Distributors that are able to perfect the practice of serving the ecommerce sector will gain an edge over their competition. They’ll be perfectly placed to take advantage of a market that will inevitably continue to boom.
Courier services are very critical to the growing ecommerce activities we have all witnessed in recent times. Usually in emerging Internet economies such as ours, the usual trend is mostly going to be that of B2C. As mentioned in previous articles, there is a great opportunity for distribution networks here in Ghana in the ecommerce industry. However, if best practices are not enforced, the expected growth of the ecommerce market will not be realised.
High delivery charges
Go round the city asking consumers what they think about growing delivery services in the country, and they will tell it serves them well but they have concerns. One major concern for patrons is the high delivery charges they have to pay for their orders. Reports also have it that courier companies are equally complaining, because customers are refusing to accept delivery fees charged after orders are delivered.
In fact, the best way to handle shipping in e-business so as not to incur any losses is to be able to ship in bulk. Consumers are constantly looking for a faster way by which their purchased items will reach them. E-commerce entrepreneurs are having a big challenge, trying to ship small amount of orders now and then rather than waiting to have them shipped out in bulk. This of course increases their shipping charges, but customers on the other hand are expecting to have the best minimum charge for delivery services. Very tricky isn’t it?
This is usually the case with Business to Consumer (B2C) type of ecommerce, where one has many orders of very tiny amounts of items and s/he has to ensure that they all get to their destinations within the promised time-frame.
National Courier Members Association
There is an association of courier services tat must take up the concern of customers and act swiftly to regularise the charging policy. Today, courier services are charging fees at their own discretion. So you have companies charging fees for the same distance for the same size of product which are very much at variance.
Like we have the GPRTU that comes out from time to time and clearly gives authorised lorry fares, the association can do the same upon wider consultation. By so doing, the vendors, buyers and courier services in the growing ecommerce community will fully understand and accept the delivery charges.
Ways Vendors can optimise shipping
An online business owner must endeavour to effectively implement the distribution network in such a way as not to incur so much cost. This is very important, because most ecommerce early-starters folded up because of huge shipping costs incurred. To encourage customers to always come back, online businesses are sometimes compelled to absorb some of the shipping charges on behalf of the customer. One needs to be creative so as to be able to efficiently serve the B2C demand and at the same time put mechanisms in place so as not to run your business down.
The following are ways in which you can optimise your shipping channels.
Easy Picking and Packing
There is a need for a very well organized storage facility or in the case of larger businesses a warehouse. To ensure faster processing time for merchandise, you can categorize items or products in such a way that those that are mostly or frequently ordered are closest to pick up from the warehouse. Luckily enough there are available off –the-shelf applications on the market that can help you take these decisions more easily.
Reducing package space
When your storage is better set up as an ecommerce entrepreneur, you must focus on how quickly packages are made ready for dispatch. You are also seeking ways possible to reduce the size of you boxes as you pack. This is very important because courier services are now charging with box volume in mind. Always make sure your boxes are built up to the item size before shipping so as to avoid additional charges.
Increase efficiencies in delivery routes
Often times when we hire a taxi we try to use the shortest route possible, sometimes it isn’t because we want to get there faster, but it is obvious that the length of the route might cost something extra.
The same has to do with shipping. In shipping you can consider the shortest route or better still the route that will cut down cost and also get to the customer in a satisfactory time. So some intelligent analysis has to be made in making sure that you don’t end up spending all your profit in paying for charges or fuel.
It’s always good to map out the journey before the delivery man or team leaves. For example, the delivery mapping can be from Spintex road, through 37, Circle, Kaneshie, Mallam, and then to Weija.
Evaluate how orders are shipped
So let’s say your storage facility is located somewhere in Tema and you are to ship five different orders to Santasi in Kumasi. Obviously the smartest thing to do is to transport them together, isn’t it? But in ecommerce it is not that easy as these five different orders might all not come in the same day. Then the big question is how long can you wait to have all orders due for the same destination to come through? It therefore requires some tactical analysis over some time to be able to forecast delivery trends.
Ecommerce entrepreneurs are asked to look carefully at orders that are being shipped. If several boxes are due for the same destination also at the same time, it will only make financial sense to repackage the various items together.
Stick to your shipping policy
Customers will always try to push you to do what they want. But it’s important to stick to your delivery policy. If a standard delivery period takes 48 hours or 3 days, make it clear to customers. Ensure that this is boldly written on your website and the customer service representative should repeat this to customers.
No matter how hard you might try to implement the best shipping strategy, it can sometimes go wrong: not being able to ship early, packages can get lost, sometimes merchandise gets damaged etc. Whatever the case maybe, customers will be happy if you provide them with an effective after sales support when situations such as mentioned above do occur.
I would like to iterate that one major lure of ecommerce is the promptness with which customers get their items after ordering. Keep that in mind when formulating your policy.