Postage when selling online is a tricky thing to get right, it is however very easy to get wrong.
Hands up if you’ve found something to buy online that you’re ready to pay for only to get to the checkout screens and find that postage for that £10 [item] is somehow another £8 bumping up the total to something so unreasonable you’ve spent the next hour searching elsewhere just to issue a digital f**k you.
I recently tried to buy a small box of catering plasters for £7 online and the store I first found wanted to charge £5 postage and quoted a delivery timescale of 5 days. I can’t begin to tell you how wrong this is and how quickly I went onto the next plaster selling company.
Not every store can offer free postage. Many products simply don’t have the margin to do it but if you can – then do. If not, be reasonable, postage IS NOT a clever way for you add a few pounds to the value of the order. It’s a sure fire way to annoy and leave your customers feeling like you’re openly ripping them off.
- Free postage: You should offer this as standard if you’re able to. Absorb the cost as a part of doing business. If you can’t offer free postage offer
- Postage at cost: Unless you’ve got a store with thousands of products, it’s not a massive effort to figure out the size and weight price points the post office charge for most objects. When you’ve found these out, charge those.
- Postage at cost + £x: Adding on a few pounds to improve your bottom line is not acceptable. It’s transparent, and feels that like you’re just trying to rip me off now I’ve gone through your sales funnel.
Postage is also a good guide to how efficient your company appears. With Cutting Edge Knives, we offer free UK postage as standard but I also make a point of ensuring our orders are shipped either same day or next day.
Many companies think they’re being clever by offering options like “Standard delivery” (which often takes several days) which is typically free so they can then sell on a higher price “Express delivery” option (OMG! .. within 1-2 days!).
As with pricing, dispatch times can easily be a massive point of frustration for customers. If it takes your company a week to dispatch something that’s in stock, it’s fair to say that’s not very inspiring and in this day and age speed is everything and a fast response and delivery time counts for a massive amount and can often lead to repeat business.
How soon should we dispatch?
- Same day dispatch: Depending on your size and setup, it might be possible for small businesses to set aside (for example) a 1pm cutoff for same day dispatch. We do this with Cutting Edge Knives as we operate on a small scale. We’ve had a lot of positive comments from customers amazed their orders (with free postage) arrive the next day and that sometimes, they get their order dispatched email only hours after being placed.
- Next day dispatch: I expect this as standard whether postage is free or paid for. Anything more and I start to feel frustrated knowing the thing I’ve ordered is just sat on a shelf in your under-staffed store or warehouse.
- Later than next day: The only time this is acceptable is if you don’t operate 7 days a week (eg, a small business) and you process weekend orders on a monday morning for example. Make it clear in the checkout process what your timescales are to avoid disappointment or confusion. If you hold back “standard” or free delivery items to artificially “speed up” express or priority delivery items – you’re causing a great deal of frustration and almost certainly jeopardising future repeat custom.
We can’t all be Amazon and when times are tight, it might be tempting to try and add a couple of pounds to the value of your order by inflating postage costs and passing them on to your customers but please don’t. All the work ecommerce sites do to build trust with users can easily be wiped out by what is effectively a shady, and transparent practice.
Call for comments
What experiences have you had with sites trying to rip you off with postage and what do you as an ecommerce customer expect in terms of postage?