By Clara Philpin, Head of Strategic Development, Asendia UK
The pandemic has changed our shopping habits and flipped the switch to hyperdrive as businesses pivot from brick-and-mortar to online.
Ofcom’s recent report has found British consumers spent a total of £113 billion online throughout 2020, a rise of 48% on the previous year. This is thanks to shoppers accessing the power of the internet and easy-to-use services from home as millions of newcomers discovered the convenience of e-commerce.
The growing preference to shop online is here to stay. This view is supported by the Forrester Analytics Survey findings, with 16% of customers saying they will continue to do so, even after things become relatively normal. They may thus be impatient when a retailer fails to hit the standard of e-commerce experience to which they’ve become accustomed.
Physical retailers have struggled in recent years, and we’ve seen the closure of iconic department store chain Debenhams and the collapse of Arcadia Group, partly due to their lack of e-commerce strategy. It’s clear that businesses need to keep pace with consumers’ changing requirements to survive post-pandemic.
Adopting a disciplined approach to customer experience
While e-commerce sales soared during the COVID crisis, brands can’t take this for granted. Gartner predicts that 89% of businesses are expected to compete mainly on customer experience.
Brands are increasingly being judged by gold standards. 70 percent of buyers will support a company that delivers great customer service according to an American Express study.
But ASEAN consumer research found that rising numbers of buyers are frustrated with their digital commerce experience, citing delivery costs, timeframes and, product pricing. Moreover, 80% of consumers will switch retailers after only one disappointing experience says customer-service software firm Zendesk.
This has changed how customer loyalty is gained and lost. Businesses will thus need to focus on customer-centricity with fantastic overall experiences. This will in turn encourage long-term loyalty and repeat purchases for business growth.
Building e-commerce growth solutions for product delivery
The surge in e-commerce business means more deliveries need to be completed. Research suggests that many customers now expect free shipping and fast delivery. 38% of shoppers will never shop with an e-commerce retailer again if they had a poor delivery experience. It’s clear that e-commerce fulfilment is important for online businesses to get right.
This places new pressures on logistics and distribution to expand last-mile delivery capacity. To encourage e-commerce growth, it’s important to strategically manage great service with a realistic pricing structure for delivery. Striking a balance can be difficult.
There’s also pressure to keep pace with demand and beat competition coming from supply chain juggernauts Amazon and Alibaba. To speed up operations and volume put-through, GTP (goods to person robotics) are becoming central to the digital revolution taking place in warehouses. This means items are selected and brought to the picker by robots, cutting out hours of people walking around fulfilment centres. This technology is set to quadruple before 2024, according to Gartner.
Delivery companies are increasing their efforts to boost efficiency through automation and increased manpower Amazon alone is expanding its workforce by 175,000 to cope with increased demand following the coronavirus outbreak.
Online electricals retailer AO.com for example is boosting the use of warehouse robotics to streamline and speed up order fulfilment, having just has acquired more than 45,000m2 of warehousing space to keep up with demand.
The pandemic story is not yet over for most UK businesses in 2021. But what’s clear is that right now, consumers want options and retailers want greater scalability in their e-commerce solutions to optimise every sales opportunity. Thanks to new purchasing habits, heightened demand will keep driving innovation in the e-commerce fulfilment sector for the foreseeable future.