In the fast-paced eCommerce world, the way customers are purchasing products is shifting. Even as little as 10 years ago, the market looked drastically different from what it does today. The way consumers are researching and purchasing products has changed from reliance on brick-and-mortar stores to a near-complete focus on a purely digital experience.
While retailers are still working through the best ways to capture interest at every turn, trends in consumer behaviour are seeing a push towards a multi-pronged strategy. With the omnichannel era upon us, how can retailers best adopt this relatively new logistics concept for their long-term benefit?
The customer experience in the digital era
When we entered the digital age of eCommerce, everything changed. Customer expectations evolved from buying habits based on the physical retail environment to a plethora of new online possibilities. The mobile-savvy consumer is able to exercise a tremendous amount of purchasing power that reaches far beyond the traditional act of simply selecting from a shelf.
Understanding new innovations in last mile delivery for eCommerce
Today, customers expect a vast number of their online shopping needs to be satisfied during some stage of every online interaction. These expectations can no longer be optionally met – they need to be built-in considerations of every e-commerce venture.
Gone is the era when retailers could say, ‘advertise and the customers will come.’ Global online retail sales are continually growing, with total sales reaching above 8.8% of total retail spending in 2018, compared to 7.4% in 2016.
Up to 39% of online shoppers have stated that speed is the largest factor when choosing to purchase online over brick-and-mortar.
Click and collect in-store
In Australia alone, 42% of retailers are offering a click and collect service. While it takes a lot of investment to get right, it’s too big an opportunity for e-retailers to ignore.
Return policies are a major concern for today’s buyers. A 2016 UPS study found that 88% of online shoppers actively reviewed retailer’s return policies, with 60% of them saying that free returns were an essential part of a great return policy.
The power of the internet has granted consumers access to brands and retailers around the globe. Those who choose to remain within a local context for delivery risk missing out on upcoming middle-class markets in areas like China, where online sales grew by 24% in 2018 alone.
Adopting an omnichannel approach
This growing list of customer non-negotiables has many retailers scrambling for efficient and cost-effective ways to fulfil their promises. With expectations at an all-time high, the logistics arm of companies is now left scrambling for ways to not only meet but exceed them. This is where an omnichannel approach can play a huge role in any e-supply chain.
Omnichannel strategies allow businesses to tailor how their products are purchased and delivered to meet the needs of the modern customer.
AI and IoT: two sides of the same coin
Adopting such an approach increases opportunities for companies to fulfil their retail promises to expectant customers. This means moving away from traditional structures and networks towards a system with more personalised engagement with their customers and their needs. There are a few key things every retailer can look forward to when they successfully shift to an omnichannel approach.
It can improve efficiency
Companies that use an omnichannel approach with inventory visibility in mind can more accurately forecast future demand and plan deliveries accordingly. This means less time wasted searching for products according to traditional delivery means, and more time spent fulfilling customer expectations with a system that’s in sync and accurate on front and back ends.
It can reduce shipping times and costs
There’s nothing worse for a brand’s reputation than broken promises. If a customer orders a product for next day delivery, logistics must be able to fulfil this expectation. An omnichannel approach opens up new possibilities, including ship-from-store strategies. These can enhance the overall customer experience and serve as an important competitive differentiator, while also reducing shipping times and costs compared to traditional warehouse deliveries.
Improve cross-centre inventory management
The more channels your system uses, the more important it is to have a foolproof system that puts each piece in the right place. If done correctly, companies that employ omnichannel approaches can improve their inventory management and plug this common financial loss hole. Those who implement an optimised warehouse management system or inventory management system are already ahead of the game.
Build a strong B2B eCommerce infrastructure in an increasingly fast world
Business to businesses buyers factor response time into their purchasing choices because it is a critical part of any competitive situation. But how, asks Geoff Webb, from PROS, do you create a B2B eCommerce infrastructure that can handle the demands in numerous fast-paced industries?
Allowing customers to buy online and pick up in-store can save both the customer and the company money. This win-win situation has an additional flow of benefits if a click and collect customer option is implemented.
The future of logistics
According to Salesforce’s global State of Marketing report, fewer than half (49%) of the leading B2C and B2B brands believe they’re providing an experience that aligns with their customers’ expectations. Retailers who update their business processes to be in the percentile who are meeting expectations will mean more buyers, more sales and a sharper competitive edge in an evolving world of e-commerce.
Customer expectations now dictate a buying process that’s considerably less linear. While this makes it difficult for more traditionally-leaning brands to seamlessly accommodate, there’s an opportunity for innovative brands to gain an edge. There’s a growing demand for highly educated, skilful candidates across many industries, including e-commerce, within the supply chain and logistics management. Some of the biggest brands in the world are looking for experts to help create these seamless shopping experiences and drive retail growth.
The right postgraduate education can help you design and manage supply chains on a global scale. Understand the principles of supply chain management and create seamless customer experiences. Learn more about the future of e-supply chain management with a Master of Supply Chain Management today.