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Jim Agger
 
June 16, 2014 | eCommerce , Fulfillment/Shipping | Jim Agger

How to Offer Competitive Wine Shipping Options

As the popularity of ecommerce continues to grow, free shipping is increasingly becoming a priority for consumers. In fact, UPS and comScore's joint third annual "Pulse of the Online Shopper" report revealed that free shipping played a role in purchasing decisions for 4 out of 5 consumers. A further 83 percent of online shoppers said they would be willing to wait an extra two days to receive their orders if they didn't have to pay for ecommerce fulfillment. One-third will wait five or more days to avoid shipping expenses. Consumers aren't picky about the channels retailers use to ship merchandise, but cost is definitely a priority.

Although online retailers are racing to offer faster shipping, consumers clearly have a preference for cost-effective options. Some have argued that one of the detractors from the success of ecommerce is delayed gratification, but at the same time, shoppers aren't willing to pay more for their purchases, The Wall Street Journal reported. Outside of major cities, same-day delivery is prohibitively expensive for many shoppers. While retailers can often absorb some of the costs, the expense of same-day shipping is often too much for them as well.

"I think the key thing that we see is that the cost of delivery still trumps the timing of the delivery," said Bala Ganesh, UPS's retail director, according to The WSJ. "As long as it's cheap and hopefully free, people are willing to wait for those deliveries."

How wineries can handle shifting customer expectations
While the UPS survey adds new questions each year to stay relevant in the changing world of ecommerce, returns have always been one of the topics. In 2012, 51 percent of regular online shoppers had returned at least one purchase. In 2014, the number climbed to 64 percent. Additionally, respondents said free returns were crucial to having a good customer experience. Wine merchants may need to update their shipping capabilities to meet changing consumer needs. 

Because wineries can't advertise free shipping like other ecommerce businesses, they may need to consider how they present shipping information. Having to pay for shipping won't necessarily cause people to abandon their purchases, but it depends on how these costs are displayed, Rafi Mohammed wrote for Harvard Business Review.

Mohammed gave the example of consumer outrage over TicketMaster's fees and highlighted StubHub's move to an all-included price structure. Previously, StubHub customers had to pay both a buyer's fee and delivery costs.

Studies have indicated that online shoppers will add an extra item to their purchases to qualify for free, low cost or included shipping. Because expense is the top concern for customers, it may seem counterintuitive, but shoppers are getting an extra product instead of just paying shipping fees. What does it matter if the total cost comes out to be the same? Mohammed noted that he found a promotion on one of his favorite products for $19, but was presented with a $6 shipping fee during checkout. He abandoned the purchase, but said he would have completed the transaction if it had been $25 with shipping included or $22 with a $3 delivery fee.

When assessing your wine shipping, you can consider including it in the overall cost. Customers will still feel like they are getting a deal. Shipping expenses can be frustrating for shoppers, but building it into the cost of the order can make fees acceptable. This is one way you can establish more competitive shipping options for your online wine store. 

Contact a sales representative to learn more about how WineDirect's fulfillment solutions can accommodate the complex needs of your winery.

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