How drop shippers can affect your brand experience

Industry Insight

Drop shipping allows sellers to extend their presence, shipping items from even more locations, which can help expedite the delivery process substantially. Additionally, drop shipping allows merchants to offer more products to customers than they could otherwise. There may be limits to how much product they can store within their own warehouses, but with drop shippers, they are no longer hindered by that physical constraint.

Consistency is an important factor for many customers when it comes to choosing which retailer they shop with.

However, drop shipping does add some variables into the mix that merchants need to account for, particularly if they are using multiple vendors. Consistency is an important factor for many customers when it comes to choosing which retailer they shop with – they want an experience that is reliable, regardless of which channel they use and how they shop. Using a variety of drop shippers can throw this consistency off for various reasons and may lead to a slightly skewed shopping experience as a result. Here are a few considerations retailers should make when choosing their drop shippers to promote a more consistent brand experience.

1. Branding

For many retailers, branding extends past their website and marketing campaigns down to even how they package their products. When Amazon customers place an order with the online seller, they can easily spot the package on their doorstep due to the trademark Amazon arrow that is featured prominently on the side of the box.

When merchants leverage drop shippers, they may lose a bit of this branding prowess. While most fulfillment service providers will happily include a branded sales receipt, many use their own packaging supplies to actually ship the item in question. While this may seem trivial, many retailers do rely on their packaging as yet another outward-facing means of advertising and packaging mismatches can lead to some consistency issues as a result.

2. Shipping differences

Merchants likely have their own agreements with third-party logistics providers to send their own goods to customers. Retailers can effectively work around these agreements, using this as a base for all their fulfillment operations. When customers make a purchase, retailers know how quickly they need to pick and package items and when they need to send them to their shipping provider to ensure timely delivery.

As Practical eCommerce contributor Jeremy Hanks noted, drop shippers are likely to have their own carriers they use. They may affect the options offered to customers – different carriers have different shipping methods and at a variety of costs. Merchants cannot offer same-day or next-day delivery if their drop shipper cannot back up that promise.

“Understanding a supplier’s fulfillment timing is critical. You can then match your order processing to that timeframe.”

“Furthermore, if you offer overnight shipping but your partner takes two business days to actually ship the product, then you’re really offering 3-day shipping to the customer,” Hanks added. “Understanding a supplier’s fulfillment timing is critical. You can then match your order processing to that timeframe, so that if a supplier needs orders in by 3:00 p.m. to get shipments out that same day, you can set up your workflow of orders accordingly.”

Retailers may want to consider opting into partnerships with drop shippers that use the same carrier or offer similar service options to what they already use if this may be an issue. Otherwise, it is just something that sellers must bear in mind as they utilize their drop ship partners.

3. Less insight into the fulfillment and shipping process

When merchants fulfill an order for customers, they can keep buyers notified throughout the process because it is all internal. Customers know when their order has been received, picked, packed and shipped. This relieves them of some of the questions they have about how long it will take to receive their purchase.

Retailers often do not have as much insight into how their drop shipping partners handle orders, however, and this can lead to some frustrating transparency issues. Customers can see the progress of their orders when the merchant fulfills them, but not when the drop shipper does. Again, this is something that retailers do not have much control of, it is something they just need to take into account.

As many as 33 percent of Internet retailers have implemented drop shippers into their order fulfillment process.

Drop shipping has become extremely popular among retailers in the last couple years, with eCommerce Drop Shipping Standards estimating that as many as 33 percent of Internet retailers have implemented it into their order fulfillment process. While drop shipping can be a huge boon, merchants do need to keep in mind some of the variables it brings to the mix as well, particularly how it can impact the consistency of the customer experience.