5 E-Commerce Shipping Trends in 2016

Shipping is the final frontier when it comes to customer experience and satisfaction. Adopting new shipping methods and strategies can get orders to your shoppers faster while saving you money. Meanwhile, sticking to your old shipping routine might end up costing more than you think. Stay ahead of the curve by keeping a close eye on these shipping trends in 2016.

Drone Delivery Adoption

DHL drone delivery
A DHL Parcelcopter being tested in Germany. Photo credit: Frenkhöffner (Wikimedia Commons)

Arguably the most talked about shipping trends in years is the upcoming adoption of drone delivery. These small, unmanned flyers allow for super-fast delivery of small items in a local area. In 2016, we should be seeing more and more same-day drone delivery options in metropolitan areas.

Drone delivery will be available even to smaller e-commerce businesses very soon

Amazon and Google are investing tons of money into drone experimentation, and have even made successful commercial deliveries with production-ready drones. AliBaba and Walmart are experimenting with drone deliveries for their own e-commerce markets.

FedEx, USPS, and Swiss Post are experimenting with integrating drone delivery in their logistics, and DHL has already begun trialing their Parcelcopter (pictured above) in Germany. New commercial drone services such as QuiQui and Bizzby Sky indicate that drone delivery will be available even to smaller e-commerce businesses very soon.

More Shipping Options on Checkout

Make sure you are giving your customers the delivery choices they’re looking for

Traditionally, e-commerce stores give buyers a few shipping options on checkout: standard, expedited, and overnight. However, shoppers are increasingly looking for more flexibility and control when it comes to choosing how they receive their order. To ensure that profitable carts aren’t abandoned in 2016, make sure you are giving your customers the delivery choices they’re looking for.

Thanks to the popularity of global e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, international customers aren’t afraid of shipping across borders anymore. In fact, more and more customers are expecting international delivery to be an option. Make sure that your checkout process supports shipping addresses outside of your country, and read up on some key international e-commerce tips before you start shipping.

In even higher demand than long-distance shipping options are short-distance ones. Many customers are interested in picking up their order across the street, rather than wait for it to fly across the country. That’s why local pickup options are cropping up in more and more e-commerce checkout pages. Many cart plugins allow you to offer local pickup to shoppers in your neighborhood, reducing shipping costs for you and getting goods to your customers faster.

Despite the advantages of comparing rates and delivery speeds between multiple shipping carriers, many customers still want to be able to choose their preferred shipping carrier. Certain situations such as delivering to a PO box or delivering on weekends require a particular carrier to get the job done, and shoppers often prefer to make that call according to their needs.

Free Shipping on More Orders

Free shipping threshold
Huckberry and Timbuk2 both offer free US shipping for orders over a reasonable amount.

Even as shipping costs increase in 2016, offering free shipping is more valuable now than ever. Many e-commerce markets and niches are demanding free shipping simply because the leading competition offers it. Thanks to heavy hitters such as Amazon, many customers have come to expect free shipping as part of their online shopping experience.

Free shipping is more feasible than ever

Of course, not every business needs to offer free shipping on every single order they ship out. A common strategy that will gain even more ground in 2016 is to offer free shipping after a certain order value threshold. Axing the shipping cost for orders over a certain amount is a widely used method to increasing a business’s average order value. The added profits help to mitigate the cost of shipping, as well as the cost of acquiring the customer in the first place.

While postage rates have increased year after year, free shipping is more feasible than ever thanks to hybrid shipping methods such as FedEx SmartPost. Hybrid shipping is when a carrier hands off a package to the local post office for last-mile delivery. These methods can be significantly cheaper for businesses, as residential surcharges are eliminated from the postage cost.

On-Demand Delivery Services

On-demand package delivery
Think “Uber for packages,” and think “soon.”

If you’re tired of those “sorry we missed you” postage slips, imagine how your customers must feel when they get them. Even worse is the risk of a package being left on the doorstep and stolen by an unfriendly neighbor. That’s why on-demand package delivery services like Doorman and Deliv are running pilot programs in cities like Chicago and New York.

The package is delivered to the customer’s door within the time window they specify

On-demand delivery is simple: instead of shipping an order directly to their door, shoppers opt instead to have the package sent to a delivery service center. From there, the package is delivered to the customer’s door within the time window they specify, rather than the usual “some time that business day” that shipping carriers usually offer.

On-demand services are a major trend outside of e-commerce as well, with companies like Uber, TaskRabbit, and AmazonFresh bringing what people need right when they need it. As this experience makes its way to e-commerce, the stores that offer support for these services first will have a huge first-mover advantage.

Faster Fulfillment Overall

Many of the shipping trends we’ve discussed point to the same sort of demand: getting packages faster and on the customers’ terms. Today’s e-commerce shoppers are no longer content with placing an order, going on with their lives, and being pleasantly surprised when a package arrives a week or two later. Today’s buyers want to know exactly how their package will arrive and when, and the sooner the better.

Get your orders out the door the same day that they’re placed

Same-day shipping has been sharply on the rise, backed by major brands like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Container Store. Whether your packages are delivered by drones or more traditional methods, offering same-day shipping will be a great way to get the edge on competitors that are behind the times.

E-commerce stores everywhere can increase sales by offering faster shipping, and can improve customer satisfaction by getting packages to them faster. If the idea of same-day delivery seems like a daunting challenge, don’t sweat it. 2016 has only just begun, so start small by working to get your orders out the door the same day that they’re placed. SKULabs offers the tools you need to speed up your fulfillment and keep your customers happy rather than waiting.