by Christoph Stehmann, President Ecommerce, Pitney Bowes
Within the global mail industry, significant shifts in connectivity, technology, and innovation are blending the digital and physical streams of commerce. According to eMarketer, there are one billion globally connected digital buyers who are purchasing physical goods and shipping over $1 trillion in digital purchases.
The converging trends of a flattening global economy, the growth of cross-border shopping and commerce, and a growing population of empowered and connected consumers — are all creating a more challenging and complex environment for companies to operate, and compete, in. Pitney Bowes recently polled 1,000 consumers to understand holiday shipping preferences and the survey revealed that 70 percent of Americans consider shipping options to be an important factor in the shopping experience compared to 66 percent in 2013. To signify growth in this area, one-third (33 percent) of respondents said they plan to pay more attention to shipping this year over last.
At the same time, consumers are demanding new requirements for differentiated, global shipping solutions with accountability – providing full track and trace capabilities. They are requiring seamless processes, despite where an order originated from, that calculates customs, duties and taxes upfront during the online buying process in a few simple steps. And not surprisingly, consumers are asking for faster delivery times and improved, cost-effective services.
Fortunately, technology can close these gaps and help organizations better manage costs, track deliveries and help ensure an improved end-to-end customer experience. Following are three strategies that mail centers can take to better manage the complexities of tomorrow:
Many organizations today are creating business value by retooling how they manage inbound and outbound packages by creating a closed loop process for greater accountability.
A more automated approach for inbound shipping can help ensure chain of custody and confirm that every item reaches its intended recipient. An effective solution automates the tracking of mail and packages, helping to ensure full accountability until they are delivered to their addressees.
The value is not just measured by the hard costs of wasted time and lost deliveries—but also the impact to internal customers. In some industries, the costs of misplaced parcels can have even more dire consequences. Healthcare organizations, for example, receive specimens, lab reports, x-rays or medical equipment on a daily basis; and delays or errors in final delivery can directly affect patient care.
Best-in-class systems simplify delivery logging, reporting and prioritization for mail- center staff, and provide recipients a variety of options for checking delivery status and location.
Retailers are under pressure to deliver a seamless and convenient cross-border purchasing experience for consumers. However, the unique circumstances of international shipping call for unique systems and process capabilities. Cross-border shipping is more complex than domestic package handling, and international buyers do not like surprises.
While domestic shippers need to know how to manage tax rates across multiple states and jurisdictions, when it comes to international ecommerce, these challenges are multiplied. Organizations need to know the appropriate rates for taxes and duties by country, then calculate, collect, remit and manage these funds.
Adding to the complexity, regulations and fees are often based not on the location of your company or warehouse—but on the locale of the original manufacturer. If you sell goods that were produced in countries around the world, you need to capture that information as part of your shipping documentation. Most importantly, consumers expect all of these costs to be included in their shopping cart experience, so there are no hidden charges later on.
Fortunately, technology can help simplify international transactions, improve the online shopping experience for consumers and facilitate international growth. These solutions also provide access to affordable global delivery services, customs and brokerage management, and a full suite of logistics web services to help make it easy to deliver goods to online shoppers in international markets.
By building these capabilities into your user experience up front, you can satisfy customers, enhance your reputation and more effectively increase sales.
Give People Multiple Options
Our research found that when it comes to free shipping versus fast shipping during the holiday season, 82 percent of Americans find free shipping where the product arrives in five to seven days more attractive, while 17 percent prefer fast shipping where the product arrives in one to two business days for a fee. In addition, the study revealed that half of Americans will shop online earlier this year. As a result, retailers should consider offering free shipping as a delivery option well in advance of the holidays. Retailers should also investigate ways to offer faster shipping for those who would be willing to pay for those services with increased fees.
The reality is that in today’s world, customers expect better service, including faster, more flexible delivery options. Small- and mid-sized shippers, while sometimes reluctant to consider changes to their carrier mix, often find that adding regional carriers can increase delivery flexibility, expand next-day delivery options, and even help them introduce incentives such as flat rate shipping and free pickup.
Integrated, multi-carrier shipping technologies can ease the challenges of dealing with multiple providers by automating and managing carrier and service selection, driving significant efficiencies and increasing customer convenience.
The next frontier for mailing and shipping is exciting, as it is being influenced by consumer- driven trends. Technology is changing the way businesses operate and communicate, and facilitating greater connections than ever before. To thrive in today’s global economy, organizations need to embrace change, put customers first and make the right technology investments.