchange rates before making a purchase.

3. Localization

The 2017 Pitney Bowes Global eCommerce Report found that 72.4% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when the website is in their own language.

Perhaps not surprisingly, shoppers in developed markets like the US, UK and China express a stronger preference for localized online stores.

For example, what do you call it when you buy something online but pick it up in person? In the U.S., that’s “In Store Pickup.” In the UK, it’s “Click & Collect.” Use the wrong language on your website and you end up with confused customers unsure of how they’ll ultimately take possession of their order.

As eCommerce networks are built out globally, though, we can expect the trend toward localization to grow as online buyers have more purchasing options in their own local languages and lexicons. That’s why we 😉 suggest working with a partner like ShipperHQ who understands the nuances of shipping across borders.

4. Refund policy & ability to return

A UPS consumer survey showed that 66% of online shoppers take an online store’s return policy into account when making a purchase. They found that online retailers earned customer trust when it came to returns by:

  • Specifying a return and/or exchange period
  • Specifying a warranty period
  • Providing pre-printed return labels with the shipment
  • Providing clear and upfront information about the store’s return policy

Be ready, though. A recent BBC article reported on the phenomenon of shoppers ordering multiple items of clothing online and sending the majority of the purchase back. While this is a win for the personalized and comfortable in-home shopping experience, keep an eye on this trend and build it into your pricing accordingly.

5. Payment Options

Depending on the market, your buyers may prefer payment methods you haven’t considered. According to Pitney Bowes, only about 30% of eCommerce transactions in Germany are paid for by credit card. Indian buyers have a strong preference for cash on delivery when making purchases. Be sure to research preferred payment methods as you develop new markets.

6. Seamless Checkout Process

It’s easy to lose a customer at checkout. Checkout best practices include requiring your customer to fill out as few fields as possible, while collecting the information you need. This includes providing a guest checkout option so your customer doesn’t have to pause during the order process to create an account.

Also keep in mind that addresses come in different formats depending on the country. Include the correct address fields for your customer’s country to avoid confusion. A few tweaks to simplify your checkout will help you avoid cart abandonment by your international customers.

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5 Holiday Shipping Pro Tips for a No Hassle Customer Experience

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 13, 2018
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As a retailer and a shipper, the most important aspect of your holiday shipping customer service experience is ensuring order deliveries are convenient, cost-effective and on time for customers. The last thing you need in Q4 is cancelled orders, unhappy customers and bad feelings in what is supposed to be the season of good cheer.

Here are some tips on keeping your customers happy with your online store’s holiday shipping process.

1. Know Your Holiday Shipping Deadlines

It’s important to know key shopping and shipping dates so you can keep up with inventory, sales, orders and fulfillment to your customers.  To ensure Santa isn’t late, keep in mind these key retail dates approaching and plan your shipping staff accordingly to ensure that services selected are delivered by the holiday.

You can find a list of 2018 holiday shipping cutoff dates for the major carriers here.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Be clear and upfront about the last day your customers can order to receive their items by December 24th. It’s imperative you communicate this at checkout, at the bare minimum. But it’s even better if you communicate on the product’s listing or even right on your homepage.

When possible, get granular and communicate delivery dates with each shipping option so your customers can decide if they want to opt for 2-day or overnight shipping just to be on the safe side.

Consider using this opportunity to do a marketing promotion, email campaign, text update, or run an ad. This reminds your loyal customers that they need to purchase by the cutoff date if they want to receive their order in time for gift giving. Scarcity tactics play to your customer’s sense of urgency and encourage them to click “Buy now.”

3. Keep Customers Informed Throughout the Shipping Cycle

Even when you’ve informed customers on your site and at checkout that they’ve met the cutoff date, they can get antsy wondering if their order will arrive before Santa Claus does. Take this opportunity to engage with your customer by notifying them when their package has been shipped, and providing a tracking number so they can follow along.

And if the worst should happen and the shipment is delayed (whether through a fulfilment issue, a carrier issue, weather, or one of the other problems that can crop up around shipping), take the opportunity to get in front of the problem and “make it right” with the customer. Offer a discount, refund or other incentive. This will help you explain the issue while — fingers crossed — still retaining the customer.

Of course, the best way to avoid eCommerce delivery problems is to plan for every contingency. We highly recommend implementing a backup carrier should your primary carrier let you down.

4. Make Receiving More Convenient at an Access Point

Consider giving your customers the opportunity to pick up their package where and when it is most convenient for them.  In scenarios where you’re shipping to an urban area, or where a signature is required, this could mean the difference between your customer receiving their shipment on-time and missing out.

Consider providing shoppers alternate delivery options such as “pickup in store” (like UPS Access Point or FedEx Lockers) which offers shoppers protection from “porch pirates” and extended pickup hours.

5. Take Advantage of Free Shipping Day

This year, the annual “Free Shipping Day” falls on Friday, December 14, 2018.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Free Shipping Day started back in 2008 as a way to extend the holiday online shopping season. (Traditionally, holiday shopping online has peaked around Cyber Monday, with shoppers fearing that ordering any later might mean they receive their products too late for gift-giving.)

Stores can sign up to participate at FreeShippingDay.com, or you can do your own thing and offer free shipping renegade-style. And hey, if you’re nervous about offering free shipping, check out our guide to offering free shipping that doesn’t bite into your bottom line.

Want more holiday shipping tips? Check out the holiday shipping checklist we wrote for our partner, Blue Acorn.

Need help optimizing your store’s shipping for the holidays? Try a 30-day free trial of ShipperHQ.

 

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The Beginner’s Guide to Cross Border Shipping

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 12, 2018
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As an online merchant, shipping products outside your home country and region can be a little terrifying. What’s up with customs? Why is shipping across a border so expensive? Where did these zillions of shipping carriers come from?

It can be tempting to stick to shipping to customers within your own borders and call it a day. But if you’re not shipping cross-border, you’re likely missing out.

Not long ago, we went over a whole slew of reasons why you should be shipping internationally. This includes all the usual suspects like “the market is out there,” and “your competitors are doing it,” but we think the whole list is worth a read.

And now if you’re sold on shipping cross border, but have no idea where to start, we’re here to help.

Choosing Your Products and Market

Much of your cross-border shipping experience is going to depend on where you are shipping and what products you are sending to customers. It’s a good idea to test your international shipping strategy by dipping a toe in the water before diving in.

Choose your market
Chances are you already know where your products are in-demand. Online shoppers are not always shy about attempting to have an order shipped internationally or writing into support to ask you to support their country.

Take a look at your store’s analytics. Do you get a lot of traffic from a certain country? Is your support team constantly fielding queries asking why you don’t ship to Region X? Then start there, where you know your products are already in demand.

Offerings like ShipperHQ can provide you with detailed analytics on the conversions you are not making internationally, which can give you some insights into the size of the opportunity.

Alternatively, you can choose to test the waters with a close market with long established cross-border shipping routes. In the U.S., that could mean Canada or Mexico. In the UK, that might mean the EU/Continental Europe.

Choose your products
Once you’ve chosen your market, your next step is to pick the products you want to ship internationally. We recommend starting with small, light and durable items. These types of items are less likely to run into snafus when making stops in the international shipping process.

But before you pack up a shipment of lithium ion batteries wrapped in U.S. postage stamps and send them on their way, there are a few things you need to know.

  • Country or Territory Regulations – International shipping between countries is highly regulated, and for all kinds of reasons.  Before you lovingly plaster a label on your first international shipment, read up on the rule. UPS has a handy resource where you can look up shipping regulations and restrictions based on point of origin and shipping destination. Some countries may require that you obtain a license or other special provision before importing goods. For example, you need extra permits to ship meat to Mexico, so they probably aren’t the ideal market to test out your new Steak o’ the Month subscription box.
  • Restricted items – Like the aforementioned lithium ion batteries, some items are universally restricted and/or require a lot of extra hoop jumping to ship internationally. This is because they can be dangerous, like high-powered magnets on an airplane, or illegal, like ivory. ( …Or because they’re postage stamps. UPS will not ship U.S. postage stamps outside the U.S.) But never fear, some restrictions are carrier-specific. So if one carrier won’t ship your product, another may answer the call. Don’t give up!
  • Keep it Simple – Cross-border shipping is more involved than domestic shipping, we suggest you start with high profit margin items that you can afford to lose if your first experiment doesn’t work out. In other words, consider testing the international shipping waters by sending books, not hot tubs.

Once you’ve chosen your products and market, don’t be surprised when things change up on you. Tariffs and treaties and other changes may suddenly mean that a new market opens up, or something that you happily shipped to your customers in Country X yesterday is suddenly prohibited today.

It can be extremely difficult to keep an eye on changes, especially with the current tariff unease worldwide. It’s essential that merchants use software to help them keep an eye on changes, not only  to the cost of shipping, but changes in what can and can’t be shipped.

Nail Down Shipping Logistics

Choose your carrier(s) – You have a ton of options when it comes to shipping items cross-border. Postal mail, like the United States Postal Service (USPS) or Canada Post is cost-effective, but often excruciatingly slow. Express carriers cost more, but can be much faster and offer perks like insurance and tracking that will give you and your customers peace of mind that the purchase is on it’s way.

Understand customs and duties – Think of customs and duties as taxes or tariffs on the items you import. Depending on things like what the product is, what it’s made of, it’s value and quantity, where you’re shipping from and the origin point of your products, you (or your customer) are likely going to have to pay extra as a cost of doing business for importing goods into a country.

You have a couple of options here:

  • Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) – This means you, the merchant, pay all the taxes and fees associated with shipping internationally. You are generally billed by your carrier for these fees. In some cases you may not know the fees until after the order is delivered.
  • Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) – This means that the customer is on the hook to pay all taxes and fees associated on the package. If you choose this route, be sure to let the customer know up front that they will be responsible for duties, otherwise you could end up with an angry customer.

The other option is to use a 3rd party custom and duties calculator to do all the work for you, and then choose to either pass all, some or none of that cost onto the customer.

ShipperHQ is releasing a solution in Q1 2019 which will handle all your customs & duties. Contact us for early access.

Optimize Your Customers’ Experience

Offer varied delivery options – Some of your customers will want their purchase immediately. Others may be more price-conscious and defect to a competitor if the total price climbs too high. One way you can please everybody is by offering up choices. The price-conscious customers can save some money with slower shipping options, while the people who forgot their mom’s birthday can shell out extra for express shipping.

These days, many online shoppers have come to expect free shipping, even on international orders. Check out our guide to offering free shipping without busting your budget here.

Be transparent about shipping costs – The last thing you want to do is surprise your customers with an enormous grand total when they’re about to hit “Buy Now.”  Or worse, shipping something around the world only for the customer to refuse to accept the shipment because of the high duties.

Shipping management software can help you give customers the whole shipping price story up front so you don’t end up with a bunch of products sitting in abandoned carts.  

Are you ready to ship internationally? Do you have any international shipping questions? Tips & tricks? Horror stories?

Let us know in the comments!

 

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The Mini Guide to Subscriptions and Bundles, Brought to you by ShipperHQ and eBridge Connections

Author: Liz Van Hoose  |  December 11, 2018
subscription-min

Subscription boxes and kits are king, and they are here to stay

The journey from milk to Kanye
To make life easier and to keep up with trends, consumers have always had a soft spot for the concept of subscriptions and bundles. Take milk, cosmetics and music. The first home glass milk bottle deliveries occurred in 1785 in rural Vermont. Mary Kay started selling in-home to consumes, season after season, going back to the 1960s. And, Columbia House had a significant market presence in the 1980’s and 1990’s with monthly mail-order music.

While the concept of the subscription boxes and personalized kits is not new, its recent popularity is outrageous (and down right interesting). There were plenty of kids in college in the 1990s not getting CDs sent to their dorms every month, but you’d be hard pressed to find a millennial who hasn’t signed up for an online subscription box this year.

The research behind subscription box trends speaks for itself. According to Forbes, “The subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 100% percent a year over the past five years, with the largest retailers generating more than $2.6B in sales in 2016, up from $57.0M in 2011.”

Read the full mini guide here.

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