Over the past few years, I have found myself making a conscious effort to support the online equivalent of local businesses—and I am a definite fan of the #shopsmall movement.
Whenever possible, I will try to buy directly from independent retailers—even if there is a marginal price disadvantage.
I appreciate the opportunity to connect directly with the brands I admire—and I feel like I am better supporting them when buying directly. Not only do they earn a better margin on the products they sell directly but they also get more valuable data from me and they, in turn, are given the opportunity to connect with me as a valued customer.
The one main reason (apart from a significant price difference) that I might buy from Amazon is clarity around shipping times.
We live in an impatient world where, once we decide we need something, we want it fast!
I don’t necessarily expect overnight delivery on everything but I do often need it by a certain date—for work or for something that’s happening at home.
I have often found myself browsing a beautiful online store—about to click “Add to Cart”—when I hesitate. I think to myself: “how long will it take for this thing to arrive?” (Not to mention, “what happens if I don’t like it or it’s the wrong size or color?”—more on that later.)
With my mouse hovering over the button, I look around to see if there is any indication of how quickly they ship. Do they ship out same day? Do they ship every couple of days? How efficient is their operation? What carriers do they use?
I decide to keep going and add the product to the cart—assuming I will find out more about shipping times as I move through the checkout.
I go to the cart.
I click checkout.
At this point, several things often occur that might cause me (and certainly plenty of others to leave and buy from Amazon).
First up, shipping is often expensive! More than expected. I’m wondering, “how important is it to support this independent brand? Does it really make a big difference to them?”
Next, it’s a little unclear when it will arrive. Often, there is no indication at all—I am simply given the option of “Standard Shipping.” What does that mean?
If there are options, they’re typically phrased more like “Ships in 1–2 days” with no indication of when to expect delivery.
Some stores, if using carrier-calculated rates, may provide a reasonably accurate indication of how quickly the order will arrive (such as “next day” or “overnight”).
But, and this is really important, I am not given these options until I am quite far through the checkout process!
I have had to take a number of leaps-of-faith that I might get the product in time for whatever I need it for: I’ve added it to the cart without any indication; I’ve reviewed the cart and gone to the checkout; I’ve entered my name and email; my shipping address; and, finally, I have some (if any) indication of shipping options.
If you offer expedited shipping options (and you should!), halfway through the checkout process is far too late to let your customers know.
You should be providing as much reassurance as you can as early in the process as possible—right on the product detail page—of what to expect and what’s going to happen next.
The same goes for return policy. Make it simple and clear and accessible—so customers feel safe from the moment they’re considering adding a product to the cart.
Otherwise, any savvy shopper will go to Amazon after reading about your products—where they’ll see that it’s probably slightly cheaper, shipping is free and quick, and they know that if something goes wrong or they don’t like it, Amazon will have their back.
You might still ultimately have made a sale but you have lost another potential customer—and the opportunity to convert them from a one-off buyer into a lifelong fan!