From the moment Amazon entered the market nearly three decades ago, it changed the retail space forever. As in-person storefronts continue to make the transition to the digital world, consumers are growing increasingly impatient with package delivery times.

    The result? E-commerce businesses worldwide are grappling to meet ever-shortening consumer attention spans and delivery deadlines, but it’s not too late to keep up with the curve — or your customers’ expectations.

    What Are Today’s Online Consumer Expectations?

    Free shipping and fast shipping, two of the most critical online shopping qualifications in the eyes of digital consumers today. According to JungleScout’s Q2 Consumer Trends Report, 80% of consumers expect free shipping on online orders over a certain dollar amount while 66% of consumers expect free shipping regardless of the order price.

    In terms of delivery timelines, 91% of consumers expect online orders to be delivered within a week while nine percent of consumers expect same-day delivery. If a package doesn’t arrive on time, 70% of consumers would be “very upset.”

    Companies Like Amazon and Walmart Are Setting the Standard

    Amazon is top of mind for many consumers’ online shopping habits, and for good reason. An Amazon Prime membership comes with unlimited free 2-day shipping for Prime products, trackable deliveries, and an all-around noteworthy buying experience.

    According to Statista, Amazon makes up ~50% of today’s e-commerce retail market, a dominant force regardless of the category.

    Approximately 73% of surveyed consumers in JungleScout’s study have shopped at Amazon.com at least one time in the past three months. The retail giant makes it easy to get shipments delivered quickly and transparently, with all items listed at competitive prices.

    Walmart is slowly inching closer to Amazon’s success, as 40% of surveyed consumers purchased from Walmart.com over the past three months with their online sales up 37%. The retailer is making particularly impressive strides in the grocery category as well, as 51% of shoppers purchased groceries from Walmart in Q1 of this year compared to 23% of Amazon shoppers.

    The value of fast and affordable delivery for increasing brand appeal and customer satisfaction is no secret. But what about e-commerce vendors that don’t have the capacity or budget to keep up with companies like Amazon or Walmart?

    Tip #1: Understand Your Customers’ Expectations

    Offering faster delivery means your company or your consumers will have to absorb the costs somehow. However, consider whether your customers would prefer free 3-5 day delivery as opposed to paying an additional fee for next-day delivery.

    Identifying your customers’ expectations and values is critical when forming your shipping strategy. Once you have a grasp on what makes your customers the most frustrated, you can amend your services accordingly to maintain a positive customer experience.

    Tip #2: Reduce Inefficiencies

    The potential for bottlenecks in the shipping industry is endless. Consider the number of moving parts necessary for a package to go from the warehouse to your customer’s doorstep. If you’re only working with a limited number of carriers, consider expanding to additional carriers ahead of the peak shipping season.

    According to 59% of US transportation and logistics companies, last-mile delivery is another notoriously difficult part of the supply chain. At the very least, you should provide consumers with real-time tracking updates to keep them in the loop on their delivery status.

    Data from “Amazon’s Momentum and Retailer’s Moment of Opportunity” found that 6 in 10 consumers were more likely to complete an online purchase

    Tip #3: Ensure a Smooth Checkout Process

    Too many shipping options at checkout may give your customers pause, causing them to become flustered. Your checkout process should be smooth and cover all delivery options without overwhelming your customers.

    Customers undoubtedly want speedy delivery, but at what cost? Unless you’re an e-commerce giant or you’re willing to pass along heightened shipping costs to your customers, it may not make sense to offer same-day delivery.

    Overpromising and under-delivering will only result in disappointed customers. The checkout process should be incredibly easy to ensure it isn’t an additional hurdle before your customers make a purchase.

    Tip #4: Be Strategic with Shipping Hubs

    As an e-commerce business, the larger your customer base, the more widespread your delivery area. Increasing your number of shipping hubs allows you to deliver packages strategically and quickly.

    Instead of relying on a singular national shipping hub to get your orders sent, consider using multiple regional shipping hubs to make deliveries faster and more cost-effective.

    Tip #5: Prepare Ahead of Time for Busy Seasons

    Peak shipping season can throw a wrench in your carefully crafted shipping strategy. Start preparing now for peak season by looking back on previous years’ data to understand your pitfalls and victories. Harness this data to make changes to this year’s approach accordingly.

    Staying competitive with companies like Amazon requires a nimble shipping approach. In the end, the energy you spend improving your company’s shipping experience will only result in loyal, happy, and longstanding customers.

    Jarrett Streebin is CEO and Founder of EasyPost.

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