As online retailers know part of creating a great buying experience for customers is providing a seamless shipping experience. In fact, shipping is not only one of the most expensive elements of managing your eCommerce store, it has a direct impact on sales. Customers have high expectations for the cost of shipping, timeliness of delivery, and having diverse shipping options. Here’s what you can do to meet and exceed your customer expectations for shipping.

Offer Free Shipping

The fact is that we live in a culture of convenience and what’s more convenient than having items delivered to your doorstep with for free? Free shipping is an enticement and motivator for a consumer to forego the brick-and-mortar buying experience and purchase their items online. According to UPS and comScore, free shipping remains the most important option during checkout. Not only is free shipping beneficial to the customer, it can benefit you, the retailer. 60% of online shoppers have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping, per the same UPS and comScore report. Furthermore, shoppers spend, on average, 30% more per order when free shipping is included at checkout.

One way that you can offer free shipping is by having inventory closer to your customer’s delivery address. Making inventory as close as possible to your customers is one of the keys to having a successful shipping strategy. The ways you can make inventory locations closer to your customers is by opening a warehouse or location in new markets. An alternative to having a physical location is partnering with a fulfillment service, which connects to your eCommerce platform and fulfills orders from their own locations. By making your inventory closer to the end-buyer you are immediately lowering the cost of shipping and the time required to arrive at the destination, making it easier to offer free shipping with minimal impact on your margins.

Have Multiple Delivery Options

Online shoppers expect retailers to offer multiple delivery options, in order to meet their expected time frames and to make it more convenient. This includes expedited shipping and alternative delivery options. According to UPS and comScore, 1 in 2 shoppers says that delivery date is important during checkout, especially since 28% of online shoppers have abandoned carts when they needed their items in a certain time frame and the shipping options available didn’t meet the expected timeframe. Another component of having variety of delivery options is shipping to a store or allowing in-store pickup.  In today’s world, four in ten shoppers expect a ship-to-store option when purchasing online. This is a great alternative to same-day delivery for omni-channel retailers, since it brings customers into your store and makes them more likely to make an additional purchase.

By partnering with a fulfillment provider and having inventory closer to your customers will not only help you offer free shipping, but you will also satisfy the growing demand for additional shipping options. Customers will be enticed by free ground shipping or having the option of expedited delivery, which will increase sales and customer satisfaction. When you work with someone who specializes in fulfillment then you can focus on the important things: product innovation and growing your business.

Offer International Shipping

eCommerce global sales exceeded $1.6 trillion last year, which was fueled by the Asia-Pacific market with $875 billion in online sales. Being able to provide reasonable shipping rates to international customers doesn’t mean you need to fill a warehouse with all your products in every continent. Instead you can examine where demand for your products is coming from and send a few items of inventory to that market. By sending a small amount of inventory you can either test the new markets to see if customers will want to buy your product or satisfy the existing demand. If you’re an international retailer offering free or reasonably-priced shipping to most locations then you will have a competitive advantage over retailers that only offer domestic shipping.

The customer expectations for shipping are economical costs, timeliness of delivery, and a variety of delivery options. All of this is happening as the international eCommerce market grows exponentially, opening new opportunities to retailers willing to take on the challenge. Smart brands will take advantage of technology fulfillment partnerships and the incredible growth of the international buyer.