With the growing demand for e-commerce services, Ben Kaye, e-commerce and Order Management Expert at Mintsoft, advises on the value of organizations implementing cloud technology.
The pandemic changed everything, particularly in the e-commerce industry. Online retailers, fulfilment houses and warehouses alike have had to adapt their strategies to support supply chain operations and to drive efficiencies in order to keep ahead of demand.
As e-commerce demand continues to grow, many online retailers are still changing their strategies. Consumer expectations have evolved and simply put; this means online retailers must evolve their offerings to meet customer expectations and meet them where they are shopping. As a result, UK retailers are seeking to upgrade their e-commerce platforms and improve customer experience in response to a pandemic-induced spike in online shopping, according to a new report by Information Services Group (ISG), a global technology research and advisory firm.
The past year has been like no other in the retail sector. Every retail enterprise – from local corner shops to global fashion giants – has had to radically adjust the way they operate in order to cope with the challenges that the pandemic brought with it. Even the larger names in retail have made significant changes: both GAP and H&M recently announced they would be closing stores across the UK and Ireland and moving predominantly to online sales, whilst ASOS’ CEO commented on the opportunities that the shift to online shopping has created.
We’ve even seen popular retail giants NEXT, Joules, Decathlon and John Lewis implement new strategies to thrive during the e-commerce boom, by transitioning into marketplaces. The rise of marketplaces has provided a lot of opportunities for online retailers but has also increased competition – it’s just as important to be where your competitors are as it is to be where your customers are.
Although selling products on multiple platforms and marketplaces has many benefits, inventory management can often be time-consuming and increases the risk of inaccurate orders and overselling stock. So anticipating peaks, becoming aware of lead times from suppliers and getting a handle on the data behind inventory saves time later down the line. These are all things digitization and automation can help out with.
With the levels of online shopping set to continue to increase, online retailers are feeling the effect of the rising demand of order fulfilment. Implementation of technology is a great way for online retailers to keep up with the demand of e-commerce and multi-channel selling and scale their business as needed.
Meeting customer demand
Consumers are looking for many things when it comes to online shopping – not just the perfect product. They require some sort of value at every touchpoint – easy payment options, cheap and convenient shipping and returns, and a seamless shopping experience.
Implementing an order management system (OMS) allows e-commerce businesses to consolidate all orders from various online shopping platforms and channels and manage the full dispatch process from picking, packing, and shipping. This will in turn provide a reduction in errors and a more consistent service to consumers.
Outsourcing logistics to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider is a popular solution amongst online retailers as it helps to keep orders moving. Partnering with a 3PL has many benefits – the main one being eliminating the strain for online retailers by taking control of the order fulfilment process, allowing them to focus on other areas of their business.
A 3PL partner will take care of tedious processes and nowadays, many 3PL businesses have evolved their offerings by transitioning into tech-first entities. Using a 3PL that has invested in technology allows online retailers to deliver a more responsive and consistent service.
Online shoppers now choose convenience over brand loyalty, meaning how orders are picked and packaged, delivery costs and timings, and ease of returns all matter. Of course, there are also options for online retailers and e-commerce businesses to innovate and scale up without outsourcing logistics. e-commerce software is on the rise, and another popular solution for online retailers as it allows them to deliver great customer experiences by automating the processes such as fulfilling orders and keeping all online shops and marketplaces updated at all times.
Improving the accuracy of orders
Despite the sector re-opening its physical door, it’s predicted that 51% of post-pandemic retail is set to take place online. With 78% of consumers saying they value convenience more today than before the pandemic, the pressure to fulfil accurate orders to consumers – in a timely manner is high. Something as small as an inaccurate order or late delivery is enough to lose customer loyalty these days, and offering a frictionless sales process is just as important.
Both fulfilment and shipping play a significant role in the customer journey, especially when you consider that the point of delivery can often be the only face-to-face interaction customers will have with your brand. Automating processes is a great investment for e-commerce businesses as it will ensure accurate and timely deliveries.
An OMS also offers support when it comes to managing online shops across multiple e-commerce channels from a single platform by offering real-time stock sync. By ensuring stock is synced across all marketplaces, the risk of overselling items is removed, and the accuracy of orders is improved. These types of cloud-based solutions also integrate with various sales channels and systems, so that processes are streamlined, errors are reduced, and more consistent service is delivered.
Integrations also help to trim down complicated processes and automate time-consuming tasks and entire workflows. Using API integrations also removes the risk of human error and removes the need to log into multiple platforms, meaning more secure and faster data transfer too.
With supply chain issues and driver shortages creating additional challenges during a peak for the industry, working more efficiently has never been more important. As well as streamlining systems and helping with productivity, implementing technology such as an order management system will allow online retailers to make more informed and calculated decisions – whether it be around inventory, returns processes or even selecting the best courier for the job.
Providing better delivery options
A big part of customer experience and meeting their expectations also comes in the delivery of their orders. Customer experience continues to be the main differentiator for the top e-commerce brands, and where delivery is concerned, this means choice and transparency. Data from Ofcom revealed that there was a 53% increase in the number of complaints relating to postal services from 2019 – 2020 (and an increase of 71% in complaints when comparing 2018 and 2020). This proves that customers’ expectations are ever-increasing, and according to the Royal Mail, the most important features to consumers when it comes to postal services are affordability, simplicity, certainty, reliability and universality.
A recent report from Royal Mail showed that the option for tracking was more of a need for SMEs and those selling items on online marketplaces. Here, tracking was considered most useful in terms of offering confirmation of delivery. Some also used tracking to provide estimated delivery time slots for their customers. Most SMEs acknowledged that they were sending and receiving more parcels, largely due to increased online shopping/ordering. Most also recognized there was a range of providers available to send parcels, even if they did not personally use them.
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Having a multi-courier strategy is pivotal to providing multiple shipping options to meet your customers’ needs (time, price, etc.). This is made easy with an order management system, as you’re able to integrate with multiple couriers from one centralized platform. This makes it easier to select the best courier for the job as you’re not limited by courier choice. You’ll also have the option to send customers automated, real-time updates on their orders.