Shipping is part of the product cost

When shopping online, while comparing product costs is important, often what I need to compare is the total ‘cost-to-the-door’. This is particularly the case when shopping at overseas sites – something those of us in Australia do most of the time.

Different sites/vendors have different rules about shipping. And the variations in shipping options can easily negate any variation in original price.

So as a general request to web store developers and vendors, please allow visitors to determine the shipping cost prior to checkout and/or prior to registration. Don’t make me sign up and complete all my mailing details before I can determine the actual price.

How to do it

Really have two options if wanting to be upfront about shipping costs.

(1) Include shipping in the initial cost

This is the UK Book Depository model. One price is quoted for any item. And that price includes delivery.

Quoted cost = final cost to my door. Simple.

Note technically the site states delivery is free worldwide. But we all know that really means they just include it in the initial price. That’s why they’re not the cheapest on first quote. But the convenience of knowing the final price up front far outweighs any interest in comparing with other stores. I’m not going to search for the same book in Amazon (for example), add to basket, check out, log in, enter shipping details, etc, just to get a price to compare with the first number offered by UK Book Depository.

Another consequence of including delivery in the initial cost is it removes any order friction around postage optimisation and bundling. For example, Amazon postage appears to get cheaper the more books I order, with the consequence that if I want a book I’ll add to my basket but not actually order until a few more items in there to lessen the postage overhead. But then what actually happens is they sit there long enough for me to lose interest and remove them. With UK Book Depository there is no benefit in bundling orders together. Which means all orders get submitted immediately. Before I’ve had time to reconsider.

(2) Provide a mechanism to quickly determine shipping costs

Simple tool to estimate shipping. Close enough is good enough at this stage of the purchasing process.

If shipping cannot be bundled, then allow me to calculate (or at least estimate) the shipping before entering any personal information. How much do you need to estimate shipping? Nothing more than a zip/post code and/or country. And I won’t be upset if I have to enter that twice; once to estimate and once to actually checkout.

For example, look at how Think Geek does it. As soon as I add an item to my basket, I get a simple shipping calculator. This gives me a figure close enough to the final value that I can immediately determine whether to progress with the order or not.

How not to do it

Already stated what not to do: don’t make me complete all my order details before I get a figure for shipping.

Don’t make me sign my life away before quoting postage.

To that essential rule, I’ll add an extension particular to us overseas buyers. Don’t make me complete all my order details before you tell me that you cannot ship the requested item to me. Too often some protectionist racket prevents requested items being sent overseas. Nothing more annoying than completing your forms before being told “sorry, not available in your country”.

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