Drop shipping is used by many growing and established eCommerce companies for a variety of reasons. Many manufacturers rely on well-known, online brands and retailers to promote and sell their products because they want to focus on making the best product possible.
No matter the reason, drop shipping is here to stay and a great way to offer a wide range of SKUs and products to your customers. At the same time, while drop shipping does enhance your product selection, it can complicate your logistics and increase the chance of error in providing an exceptional customer experience.
Whether you’re getting ready to drop ship or already have it in motion, review these do’s and don’ts to ensure your first foray into eCommerce is highly successful. On the other hand, if you’re already drop shipping and it’s less than flawless, use the advice offered below to interview and find new suppliers.
Do: Interview Multiple Suppliers to Find Which Ones Excel at Drop Shipping
After you’ve determined which products you want to carry and select a few potential suppliers to work with, do your homework on each of them before listing the related products on your site.
If you list, market and sell a product on your site only to have those suppliers let you and your customer down, the damage to your online brand reputation will suffer via unhappy customers that take their woes to the social media masses.
To avoid all of that, here’s what you need to ask each potential supplier:
What is required to open a drop shipment account?
Is a live, dedicated customer representative available re: order inquiries? If so, what are the hours?
Is there a minimum quantity order requirement? Are single units allowed?
Will I receive a notification my pricing changes?
Do you offer blind drop shipping?
How quickly do they ship within receiving an order?
What is your return policy and what is required to return an item?
Do you provide product images and descriptions?
Are most of their processes automated?
If you’re still unsure about which supplier to choose, run a test order from each one to see which one performs best. You can also ask for references to call or search for online reviews. Also, there are companies that ship knock-off or inferior products in place of the real thing, which can result in an upset customer for you. Overall, trust but verify!
Don’t: Rush a Product to Market Without a Strong Supplier
It might be tempting to hop on the latest internet-famous product craze, like fidget spinners or whatever is hot at the moment, and list that trending product on your site to grab your market share. But, as we’ve often experienced with hot items of the moment, demand can easily exceed supply.
Without multiple suppliers and real-time inventory tracking, you could easily upset the masses by hyping a product you can’t deliver on. Your customers will forgive you for such an error once, maybe twice, as the bar is already set really high with companies like Amazon leading the way.
Do: Implement Technology to Help You Automate Processes
As mentioned earlier, it’s critical that your drop shipping partners use modern technology to manage their own operations and inventory. This indicates that your supplier strives towards operational excellence, which allows you to do the same.
In today’s data-driven economy, a strong technology foundation is needed to provide an exceptional customer experience and allows you to continually improve your margins and revenue by analyzing that data. A strong technology foundation should enable you to:
View real-time inventory across every channel of your business as well as that of your suppliers
Automatically order from the ideal supplier given a customer’s location and your price
Market and sell SKUs only when inventory is available from your suppliers
Get notification when your supplier ships your customer’s order
Track your supplier’s shipment to your customer
Don’t: Ignore an Unhappy Customer on Social Media
When a supplier shipment to your customer does go awry, the worst thing you can do is hope that your customer doesn’t mind a shipment delay, for example. If you don’t react and reach out to your customer, the situation can easily escalate and land you and your mistake on the social media stage.
Instead, reach out to your customer immediately. Apologize for the delay or mistake and offer a make-good, like free shipping on their next order or a discount or refund on the order itself. Despite any issue, you want your customer to have no hesitation in ordering from you in the future.
To protect your brand reputation, be sure to monitor social media for any brand mentions. There are numerous tools to help you do this. Many customers today expect companies to respond to an issue or complaint outside of traditional communications channels, like phone support, as a means to resolve it.
Naturally, if you monitor social media for brand and find a happy customer expressing love for your brand, give them a happy shout-out back. Customers love being able to communicate directly with you, and a response from you will strengthen their loyalty to you.
If you find you have an unhappy customer on social media, be sure to respond within 24 hours, if possible. Ideally, ask them to take the conversation offline, or to direct message. This does two things. It shows you cared to reach out to the customer and it ends the conversation and negativity surrounding your brand online. Keep in mind that customers like to resolve an issue in their preferred communication channel, so work with them as best you can.
In fact, once you conquer how to handle queries and complaints on social media, it can become a very powerful tool to launch promotional ad campaigns that drive sales and build interest in your eCommerce store.