When people think of carriers they typically think of the big parcel players: USPS, FedEx, and UPS. But retailers that ship a diverse range of goods must often rely upon an equally diverse array of carriers in order to create a seamless fulfillment experience. Your carrier selection must align with your customers’ shipping preferences, your internal process, and your inventory type. No matter what items you ship, the efficacy of the carrier, their customer service, and ability to meet tight delivery deadlines will directly impact your customers’ buying experiences and ultimately your brand.

All retailers are familiar with the epidemic that is shopping cart abandonment. According to research from UPS and comScore, 6 of the top 8 reasons for cart abandonment are shipping related. Top concerns included: shipping costs pushing the total price of the purchase higher than expected, and needing the product outside of the shipping time frames offered.

Clearly, selecting a relevant mix of carriers to create the ultimate fulfillment experience requires a lot of research and analysis. Part of the equation includes the cost-benefit relationship between faster shipping and the increased costs that this incurs. Retailers have to make sure that faster fulfillment options are managed attentively and that the higher costs associated with carriers, replenishing inventory, warehousing, labor, and distribution are carefully observed.

Here are the variables to consider when selecting your carrier partners:

  1. Delivery Location: The location of your customers will strongly influence your carrier needs. Factors to consider include: urban vs. rural, international vs. domestic, and whether shipments are made locally or across state lines.
  2. Delivery Rates: Several elements are involved when calculating actual delivery rates. Awareness of details such as warranty or insurance costs for couriers, exclusions and inclusions on carrier rate cards, and any other surcharges is crucial, as is knowledge of the rate negotiation process.
  3. Service Level Expectations: It is important to ensure that you and your carriers are on the same page when it comes to the level of service that you expect. Service conditions should be clearly laid out in your carrier agreements, and should include details such as the frequency and format of reporting, and the expected number of shipments per day.
  4. Visibility: Visibility ties into all of the other variables, and is a critical component of your carrier relationships. This includes both your level of insight as a retailer into details such as inventory, tracking, and fulfillment costs, as well as the discernibility of tracking, costs, and returns for your customers.
  5. Responsiveness: Numerous occurrences can effect a delivery when it is already en route. How carriers respond to these changes will make or break the customer experience. Attentiveness, flexibility, and the ability to shift deliveries to other carriers as needed are key, especially if a carrier’s services are interrupted.
  6. Technology: Carrier integration with your eCommerce platform is vital for creating a seamless buying experience and preparing for the future growth of your company. The right shipping technology should provide valuable insight into all of the above factors, integrate easily with your delivery partners, and interact well with the other elements of your business.

Shipping fulfillment directly influences the customer buying experience and the reputation of your brand. Carefully selecting the right mix of carriers and utilizing a shipping automation software with a focus on buyer satisfaction, logistics, and shipping intelligence is the best tactic for building and maintaining strong relationships, and ensuring that the shipping needs of your customers are being met.