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How to determine if rush shipping is right for your business

Having various order and shipping options has gone from a luxury to an expectation for online shoppers. As large chains have popularized one or two-day free delivery, all ecommerce stores have an incentive to offer comparable options. Offering a rush order option is a great way to encourage customer satisfaction and increase sales, but it isn't a viable option for every store.

Rush orders are purchases of goods that need to be processed and delivered by a certain date that is much sooner than the standard arrival date. This adds strain on the business and its ecommerce partners that make up its supply chain. Most of the increased pressure is put upon the people processing the orders and shipping the items. However, if the business doesn't have enough of the item, then the entire supply chain can be affected.

Customers who need items last minute or want to get their products right away want rush orders. These orders are especially common around the holidays when customers need to have the products before a certain date. The prioritization of orders is key to ensuring items are delivered on time. Ecommerce store owners will need to know their shipping partner's options and capabilities and know if they can handle the orders. This will allow them to offer customers the best shipping option to complete a rush order.

Pros of rush orders

There are a few compelling reasons to offer rushed orders, including:

  • Satisfaction Customers are happy with how fast they get the product. Customers usually choose to rush an order because they need product quickly. When you deliver on time, you make them happy.

  • Retention Happy customers come back. The customer's satisfaction with the speed in which they were shipped the product encourages them to return. This is good for business because it's cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire new ones.

  • Increased revenue When you're satisfying and keeping customers, you'll have more orders coming in and therefore, more revenue.

Cons of rush orders

Rush orders do have a few downsides, including:

  • Difficult execution It's simply more difficult to get the product to the customer when they want it fast. The order has to be processed, packaged and shipped in a much shorter time, which is harder to execute. The order has to be the priority at all points of the supply chain. This has to be communicated to every level and executed.

  • Expensive Rush orders cost more to process and ship because they are on a shorter timescale. This means your shipping partner will have to reprioritize its shipping orders to ensure items are delivered on time. Additionally, you'll have to pay your ecommerce partners that manufacture and produce your products more, due to the shortened time scale if you don't have the product in stock.

  • Diverts focus The Houston Chronicle reported that rush shipping also pulls ecommerce store owners and employees' focus away from other opportunities and tasks. Rush orders take a significant amount of effort and that time could be spent on other things.

Are rush orders right for you?

Rush orders aren't right for every business. Subscription-based ecommerce businesses, for example, won't benefit from it because they are shipping things on a regular basis. Their customers are paying for a certain amount of product per a specific amount of time, so rushing the order process and shipment of those products won't typically help. But for most other business types, like online clothing stores or promotional item retailers, rush orders could increase customer satisfaction by getting the products to the consumer faster.

First, ask yourself it you can afford to accommodate rush shipping. Remember, the cost of rush orders has to come from somewhere. Either your business is going to take a hit, or your customers are going to be paying extra money for it. You have to account for added overhead expenses as well as more expensive production and shipping.

If you decide you can afford to accommodate rush orders, it's time to think about your customers. Will they use rush orders? Will they pay extra for the convenience? You can find out these answers through market research or by testing rush orders. Look to see what your competitors are doing. If they offer it, you probably should, too. Otherwise, you'll be missing out on a number of sales. A good first step to offering rush orders is to provide it to some of your loyal customers. If it's a success, then consider offering it to all customers.

Offering a rush order option is great for the customer, but it puts a strain on business because of the shortened timescale. That doesn't mean you should forego rush orders as an option, though. It simply means you need to be ready for that extra strain. If you're not prepared, you may miss the delivery dates you originally promised your customers. If you can't deliver the products in the amount of time specified or can't afford to do so, it's better to not give customers that option. Offering the service and then not delivering on time will hurt your reputation.

Not all rush shipping is the same. Some shipping companies consider rush shipping to be one-day, and others view rush shipping as two days. It depends on the vendor you're using. Before offering rush orders to your customers, make sure you completely understand how long it will take. FedEx and UPS have specially designed systems that provide rushed or expedited shipping to ecommerce owners. The prices vary depending on how heavy the item is, where it's being shipped and if one or two day delivery is needed. USPS also has a rush shipping option called USPS Express, but it isn't always reliable, according to

Consider offering free regular shipping as well

Many ecommerce stores offer free regular shipping. You can add the extra cost into your products, or you can choose to set a spending limit to qualify for free shipping. For example: If customers spend $50 or more, they can have access to free regular shipping.

The same can go for discounts on rush orders. If customers make a large enough purchase, you could allow them to qualify for a discount on rush shipping. When implementing rush orders, make sure customers fully understand what they will be charged and how and when their purchase will arrive.

The bottom line is if you can afford offer rush shipping, you should. Before you provide your customers with that option, however, makes sure you and your business partners have the ability to provide the service to your customers. If they can't, find a shipping partner that will.

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