Shipping times can make all the difference in a customer’s purchase decision and in their eventual satisfaction.
Dropshippers may feel as though the shipping process is outside of their control after they have outsourced it to their suppliers. However, as the e-commerce industry evolved over the years, now you can do certain things to retake the driver’s seat.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to solving shipping issues.
The Reality of Long Shipping Times
Most dropshippers are sourcing products from China, using affordable shipping options like ePacket or AliExpress Standard Shipping for delivery.
However, as we know all too well, it can take around 12-60 days to deliver these products to most places around the world.
When customers know they can get 2-day shipments from Amazon, most customers want products delivered within 5 days max. It can be difficult for dropshippers to compete.
The fact is that delivery time influences 87% of online shoppers’ purchase decisions, and 40% of online shoppers say that faster delivery times build trust with online brands.
What that means is, long shipping times pose a wide range of challenges, including:
Customers may decide to not purchase an item rather than wait a long time for it or they may find another seller with faster delivery options.
Increased customer inquiries
Customers may start to ask where their package is or whether it is lost, requiring you to invest more resources in your customer service.
Cancellations and chargebacks
Shipping delay leads to cancellations or chargebacks. High chargeback rates can cause problems with your payment provider and may get your account banned.
In summary, long shipping times can have a considerable impact on the success of a dropshipping business, and the most common, most affordable shipping options are not fast enough to ensure customer satisfaction.
Best Practices for Managing Long Shipping Times
There are ways smart dropshippers can help to reduce the risks associated with long shipping times.
The best way to manage shipping time problems is to be proactive and tackle shipping issues before they arise. Here are a few simple changes you can make to your business:
Be transparent about shipping times
Make your shipping times and shipping policies extremely clear and visible on your website. Let your customers make informed decisions before they complete their order.
While you may still experience abandoned carts and dissatisfied customers, most customers appreciate the transparency. They will have realistic expectations from the beginning.
Communicate with customers
Providing shipping and tracking information per order will help to reduce incoming inquiries and complaints.
Respond to customers promptly, and give them clear information about time frames and expectations. Many people are more willing to wait if they get good, responsive service and communication.
Offer unique products
The best solution to long shipping times is to avoid shipping time comparisons by offering unique products.
When customers see long shipping times, they will be tempted to comparison shop and look for other options to get their items more quickly.
If you are in a niche with fewer competitors, offering unique products or service options, customers will be more willing to wait out long shipping times.
While the above are all excellent practices for any dropshipper, there are also various ways you can take greater control of your shipping times, making them shorter and avoiding the problems altogether.
Long Term Solution to Long Shipping Times
If you want to solve long shipping time problems before they start, here are the best ways to structure your business to reduce shipping times and improve customer satisfaction.
Choose reliable suppliers
Many dropshippers simply choose a supplier on AliExpress and immediately start doing business with them, with little or no vetting. Actually, many AliExpress suppliers are not that reliable and they often place their interest above yours.
Many AliExpress suppliers are themselves dropshippers. They just want a cut of your profit and so do not have the motivation to ensure each and every package of yours is delivered in time.
When choosing a supplier from AliExpress, here are the critical criteria to look for:
- Store age. Choose a supplier that has been in business for 6 months or longer. That allows time for the supplier to accumulate ratings and feedback that will enable you to better evaluate their reliability.
- Feedback scores. Your supplier should have a minimum positive feedback score of 96%.
- Shipping speed. Look for a shipping speed rating of 4.7 or better.
- Communication. Choose suppliers with a communication score of 4.7 or more.
- Order processing time. Contact the supplier and ask what their typical order processing time is. Rule out any supplier with a processing time longer than 3 working days.
Use suppliers with overseas warehouses
Some suppliers have warehouses that are physically closer to your target market and offer fasting shipping times. In AliExpress, you can search for suppliers with regional shipping warehouses in dropshipper center or you can ask the suppliers if they provide local shipping.
However, some unscrupulous suppliers may not be truthful about their actual inventory in their overseas warehouses. This is because, they tend to run out of overseas inventory more quickly due to increased orders from dropshippers.
When that happens, they could ship your packages from China even though you have instructed them to ship from overseas.
Therefore it is important you vet these suppliers carefully.
Use local suppliers in US/EU/target market
You could also skip AliExpress and search instead for local suppliers with faster shipping times. However, using local suppliers does have some drawbacks:
- Fewer suppliers. Depending on the location of your target market, there may simply be fewer suppliers available. Therefore there is a smaller product range you can sell with local suppliers.
- Higher prices. Due to the higher labor cost, local-manufactured products often have higher prices. It is harder to command a higher profit margin selling those products.
Despite these drawbacks, many dropshippers have great success with local shipping or local suppliers, and platforms like Spocket can simplify the process.
Use alternative shipping methods
While ePacket is an excellent shipping method for balancing cost with reliability, it is not the only option. Other shipping methods may be faster or more reliable, and you may want to consider alternatives like:
- AliExpress Standard Shipping. AliExpress Standard Shipping complements ePacket, serving a more comprehensive range of countries and offering affordable prices
- DHL or FedEx. International shipping companies offer much faster delivery times (<10 days to the US or EU), often for only a higher cost. But don’t assume that these options are simply too expensive: for unique products or big-ticket items, customers are often willing to pay higher prices for the faster delivery times and more reliable tracking.
Use a dropshipping agent
A dropshipping agent is a middleman who works in China on your behalf, processing your orders, placing them with suppliers, and shipping them to your customers.
Because an agent works for you as your partner, it is easier to work with them to find favorable pricing, arrange expedited shipping, and provide a more responsive service to you and your customers.
An agent typically requires a minimum number of orders per day (MOQ), but some may be willing to waive that requirement and reach an agreement with you.
For more information about working with a dropshipping agent, check out our in-depth article about agent here.
Use a 3PL fulfillment company
When your dropshipping business has grown enough, it may be time to rethink your online business and take the next step.
Suppose you consistently make more than 100 orders a day and have some capital to invest in your business. In that case, you may be ready to leave the dropshipping model behind and become a full-fledged e-commerce brand.
Storing your inventory in a local warehouse and using a 3PL fulfillment company lets you take full control of your inventory, shipping, and fulfillment processes.
Shipping times matter to your customers, and they hold you accountable for packages that are slow or get lost.
You need to offer competitive shipping times they are looking for or offer products and bargains that are simply too good to pass up. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can take care of customers while improving your shipping times, helping you to build an excellent reputation and a great business.
When you’re ready to take the next step, 3PL fulfillment can help transform your dropshipping business into an e-commerce powerhouse, allowing you to offer the 2-day shipping that online shoppers find irresistible.