If your business sells online, the price of the product is only one comparative calculation that consumers consider. Shipping matters, too. Does your business deliver to their location? How much will it cost? When will they get their stuff? Here are some practical principles to apply – and some myths to bust – about shipping products to customers from sea to shining sea.
Keep your packaging opaque, but your policies transparent. The easiest way to avoid a delivery disappointment is to disclose important shipping information up front, in one place, and before people click the BUY button. It inspires consumer confidence and may even save you the time and effort of having to answer the same questions over and over.
If you don’t currently ship to Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. Territories – Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the North Mariana Islands – you may want to consider whether that’s a possibility. Some companies limit where they ship based on outdated information or a “But we’ve always done it that way” attitude. By comparing up-to-date delivery options from different companies, you may learn it’s less expensive than you think. For example, when using the U.S. Postal Service’s First Class Mail or Flat Rate Priority Mail, the cost is the same regardless of whether you’re shipping across town or to Alaska, Hawaii, or a U.S. Territory – although you may need to build in more time for delivery. The Postal Service has information about territories that are considered “domestic” for shipping purposes. In addition, most major delivery companies have web-based price estimators so you can compare what it will cost to ship via the Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS.
If you don’t ship to a certain location, explain the circumstances. Maybe it’s the distance involved, the need for air delivery, or a weather-related emergency. Details can diffuse disappointment.
Tracking and delivery confirmation can instill trustworthiness. If concerns about misdirected packages leave you leery, remember that most major delivery companies offer online tracking and delivery receipts. The ability to monitor departure, transit, and arrival in real time is a business booster for buyers and sellers.
Proper addressing can address delivery doubts. Generally speaking, addressing packages to Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. Territories is no different from any other U.S. locale. The last line should always be the city, the two-letter state or territory abbreviation, and the zip code. That said, some addresses in Puerto Rico may need an urbanization name – a special sector designated by the letters URB. When an urbanization name is necessary, put it on the second line. A quick call to the shipping company you intend to use can clear up any confusion. Also, if you do ship to Puerto Rico and other locations, do your billing and shipping fields and drop-down menus include those places as options and give prospective customers sufficient space for their addresses?
Limiting your target market based on locale is like leaving money on the table. Offering a variety of shipping options to residents of all 50 states (including the states of Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, and all U.S. Territories can expand your customer base and help deliver loyal buyers to your business.
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