Quarterly Live Group Demo Watch Now

Sifted logo

Deliver Excellence: How Shipping Shapes Your Brand (ft. Danna Nieto, M.S.)

In this episode of LeaderShipping, Caleb Nelson is joined by Danna Nieto, M.S., Head of Agency Partnerships at ShipperHQ, to discuss the relationship between shipping and brand strategy.

Leadershipping Podcast
Episode Summary

In a world where more purchases shift each year from in-store to internet, a package arriving on a customer’s doorstep is often the only physical interaction they’ll have with a brand.

And while much of that process is in the carriers’ hands, there’s a lot shippers can do to make sure they nail the shipping portion of a customer’s experience.

In this episode of LeaderShipping, Caleb Nelson is joined by Danna Nieto, M.S., Head of Agency Partnerships at ShipperHQ, to discuss the relationship between shipping and brand strategy, and how to ensure your customers love every step of their journey with your brand.

Main Topics:

  • Why businesses should consider shipping a part of brand strategy
  • The importance of communication in the shipping process, before and after purchase
  • Should brands ship with unique packaging?
  • How to find the sweet spot between shipping speed and cost

Other Resources:


Caleb Nelson
Hey, welcome back to another episode of LeaderShipping. If you’re listening to this show, now, either you know you’re a longtime listener or brand new, I’m willing to bet that your job revolves around parcel shipping or shipping operations to some degree. And if you don’t work for an e-commerce company that’s still fulfilling orders from a garage. I’m willing to bet that you don’t consider your role to have a say in what we call brand strategy.

And it might be time to rethink that. In a world where more purchases shift each year from in-store to online, for many companies, a package arriving on a customer’s doorstep is the only physical interaction, really, that they have with that particular brand. Which I think is so unique and specific to shipping. And while much of that process is in your carrier’s hands, like FedEx or UPS, or Amazon, there’s a lot you can do to make sure that you nail the client experience. In the end, it can pay off big time for you, your brand, from your clients and for customer loyalty.

Today, we’re going to be diving right into this. I’m happy to be joined by an expert on just this. The relationship between shipping and a business strategy is Dana Nieto. Danna, welcome to the show.

Danna Nieto
Thank you, Caleb. I appreciate you having me.

Caleb Nelson
Yeah, I’ll give a little bit of background to who you are and why you’re an expert in this space. If I miss anything, please feel free to fill in the gaps. But Danna serves as head of agency partnerships at a really cool company that I’ve been following called ShipperHQ, the leading shipping experience platform. What I think is really unique in what ShipperHQ does, and that is they’re hyper focused on increasing sales by optimizing the shipping experience at the cart or time of checkout.

Danna has over a decade in partnership and sales positions in a variety of companies where she’s gained valuable experience and understanding the psyche of clients in a variety of industries. And I think it’s so cool what ShipperHQ is doing in terms of like solving some of the the disconnect that is down sometimes between shopping cart and shipping process.

So my first question is why should businesses consider a shipping strategy as a greater part of their overall brand strategy?

Danna Nieto
Yeah, yeah. I love this topic. And I love this question. So my background in tech specifically was more in data personalization, martech space. So when I moved over to ShipperHQ a little over a year ago, I really inundated myself with just shipping and logistics in general.

What I understand from a consumer standpoint of what I like to see, how I operate whenever I want something to show up on my doorstep, like you said. But it’s from a more of a logistics standpoint. I just had no clue, like what all goes into this process. So it’s been really interesting for me to be able to touch base with so many merchants and so many agencies who are working on this with merchants to figure out what’s the best strategy for them for shipping.

Then I think a lot of times, you know, shipping can be the necessary thing you have to have. So do we offer free shipping across the board or, you know, do standard shipping only. Let’s make this as easy as possible for the merchant. And I think sometimes that really hinders a lot of merchants because then that experience for the customer is just not great.

And it’s the last touchpoint for a customer. Whenever, right before they hit that that purchase button is shipping. Like what are the shipping options? When will this gets me? And I think it’s just really, really important to add that in as a as a bullet point for a strategy of what are we really wanting to accomplish with our shipping?

Caleb Nelson
And I would bet that there is a significant cart abandonment rate when that shipping portion is not optimized. Like I just had a conversation over Father’s Day when I was meeting with family and I had asked where this product had come from and I actually loved it. But then this individual went on to say that at time of shipping at checkout that the shipping cost was $45 and the product is tiny.

And it was one of those where I was like, Well, why did you go through it? And this individual said that they were kicking themselves, that they had spent like $80 on a product and $45 on shipping the product. And I got to imagine that if that process is not refined, there’s not a lot of people that are going to go through and actually hit the checkout button on that.

How important is it from like a cart abandonment rate to, to like absolutely nail the shipping experience here?

Danna Nieto
Yeah, it’s incredibly important. I’m sure you’re like me and a lot of listeners are probably similar to me. Even if you don’t love the thought of Amazon. If I’m on an e-commerce site and I’m going through and I’m looking for an item and I love this item, it’s awesome.

I get to the checkout and the shipping is just not ideal at all. I’m immediately Googling and saying, Is this on Amazon because I have Amazon Prime? I’ll get it in two days, or at least I’ll know exactly when I’ll get it. I have more options, but honestly, Amazon has just ruined us a little bit as consumers to have these expectations.

And I think merchants haven’t quite caught on yet to the fact that they can also have that same experience in their cart and checkout. Now, they’re not going to compete with Amazon. Obviously, none of us are really competing with this monolith. Right? But you can mirror that process and you can mirror that experience with different tools that are out there right now, including ShipperHQ, and so we really want to help merchants keep those eyeballs and keep that consumer on their page. And not jumping off to see if they can find it somewhere else. And you’re right. I mean, we’ve seen studies with some of our customers. We’re at 20% part abandonment decrease from just adding delivery date and time saying when estimated delivery date and time, this will get here on this day.

And that cart abandonment decreased significantly. And so it’s absolutely an issue that I think more merchants need to kind of think about and look at and store owners need to look at. This isn’t just a means to an end. How can we actually optimize this and make it a great experience?

Caleb Nelson
Yes. And I think that the extension of the brand can’t be overstated.

You know, a lot of times brands have a feeling of like, okay, great, the shipping has left my warehouse. My job is done. Yeah. When in reality, that’s like the beginning stages of the client’s experience with your brand. Which is communication. When did that shipment actually get picked up? Tracking updates? When is it out for delivery? All of that stuff.

And then let alone the carrier who you select for, you know, representation of your brand, whether it’s FedEx or UPS, is actually the one handling the shipment or leaving at the doorstep. If that experience is poor or that shipment arrives damaged or late or at the beginning of Ace Ventura when it is completely shredded and then pieces and taking it that all of that comes back to not necessarily UPS’s or FedEx is or Amazon’s problem.

That is your brand’s problem. Yes. I think there’s some challenge associated to that, which is how do you communicate properly when a shipment is in process and when it’s actually left your warehouse? What’s valuable there?

Danna Nieto
Yeah, there’s I mean, communication is absolutely I think the number one valuable thing that you need to be paying attention to with with your customers.

And you can’t I mean, you can’t over communicate don’t get me wrong. I definitely get those marketing emails where you’re like, unsubscribe, please. Is like a button for that. But being able to be so transparent and so clear at every step of the consumer journey, and I think we do this like there’s been so much optimization for our customer experience through every single step of the user journey.

And it’s like for some reason, the shipping piece can sometimes just be like, Oh, we hopped over that. This is, you know, we just get standard shipping. 7-10 days. We’re not really sure what it’s going to get there. We’re not going to give you really any accurate information on this. Check our FAQs that tell you when the lead times are for this product, like you can find the information as a consumer, but you really have to go digging.

And so I think what’s so important about thinking about this more of a strategy when you’re considering communication is how much upfront information can you give a consumer in that cart and check and that along the way? Right. Like you said. So when something’s leaving a warehouse, when you know, then you’re going to start getting updates from the UPS or the FedEx or things like that.

But you’re absolutely right. If something comes damaged to the doorstep,I’m not calling UPS. I’m calling or I’m chatting into the brand or I’m chatting in, you know, somewhere for them to handle it and asking them the questions. And so I think what’s really fascinating, too, with communications for end users is that the amount of customer support that a merchant can decrease these questions of where’s my package?

One of the main things that they can do that it’s so easy is put estimated delivery date and time in their cart checkout and say, here is the day you should be able to expect that. Now, I would also recommend adding a lead time or you know, things like that in your software, whatever that is. So you’re over delivering and under promising, right?

So if I say, hey, it’s going to be there in three days and it gets there in two days, that customer is going to be so excited. I have been waiting for my oh, what’s it called? Only place or one place. This little oven like convection oven thing for over a week. And then it gets pushed out a day and I’m like, I was hoping to have it tomorrow to be able to do some air frying, you know, but then I have other items like get there a day early and I’m so excited about that brands and excited about the product.

I’m excited about all of those things. So really thinking about how we are under promising and overdelivering and communicating that and then every step along the way, when does it leave the warehouse? When is it going to get to you? Whenever it gets delivered, send that email, hey, your package has been delivered. We would love to see photos of where you put this or how you do it.

Engage with your users. Engage with these consumers. Tag us on social media and show us where you put this item in your house or when you go on a date night with this new outfit you bought, do a review. Like there’s so many different ways that you can engage customers all along. That journey, but you can’t forget the shipping piece.

You just can’t.

Caleb Nelson
Right? And I think and I’ve said this before on on previous episodes and it’s still like the bane of my existence when I order something online. And this is funny because we’re all consumers. Like pretty much everybody out there is it’s really easy to kind of armchair experts somebody else’s process when shipping really is kind of complicated.

But there’s one thing that drives me bonkers and it needs to stop, and that is when I buy something, I get a notification from the brand that my item has shipped and they get so stoked, like, okay, oh wow. Like, like that was 12 hours ago. Like I bought that at 1 pm yesterday. And it’s the label created yeah. It’s this, like, awful stage of like, you just let me know that there was an internal process that has nothing to do with me. Like, congratulations, brand you just created the label for my shipping to go out. That means jack squat to me. And I think it just needs to be more thought from a client perspective on the shipping process needs to be put into that brand experience.

This is one that drives me crazy, and I’m sure that there are solutions out there for it. Like, yes, don’t notify the client until it’s actually shipped.

Danna Nieto
Yes. Until yes. Until it’s shipped from the warehouse, you know, or has been brought to UPS or FedEx and may have it. And then it’s actually been shipped through the carrier right now.

It’s true that that piece also drives me insane because I get very excited about those notifications and then I’m like, Oh, it’s three day shipping, then it’s going to end. No, it’s still got a lead time of like two days to get there. You know, wherever the facility is there, they’re shipping from yeah. I think one of the things that is so neat about what you all do is I loved reading through the research that you all have done with consumers and how do people want to have a shipping experience?

And I’ve been a little obsessed recently with this idea of merchants really kind of asking more of these questions to their consumers, like engaging with their consumers on social media. Like, Hey, if we did A, B and C with shipping, would you join our loyalty program? Like the fact that they could create consumer groups and put them in a certain section, say, these are all of our VIP customers who we know typically purchase this amount or we can get them to purchase this amount with some incentives in the cart and checkout.

But being able to bring those consumers over to their own grouping and then say, Hey, everybody, in this group, they get free shipping for two-day. Yeah, free two-day shipping because we know that they purchase this amount and then adding that it is a marketing strategy and actually thinking about it as a customer acquisition play as well. Not only is our VIP loyalty program have these perks, but also you get the free two day shipping like Amazon.

So don’t go to Amazon, come to us like there are ways that, you know, the marketing team can really expand on these things and, and make this experience something where it’s like a white glove experience for their customers and keep those customers coming back and getting new high value customers do.

Caleb Nelson
Yeah. And I think most brands want that – most… every – every brand that’s selling their product eCommerce wants repeat clients that are less and having any level of interaction with those clients to say, hey, look, join a loyalty program. We’re going to reward you with free shipping or free two day shipping or free shipping of, you know, orders of $50 or more. And there’s some strong logic behind that of why that’s valuable, I think goes a long way.

I’ve been curious because I’ve seen this done just as a consumer myself, where packaging is customized to the brand. It arrives at the doorstep, and I like it as a consumer, I like it. But how important is packaging and whether it’s either custom packaging or just quality of packaging, for a particular brand, how important is that for them?

You know, from a consumer standpoint, does that make consumers want to come back more frequently?

Danna Nieto
I think it can depend on the brands. So if you’re thinking about buying something from Amazon and or a store on Amazon, like the packaging, for me, my expectation isn’t that it’s going to be butterflies coming out of it. Whenever you open it up, you know, like perfume smells, you know, things like that.

If I’m buying like a $3,000 watch and it’s getting delivered to my doorstep, absolutely, I am going to want that packaging to match what I’m purchasing. So I think for me and you know, and I don’t I haven’t done a ton of like ton of research around this, but, you know, watching unboxing videos, watching these these ways that these merchants engage with their customers, I think you absolutely have to pay attention to it and, you know, set the bar high whenever you want these repeat customers.

And again, like VIP loyalty customers, like you can do this in ways where it’s like, hey, we just send regular packaging to our first time customers maybe or, you know, but the VIP, like, here’s another perk. Like for me, I’m regularly trying to think of strategy. Who are your highest paying customers? How do you keep them coming back?

How do you get them to get their other friends who are ones that are going to be buying a lot for you, how do you keep incentivizing this group and really like investing in them as a cohort as well as still acquiring new customers?

But you’re like anybody else. I’m like anybody else. If my friend tells me, Hey, I love this thing and I love this company, you should check it out.

Now I’m way more likely to check it out than a marketing email to come through my door. Right. So yeah, I know I got a little off topic there, but yes, I think depending on the the item that’s being purchased like if it’s if it’s something small, like you can never do too much. But I think typically people end up putting that packaging in the recycling hopefully.

So it’s I would focus a little bit more on the overall experience and who are you offering that to and why and maybe not do it across the board. For every single item or every single customer.

Caleb Nelson
Yeah, it doesn’t make sense on an a $10 item. Yes. Right. It’s something, you know, even if it’s a $10 item, but it’s a very loyal client.

And you are. Oh, yeah. Seeing that that kind of VIP status, I think. Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious, and you’re saying, as I see this in my conversations with shippers all the time, which is like, hey, you have shipping logic today where it’s like free shipping. And like I often ask them like how did you come to that decision?

And it’s like, well, our competitors do it, so we have to. And there’s no logic really behind it. I’m curious, how can shippers, like brands, really find the sweet spot between, you know, balancing speed and cost? Now everybody wants free shipping and I think some brands I’ve seen get into trouble where they’re like free shipping and to date anywhere in the United States because we’re trying to compete with Amazon.

To your point, earlier you don’t really want to compete with Amazon. You want to compete with the expectation of of really strong delivery or consistent right?

Danna Nieto
Yeah. We typically see it’s kind of balancing that sweet spot. Yeah. I think one of the easiest things a merchant can do is again, be communicative in the cart and check out, right?

So whenever I have those items in there, I put my address in to be able to say, okay, there are three options. You don’t want to go overboard. You don’t want to do 20 options for shipping, because then you’re going to have, you know, analysis, paralysis or not be able to choose. Like there’s so many options I’m done with.

This is overwhelming. I’m like, Where’s that easy free shipping that’s going to take 20 days. Just give me that. So I think, yeah, I think there’s, you know, three to five options in the cart and check out, but really three is probably the best sweet spot and then give a recommended that would probably cover most people so if you want to do free shipping excellent put free shipping on there and say hey this this covers most people.

Yes it’s five to ten business days till it gets to you here’s an estimated delivery date so you have an understanding of one that is and then do the expedited shipping underneath like give some props to them. So like guide the customer that’s what they want as well. And you’re doing this on the rest of your website. You are guiding a customer for everything.

Like Here’s a recommendation, here’s a recommendation. Like do the same thing for shipping here. This is recommended. It covers most things. If you’re one of those people that need it tomorrow, hey, we’re going to give you those options, too. And here they are and this is how much you’re going to pay for it. So that’s one way to look at it.

Another way to look at it is don’t just give free shipping across the board for everybody for all things like again, you can segment your customer base and offer free shipping, incentivize these customers to join a loyalty program or subscribe to your email list or, you know, these other these other actions you want them to take to gain that free shipping gamify it.

Gamifying it works. So, hey, $25 until you get free shipping, they’ll add more items. I do this all the time on Amazon. I need one thing right now. Then it’s like, this will get to you today in four hours if you add $20 more on this $5 item.

Of course, why wouldn’t I do that? Yeah. So have that as an option, it incentivizes for spending more money with you. So then that covers that shipping or at least alleviates some of it. And so that’s another option. I mean really for each merchant, it’s going to be different of what’s going like there can be best practices and we can give you ideas and strategies, but you have to just kind of say what’s best for your business.

You can add a surcharge to certain things. If there are items that in, you know, in your product line up that it’s just really expensive to ship it, free shipping on everything except for that. Put a surcharge on that bad boy and hey, sorry, this is how much a mattress costs to ship. It’s expensive.

Caleb Nelson
No joke, and the carriers are doing the exact same thing to you. There’s over 150,000 accessorial surcharges that FedEx or UPS like to apply. And the idea that every single shipment should be created and treated the same is kind of bogus. I’ve talked to more brands in analyzing their data, their shipping data in helping them understand that, hey, on some of these bulkier items, you’re actually losing money at the end of the day, like you’re losing $20 or $50 or $75 on it every single time that you send that order out, because shipping is eating up the rest of it.

FedEx and UPS make sure that they make great money on items that might be bulkier, that take up space in the truck or the airplane. It doesn’t mean that it needs to be like this crazy profit center for brands, but it should mean that you shouldn’t be eating the majority of that cost and having it erode your product margin.

Danna Nieto
Yep. Yeah. And that’s where like, you know, again, tools are in place, like ShipperHQ, to make a very quick plug. We have things like dimensional shipping where we take into account things like if you go into UPS and they weigh it, they also do all of the, you know, sizing of the box and length and width and take all of that into consideration before they’re giving you a price.

Right if you just go in and have free shipping across the board or, you know, you just are doing it by weight only and not taking anything else into consideration around dimensions like that is costing you a lot of money most likely. So I challenge merchants to say, you know, like there are a couple of things to look at.

How often are you getting customer support queries about when a product is going to get to someone’s house? Just take a look at that. How often are you spending more money on shipping than like how often are you losing money on shipping? Like really take that into consideration. And then what’s your conversion rate like in your cart and checkout?

Like once you can see when people are getting through that process, here is the shipping page. What is the falloff on your conversion rate at that point? And take those three things into consideration and then start thinking about, okay, maybe I need to optimize my shipping strategy a little bit better because there are. But these are things that people don’t really think about.

And why would they? Because they’re just trying to get something out the door get after a purchase. Right. But it’s all really important from the merchant side.

Caleb Nelson
Oh yeah. From the consumer side, absolutely. And I think the ability to say, hey, look, let’s look at our data and let’s AB test it, all right, let’s try this out for, for six weeks and see, see what the result is.

And if it has an uptick on conversion that goes through the shopping cart, then great. Stick with it. Yeah. And I think ultimately I’d love to see brands, shippers, clients and FedEx and UPS and Amazon understand what’s in their data to make better informed decisions like that, that it’s such kind of a done thing that is being applied in sales, in marketing, in inventory, everywhere else, everywhere else in the business.

It’s not necessarily being applied in in logistics and transportation and it makes a world of difference. And in fact, most e-commerce brands, especially shipping, is in their top four largest line items on their business like biggest expenses. So if they can reduce cost or not have it be where they’re losing money on it, a huge win at the end of the day.

Danna Nieto
Yeah, totally agree. And you asked earlier some of the ways that, you know, getting this out there a little bit more, what can merchants do? One of the things I’ve been really trying to do, too, is with all the agency partners that I work with, any time I do an enablement session or lunch and learn or whatever, I, I ask the question of how do you all approach shipping with your clients? Like what are the questions you’re asking? What are the, you know, what’s the discovery like for you? Well, because I think a lot of times like, oh, it’s not a complex shipping thing. Then let’s just do this, you know, easy way to do it. That’s how we’ve done with other merchants. And I’ve been challenging my agency partners, and they’ve been totally raising vacation.

And I’ve seen a lot of them doing this already that work with ShipperHQ because this is what we focus on too. But by digging in a little bit more, they’re like, not if it’s just a complex shipping requirement because that’s an easy one to bring the ship to you that you brought up earlier or we kind of talked about like more specialty items or VIP customers.

Like there are now options where you can choose a delivery date and time for something to be dropped off at your house. There are options for you to be able to pick up something in store at a specific time. I mean, buy online, pick up in store is, I think a marketing person’s untapped like potential because if you can get someone to come in to the store to pick something up and then you have opportunity there to engage with them as a customer as opposed to, like you said earlier, where their only experience with them is getting the product on their doorstep.

It’s cheaper for the brand. Having it shipped to a location is way cheaper for the merchant and it can allow them to have some sort of interaction with the customer, and build that relationship so that that customer wants to come back and wants to do more. So there’s ways to do that with free shipping and, and then everything else. Delivery costs money.

So I think there are just so many things that you can do in trying it out. AB testing different things are absolutely important to see. Again, ask your customers what they want, like survey some of your customers like “what would enhance our shipping experience with you all?” and, and do some surveys and incentivize that engagement and different things like that and to really help you.

Just kind of define what would work for your company and for your view as a merchant.

Caleb Nelson
Yeah, I love it and I think not everything is just because another brand has done something doesn’t mean it’s going to be a right fit for your brand and processes and policies and shipping procedures. Customize it for your business, customize it for your merchants, for your clients.

This has been such a great conversation, honestly. And I think anybody that’s listening, that is in ecommerce or as a consumer on that side, I think it’s going to take some really great value out of this. And I would say look at the data. But if individuals want to be able to reach you directly and interact with you, let our listeners know the best ways in getting in touch with you.

Danna Nieto
Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Twitter. I can also give you the handles of everything if you want to put it in show notes or whatever. But I’ve also started a podcast with a good friend of mine, Caitlin, who’s also in shipping and logistics called Ship Talking. So we have episodes that are coming out and I know I came up with that clever name.

We talk Brand Partnerships there and shipping logistics, but it’s really an ecommerce podcast to two friends where we just wanted to hear about it from other people that were in the space that might not have the platform. So it’s fine. It’s not, you know, yeah, go check it out if you want to. And so LinkedIn, I’m on Twitter, those are probably the two best places.

And then of course, you know, with ShipperHQ, if you if you want help with strategy as a merchant and want to just have questions, I mean, we’re around and where some of the least pushy salespeople that I’ve ever talked to at any company I’ve ever been at in sales actually. So we really try to help out.

Caleb Nelson
Awesome, awesome.

Well, thank you so much for being a part of LeaderShipping in this episode. It’s been really valuable and thanks again, but we’ll definitely stay in touch.

Thanks for having me. Well, thanks again for listening to LeaderShipping. Check us out here on your favorite podcast platform to find more episodes make sure you subscribe.

Leave a comment. Interact with us. Tell us what you like to be able to see next. There’s been so much good discussion that’s come out of this leadership podcast. We want to make sure that that continues with some great content. Also, check out sifted.com for more on us, along with some great resources that we have like blogs and monthly newsletters, some helpful guides and research and more. And as always, thanks for listening. Happy shipping.


Shipping Insights & Alerts
Get updates and track the things impacting your business most

Decision Support
See how supply chain adjustments pay off before you pay out

Carrier Management
Streamline how you manage your carrier operations and contracts

Business Automation
Let software do what it does better than people can

Discover news, tips, and industry best practices

DIM Weight Calculator
See how DIM is impacting you

Hear from industry experts on LeaderShipping

Case Studies
Learn how other brands use
Logistics Intelligence

Carbon Calculator
Calculate your CO2 Emissions

Thought Leaders
Meet the people behind the technology

Download free reports and expert how-tos

Get a personalized tour of our software

About Sifted
Get to know Logistics Intelligence

Logistics Intelligence
For parcel shippers

Let's get you to the right place!

For parcel shippers

Redirect to Valence Intelligence Login

Not sure if you have an account? Email [email protected].