Definition of fast shipping:
Fast shipping is a common way to define express, overnight, or next day delivery. It is also known as “expedited”. The shipping process can be defined as “fast” if the delivery takes a maximum 3 days. Having fast shipping means that you most likely pay a premium price for delivery, but also that delivery will take priority over others with a standard shipping option.
Fast shipping may vary by service provider. Companies like DHL or UPS can offer overnight solutions, while if you’re delivering locally, a trucking company might offer you same day delivery. It really depends on the location of your business, where you hold your stock and to the destination you are shipping to. For the United States, for example, USPS may offer next day delivery if locally shipped but may not be able to offer next day delivery for international shipping. The choice of the courier is essential as it could cost you a lot in terms of money but also for the variety of options offered.
- Postal Services
- Express Services
- Air Transport (Air Freight)
- Maritime Transport (Ocean Freight)
For postal services, the variety of choices is quite limited in many countries, but they generally have the “expedited” options where prices can be consistently higher with a faster transit time which can be something like 3-6 days for a local delivery and up to 8 days for international. The dark side of postal services is that despite offering the expedited options alongside the standard ones, the packages end up getting lost and the compensations are not up to par with what we would expect for a premium price. Additionally, track and trace updates may not be very transparent, easy to understand, or updated frequently. If you’re an eCommerce brand that ships internationally, you want to avoid shipping by post.
For express services, the variety of choices is not so limited but they mainly offer expedited services with potential cheaper alternatives for eCommerce that result in longer transit times. The level of service is much higher, packages are lost less frequently and, in this case, the compensation offered is quite generous. Depending on the location, the delivery can be same day, next day delivery or delivery in up to 3 days for international orders. Despite being quite expensive, it really is the fastest solution along with flawless customer service and very transparent tracking updates.
Hybrid solutions are also available where intermediate companies organize the first mile by partnering with local airlines and coordinating the last mile with couriers or postal services in the destination country. These options may be cheaper than those expressed, but the level of service may or may not live up to expectations or standards. It is very important to check transit times, compensation for lost packages, tracking updates and their transparency and customer service performance. Finally, compare the prices between the hybrid services you have selected and use the results to compare them with the rates and level of service offered by the Express Couriers to make the final decision.
For air and sea transport we are talking about heavy and voluminous orders over 80/100 kg of actual weight. Transit times can be quite short for air freight, but extremely long for sea freight. It’s not an option for eCommerce B2C shipping, but it’s definitely worth considering as you move inventory from one country to another.
Customer expectations towards fast shipping
The main goal every eCommerce brand should have is to meet customer expectations. So, the next would be to acquire them and ultimately retain them. The experience they get from buying your products is what determines whether or not they will come back. Time they wait too long or too little. Weather pay a premium price for something of poor quality. A McKinsey survey revealed that 46% of sample customers surveyed in the United States said they would abandon the cart if they saw transit times are too long, which would mean over 6 days. About 30% of the sample surveyed said they would abandon their cart if they didn’t see the same day delivery. Unfortunately, there are so many players nowadays offering local next day deliveries at a very competitive price that selling innovative products simply isn’t enough. Customers also expect same day delivery to many developed countries, and offering fast 3-5 day delivery is the least we could offer when selling across borders to gain traction
Why you should use fast shipping
As mentioned above, fast shipping helps to acquire customers but, above all, to retrain them. We don’t want to give our customers time to think about the purchase, the price or how long it will take. We want to offer such a great deal that they would buy on impulse. Likewise, we want to make sure the delivery is fast so they don’t have time to change their minds. Generally, once the purchase is made, the customer will start thinking about it, if it was worth it or maybe it was an unnecessary purchase. The longer it takes, the more they would question the purchase. Fast shipping is not only necessary to acquire and retain customers, it also helps narrow the gap between the adrenaline rush before the purchase and the questions after the purchase that inevitably lead to only two things: a returned product and expensive refund fees. Fast shipping saves you time, increases your profits by converting more customers and selling more, but is also a great option when it comes to perishable items, there is less risk associated with shipping.
How to get a fast shipping
There are two main ways to get fast shipping: using an express delivery or setting up a local warehouse in the country where you sell. Shipping cross-border with an express courier can be quite expensive, but it could be an option when you’re selling a high-end product or when you’ve built a very strong brand around it. The alternative would be to set up a local fulfillment center in the market where you are selling. Let’s take the example of the United States as a market. If you set up a local distribution center in the US, you get access to overnight options at a premium price, next-day delivery at a fairly fair price, and 2-day deliveries for the same price as a standard cross-border service with 15 days of transit. However, if you do not yet have sufficient volumes for any market but are simply selling internationally without a specific focus, we strongly recommend that you do not engage with a local distributor for less than 1000 orders per month as it may become more expensive than cross-border shipping in general.
What can impact how fast you ship?
Another important point to keep in mind is that fast shipping isn’t just about transit times. If your 3PL / warehouse takes a few days to process the order before shipping, your fast shipping automatically becomes standard delivery considering the customer would wait for virtually the same amount of time. (If you need help to set-up a 3PL for your eCommerce Brand make sure to check our Free Checklist)
- Order Processing: How long it takes to pack and prepare your order from the warehouse / 3pl is just as important as transit times. This is because it will create a larger gap between when the order is placed and the first tracking update is shown. If more than 2-3 days go by, it becomes alarming for customers and could lead to something worse than a refund. They will think the company is actually a fraud;
- Shipping methods: as already mentioned, the type of couriers you choose will affect the speed of delivery of an order. Choose an express courier if you need fast shipping;
- Correct Documentation: Failure to comply with the documentation requirements for cross-border eCommerce can lead to delays that are perceived from the customer’s point of view as a breach of promises. If you promise 2 days of delivery and then it ends up taking 6 days, no matter the reason for the delay, the experience will still be bad and the first impression your customer would have would be negative;
- Correct Address: There are many new technologies and apps that could help you validate addresses provided by customers at the checkout and improve data quality. You can find many options at a very affordable monthly rate. An order with an incorrect address will end up having the same problem as mentioned above: a delay followed by a broken promise which is consequently followed by a bad experience.
What you should keep in mind for a successful fast shipping strategy
- Holidays: Don’t forget to notify your customers of holidays and plan for longer transit times. Make sure you have a plan and potentially multiple distribution centers already to cover local delivery gaps. For example, if you are shipping directly from China and it is the Chinese New Year holiday period, you may want to consider a local distribution center in the United States as a temporary solution to avoid disruptions to your operations or delays in shipping;
- Destination: The destination you ship to it can be far or close to your distribution center. It is important to update transit times based on destination and communicate them clearly to customers to set expectations correctly;
- Communication: The best way to attract customers is by advertising the shipping method. If you are using a well-known courier company or any interesting shipping option, such as “overnight delivery” or “same day delivery”, you should definitely include this in your marketing and communication strategy as this may lead to more customers checking out your offer. Plus, build some trust because customers already know something about you, and that’s the courier you use!