Fast, smart, and safe online sales

Ping. Get in! You just got another order on your shopping site. But it takes more than one order to make a living. Keep your customers loyal and look for ways to land new customers. Automate your shopping site with convenient plug-ins and stand out with different shipping options and packaging. Tell your customers about your delivery times and make sure you are easy to reach. Here are some tips of 2 business owners with their own successful online platform.

In 2022, 11.2 million people in the Netherlands ordered something online. Most people buy clothes, sportswear, shoes, or accessories like bags and jewellery. PostNL alone delivers about 1.1 million parcels per day. However, not all deliveries go off without a hitch: 40% of online shoppers complain about products being delivered late (in Dutch). Shipping delays have become increasingly common, due in part to the busy holiday season and ongoing staff shortages. With these 9 tips, you will get fewer complaints about shipping, and customer loyalty will increase.

1. Automate your shop with plug-ins

Plug-ins let you automate the ordering process of your online shop. This allows you to work more efficiently and keep personnel costs low. Nicolaas Koedam, founder of NØLSON Shirts, uses quite a few plug-ins. “We can process twice as many orders without needing any extra hands.”

Benefits of plug-ins

Koedam uses several plug-ins. “With the postcode checker plug-in, customers only have to enter their postcode and house number when they make a purchase. The plug-in automatically enters the right address, which reduces the chances of shipping errors. And because the ordering process is so intuitive, there is a smaller chance that customers will drop out halfway.”

Generate shipping labels automatically

To ship his orders, Koedam uses the shipping platform MyParcel, which works with various carriers including PostNL and DHL. “Thanks to the MyParcel plug-in, we can ship our orders in no time. The plug-in automatically generates a shipping label and sends a track-and-trace code to the customer so they can track their order. All we have to do is package the order and stick the shipping label on it. At the end of the day, the carrier comes to pick up all the parcels in one go.”

Add plug-ins to your online shop

You can install plug-ins yourself, using so-called open source software like Magento, OpenCart, and WooCommerce. All of these tools are free. Are you are less technically gifted or do you not have the time to figure out everything yourself? Then take out a paid subscription with an e-commerce platform like Shopify, JouwWeb, Mijnwebwinkel, or Lightspeed.

2. Be clear about delivery times

Under the laws on online selling, you are required to be honest and transparent about your product and delivery times. If you are expecting long delivery times because of problems with carriers, let your customers know to avoid disappointment. And if a product goes out of stock, remove it from your shop to avoid false expectations. Software like Shopify or WooCommerce automatically keeps track of your inventory and automatically updates your online shop when a product is (temporarily) out of stock.

3. Offer multiple (sustainable) shipping options

Allow customers to choose (in Dutch) whether they want to have their order delivered or want to pick it up themselves, as well as picking a time. Nowadays, customers can easily pick up their own parcels at a DHL or PostNL pickup point. Koedam: “We also work with a bicycle courier company especially for customers in the Amsterdam area. A bicycle courier picks up the order at our brick & mortar shop and delivers it to the customer the very same day. Not only is it fast, but it is sustainable too. Lots of customers also choose to have their orders shipped without packaging material. We then donate a euro to a charity that plants trees.”

4. Stand out

If you package your orders yourself, you can take the opportunity to do something extra and stand out from the crowd. Unique, recognisable packaging is a good way to build a robust brand. You can also consider adding a hand-written thank-you note or use sustainable packaging. And why not celebrate the holiday season with especially festive packaging material?

“We designed a sleek white letterbox parcel with our own branding”, Koedam explains. All single-shirt orders fit perfectly in this small parcel, which saves shipping costs and is better for the environment. With every order, we include washing instructions, a return form and a card explaining how we are trying to make the world a better place.”

Hidde van der Heide of drinking glass manufacturer Libbey: "We deliberately chose to stop using plastic in our packaging, which is now 100% recyclable. We also designed the packaging to be reusable, so customers can use it to safely store glasses for special occasions in the attic. We are always trying to meet the needs and wishes of our customers.”

5. Create a thank-you page and send a confirmation

You are required by law to send customers an order confirmation. Make sure to add important information about the product, delivery, the cooling-off period, how your customer can get in touch with you if they have questions about the order and how your return process works. You could also create a thank-you page for customers who have just completed an order. On a thank-you page, you can tell visitors that you appreciate them and provide some more information about the product, your company, and your social media channels. You could also ask customers to write a review.

6. List contact information in search engines

"Create a free Google Company Profile for your shopping site”, e-commerce manager Van der Heide recommends. “When customers want to call you, they will often use Google to find your contact information rather than your website. You want customers to find you quickly and easily if they have a question or complaint about their order. Besides, satisfied customers can also leave a review on your Google page.”

7. Reduce returns

Try to keep returns as low as possible. Van der Heide: “Our product is fragile, so breakage can never be ruled out. There are occasional mishaps in the return flow, especially if consumers repackage the products themselves. To solve this issue, we printed clear packaging instructions on the return box. This has made folding the glasses a lot easier for customers and has drastically reduced breakage. This saves us a lot of money.”

Brick & mortar and e-commerce can co-exist

Koedam has an online shop as well as a physical shop, because he feels it allows for better customer service. “In a brick & mortar store, you manage your inventory yourself. It is completely different to having your products packaged and shipped by fulfillment partners. By handling everything ourselves, we avoid as many returns as possible.”

8. Encourage customers to order

Research (in Dutch) has shown that email marketing is still a very effective marketing channel. In fact, 76% of Dutch people bought at least one product after reading a newsletter or an email advertising an offer. Email marketing is also the most profitable channel for Koedam. “Once a month, we send out a newsletter offering discounts or free shipping.”

Discount code with order

“When customers make a purchase from our own online shop, we always send a voucher with a discount code for their next order”, Koedam adds. “Using special coupon codes and QR codes also lets us track how many customers use the code, which tells us whether the offers are paying off.” If you offer discounts, make sure to follow the rules for e-retailers. For example, you are not allowed to increase your price only to drop it next week and claim you are offering a discount.

9. Secure your online shop

Finally, make sure that your website is as reliable as can be. Your website should be secure and protect personal data