Shipping is a big part of the online shopping experience – after all, it’s how the product gets from the screen into the customer’s home – and yet it’s an element that can feel out of our control as shoppers. As we design e-commerce websites, we must do what we can to address shipping concerns and make the online shopping experience as smooth as possible.
1. Showcase shipping benefits in different places.
Free shipping – if you’ve got it, flaunt it. According to this study, shoppers spend on average 30% more when free shipping is included. You want to make sure shoppers know about any shipping benefits such as free shipping with minimum order amount or low flat rate shipping, as it plays a key role in their decision to purchase from this store and can encourage shoppers to add more items to meet the minimum. It’s good practice to display any shipping benefits wherever shoppers will be looking most, such as next to the navigation or search bar, or next to prices and Add to Cart buttons.
2. Be upfront about shipping costs.
Shipping costs can make or break a purchase, and users want to know as early as possible to factor it into their decision to purchase. It’s frustrating for users to spend time filling out fields, going deep into the checkout process just to see what the shipping cost is. A good practice is to present the shipping options and costs on the cart page before starting the checkout process. Even better, show the shipping estimates earlier in the purchase flow – for example, on the product page.
3. Manage expectations for delivery time.
While people love free stuff, shoppers expect free shipping to mean the slowest and cheapest method – packages that might arrive later than expected, which could cause anxiety with the order. Whether free or expedited shipping, it is important to state an expected delivery time. Many stores are becoming more descriptive with naming their shipping options, such as “3-day shipping” and “1 business day shipping” rather than calling it “standard” and “express”.
Delivery time isn’t just affected by the shipping option the customer selects – it also depends on how fast the fulfillment center can get the item packed and out the door. Fresh from the context of a 24/7 online shopping experience, customers often don’t consider that fulfillment centers might operate only on business days during business hours. Be sure it’s clear when a Friday night order actually won’t be shipped out until Monday.
4. Don’t forget about international shipping.
Even if you’re a US-based business and international customers may be a small percentage of sales, it is important to address how international shipping works. You may actually be losing out on international orders because international shipping policies are unclear. Even within the US there could also be different shipping rates for the 48 continental states versus Hawaii and Alaska.
Optimizing an e-commerce store for international customers can be much more involved – you can go as far as setting up different subdomains for each country so the proper language, currency, taxes, address fields format and inventory is reflected. At the very least however, an e-commerce store should be able to easily answer the question “Will you ship to my country?” and not alienate potential international customers.
5. Specify shipping carriers.
Some customers may not trust certain carriers. For me, the UPS guy will just leave items in front of my apartment door at risk of being stolen, and I’ll take that into account when buying an expensive item. USPS will try to jam everything into my mailbox, which means crumpled packages – ok for clothing, but not okay for fragile items. As a shopper, I consider these experiences as I select a shipping option. If the store can’t provide options for different carriers, at least show who the carrier will be so the customer can know what to expect.
The e-commerce shopping experience doesn’t just end at the thank you page after checkout – the experience extends all the way to the moment the customer opens the box (and beyond that if returns are involved).
The key is often transparency and managing expectations. Customers have the best experience when everything meets or exceeds their expectations. As designers we can implement these details to provide the best possible shipping experience and improve the overall UX of the e-commerce website.
To recap these UX considerations for shipping:
- Showcase shipping benefits in different places
- Be upfront about shipping costs
- Manage expectations for delivery time
- Don’t forget about international shipping
- Specify shipping carriers
What aspects of shipping do you care about most when shopping online?
Illustration by Andres Maza.