Delivery charges and options are important factors in many customers’ decisions to buy online. If delivery costs are too high, or flexible options are unavailable, then people may look elsewhere.

Here are a few tips for retailers to make their delivery charges and options more attractive to customers…

Clearly display shipping costs

The cost of delivery can be a crucial factor in a customer’s decision to purchase an item, so it’s vital that charges are easy for users to find.

This means that delivery costs MUST be displayed on product pages, as in this example from Amazon:

Amazon delivery costs

Here, the free delivery option is displayed right alongside the product price, with a clear link to further delivery information.

Delivery charges can’t always be summed up concisely, so in this case a clear link to delivery costs should be displayed on product and shopping cart pages, as well as at the bottom of each page on the site.

Make customers work too hard to find out this information, or make them wait until checkout before adding these costs, and you risk losing potential customers.

Provide next day delivery

Sometimes, when you have decided on a product, then you simply want to receive it as quickly as possible. This is where providing a next day delivery option is so crucial.

This option can make the difference between winning and losing the sale, as impatient customers can always go to a store to buy what they want if they can’t get it fast enough.

Again, this is something that Amazon offers, and it has made the difference for a number of purchases I’ve made (I chose Amazon for this very reason). Strangely, some well known retailers like Tesco and Comet do not yet cater for customers who want their order fast.

One crucial point here though: if you offer next day delivery, it should mean exactly that, not the next working day or anything else.

For example, last Friday both and caboodle were offering this option, but this didn’t actually mean that they would deliver on the Saturday: the actual delivery day would have been the following Tuesday. This should be made clear.

Flexible delivery slots

Not everyone can afford to stay in the house all day waiting for a delivery, so a range of timeslots should be provided. Ideally, two hour time slots would be most convenient for customers, but if companies can at least offer the choice of AM or PM delivery, this would more appealing for customers.

It’s pathetic that e-commerce companies EXPECT people to sit around the house all day waiting for a courier to arrive. It’s just not cricket.

Free delivery

Offering free delivery is one of the most powerful weapons in any e-commerce director’s arsenal. Anecdotally, we know that this is not just something that drives conversions, but can underpin marketing campaigns. Consumers simply love free shipping.

There are stats to back this up. A recent report found that more than a third of consumers said that a free delivery offer was the most important factor in a recent purchase decision.

Even if you can’t offer free delivery for smaller items, be sure to experiment with removing delivery charges for higher value purchases.

Deliver on your promises

Companies spend a lot of time and money on attracting users to their website and converting them into paying customers, so it’s vital that the last step of the process is satisfactory.

Deliver on time as promised, and customers are more likely to buy from your site again and even recommend it to friends and colleagues, but get it wrong, and the reverse will apply.

I have had plenty of bad experiences like this, as I’m sure you have, and there is nothing more frustrating than wasting a day waiting in vain for something than never arrives. We’ll start naming and shaming soon enough…

Related research:

User Experience Roundtable Briefing – May 2008

Related stories:

The last mile – a rant about delivery

Etail deliveries getting faster – report