Online retailers have worked hard to make online shopping a simple, no-frills experience for their customers. A few clicks to comparison shop and settle on a purchase, then a couple clicks more to check out and get the package happily moving to the customer’s doorstep. Seems simple, right?

Like a clock, e-commerce may seem simple from the outside, but looking under the surface will reveal many intricacies and delicate processes that make it tick. Making your e-commerce process tick like a fine Swiss watch is a matter of smart logistics. 

Do you provide your customers with easy access to accurate shipping rates and time-in-transit information during checkout, and tracking updates during the shipping process? Are they proactively notified of changes or exceptions as they occur? Do your shipping capabilities meet the demands of all your online customers, even those located outside of the United States? Do you make it quick and convenient for your online customers (domestic and international) to return unwanted goods?

Even in a still-sluggish economy, Deloitte has forecasted a 15 percent increase in non-store sales this holiday season compared to last year, with nearly two-thirds of those non-store sales coming from the online sales channel. This expected increase in online sales in the coming months provides a good reason for online retailers to evaluate their direct to consumer strategies and supply chain logistics.

With that in mind, here are several key areas online retailers should evaluate to identify ways to improve the planning and execution of their online shopping channel strategies:

Optimize the customer experience. First and foremost, online retailers need to provide customers with an online shopping experience that keeps them coming back for more. E-commerce sites that provide inadequate or inaccurate information can cost online retailers repeat business, just like messy and disorganized stores, unfriendly sales personnel and stock-outs can push customers to competitors.

Customers want accurate rate and time-in-transit information for the various available shipping options available to them, and they expect to be able to easily track shipments as they make their way to their doorstep.

Integrating the services of your logistics provider directly into your customer-facing website and business processes can help meet these customer expectations. The UPS Developer Kit, for example, allows online retailers to integrate UPS Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) directly into their business systems to provide accurate information to customers and streamline e-commerce logistics. 

Be prepared to ship your goods to customers in foreign countries. E-commerce provides customers around the world with the opportunity to purchase your goods, but only if you can efficiently and cost-effectively ship to locations outside of the U.S. 

The power of logistics has leveled the playing field, allowing even small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to tools – once reserved for only the largest of companies – that can help bring products to customers in new markets.

Clearing customs is one challenge when shipping internationally. Even basic shipments require detailed commercial invoices, and the primary reason shipments are delayed in customs is due to missing or incomplete paperwork. 

You can eliminate that error-prone process with tools that provide harmonized tariff classification codes and automate the process of completing commercial invoices with the required information. For instance, UPS TradeAbility provides the information retailers need to effectively and confidently manage the movement of goods internationally in a timely, efficient and compliant manner. 

E-tailers should seek a paperless invoice option that allows them to enter invoice information electronically and then transmit the invoices to the appropriate customs officials around the world. 

Beyond making the customs clearance process more efficient, a paperless invoice tool can also dramatically reduce paper use, which can cut costs and contribute to sustainability goals – helping you go green and save green. 

Don’t overlook reverse logistics. It’s important to provide your domestic and international online customers with a simple and convenient way to return unwanted goods. Online retailers who make it easier and less expensive to return products can create a competitive advantage, which can ultimately lead to increases in sales, customer loyalty and incremental value, according to a UPS-commissioned study by Forrester Consulting. 

One simple approach to process returns is to work with your carrier to provide customers with a return label via e-mail, which they can easily print and attach to a return shipment. The return label allows your customers to track their in-transit return, and it allows you to track incoming returns and account for their impact on inventory. 

Consult a third-party logistics provider (3PL). To some, e-commerce may seem as simple setting up a web-site, selling products and arranging for payment of the goods, but SMEs must master the intricacies and process of behind-the-scenes logistics to be truly successful via the online sales channel. Consulting a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can provide online retailers with a bevy of tools and technologies to really make their e-commerce logistics tick and keep their customers happy.

Ramsey Mansour is the director of retail and consumer goods marketing at UPS. Visit for more information about UPS services for online retailers, and visit for a detailed look at UPS’s logistics offerings.