Retailers: Don’t make customers wait for you

One of the biggest problems facing Australian retailers right now is the shipping system we have set up in this country. Or, really, the lack of one.

When we buy product online, we want it sent to us as quickly as possible. Especially if it’s something being bought for a Christmas present, or has to be sent by a specific date. If it’s not going to be sent very quickly, then you might as well just wait until the weekend, buy it at a department store and have it in your hands.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Some of the major department stores cite shipping times of a week for product kept in Australia. Meanwhile, I can buy product from Amazon and have it shipped – albeit expensively – by the weekend.

Given that, it’s no surprise Australians cited shipping and fast delivery times as one of their most important deciding factors when buying online. An Ernst & Young report into online shopping, which we delved into here, found it was even more important than pricing,

The problem is, Australian retailers actually have a little bit of a genuine problem here. The Australia Post system tends to be slower than the postage systems you find in the United States. It’s hard to find a real solution when the raw materials you have to work with – the postal system – is in a poor state.

Of course, there are solutions, like Amazon’s strategy of creating state-based distribution centres, so stock is never far away from a buyer. But clearly, that strategy is extremely capital-intensive, and requires a huge operation not many retailers have access to.

But there are ways you can get around the problem of having a slightly longer shipping schedule. Obviously the first solution is to just ship things as quickly as you can. But there are some other ways to get around the shipping problem.

The first is to keep the majority of your popular product onshore, and then import stock when needed. That’s the strategy used by some local stores including Bookworld, which makes sure it has the most popular books only two or three days away from buyers.

But that’s only one thing. The most important thing Australian retailers have to understand when it comes to shipping is that it needs to part of the whole package.

The Ernst & Young report from earlier this week found that when it comes to Australian shopping, if you don’t get the basics right then shoppers are going to leave. Those basics make up a range of different aspects, including design, shopping carts, navigation, and yes, shipping.

The problem is many businesses might think they can slip on one, and then pick up the slack on another. You’ll be forgiven for slow shipping if the design of the site is good, right?

Wrong.

If you think you can be forgiven for slow shipping just by writing some good-looking code, think again. You need to figure out how to get around your shipping problems. That solution is going to look different for every company, but in the end the customer needs to feel satisfied.

Australia is an isolated country, and our shipping system reflects that. But you can’t just accept it and move on. Australian retailers need to understand that while they may expect shoppers to wait five or six days for a product, they probably won’t even wait five or six seconds.

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