E-Commerce Trends to Watch Out For in 2021
With the events of the past year and a half, Americans’ shopping habits have been redefined. Online ordering has come to the forefront, with curbside pick-up and BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) becoming commonplace. Furthermore, free shipping is the industry standard.
While it was in the works long before the pandemic, fast e-commerce is becoming the new normal—and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. What does that mean for e-commerce fulfillment operations? To succeed, they must be responsive, sophisticated, and strategic. Here, business owners will learn which trends to keep an eye on this year.
As more people do their shopping online, companies have fewer opportunities for in-person engagement and connection. Therefore, it’s important to ensure a high-quality CX or customer experience. Establish crucial KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure a company’s effectiveness in delivering timeliness, accuracy, quality, and other fundamentals. Find ways to improve and increase communication during each stage of the ordering process, such as including live chat for undecided buyers and post-purchase surveys for easy research.
Easy Omnichannel Purchases
With a radical shift in buying habits, consumers now expect an effortless experience across multiple sales channels. To succeed, you’ll need to make it even easier for them to learn about, purchase, receive, and return the company’s products.
If you’re not already doing so, offer inventory and product availability information as well as order tracking and status updates. Provide a range of delivery options, such as same-day delivery, BOPIS, and white-glove services, and facilitate returns with extended timelines and expanded options.
Closing the Gap Between Online and Offline Sales
Considering recent events, the need for increased e-commerce volume has resulted in the creation of temporary solutions. When flooded with online orders, for instance, many retailers have chosen to fulfill those orders from their brick-and-mortar stores. While it will work for a time, it won’t be sustainable for companies with limited resources.
If your company needs to support DTC (direct to consumer) and B2B (business to business) fulfillment, it may help to set up micro-fulfillment centers where orders can be picked and shipped without resulting in in-store congestion. Another good option is to outsource fulfillment to a 3PL (third-party logistics) company with direct-to-consumer and business-to-business capabilities.
Real-Time Reporting and Visibility
Real-time system integrations and inventory management will become crucial to the execution of omnichannel sales strategies, especially in multi-node distribution networks. In today’s fast-paced e-commerce environment, companies must gather data in real time and translate it in actionable ways. To stay on top of this trend, you’ll need to know your inventory and where it can be found.
Effective Margin Management
As companies step up their order fulfillment efforts, they’ll need to re-evaluate the profitability of certain SKUs. Product cost metrics vary with every delivery method, and to track them, you’ll need to capture data across operational processes and delivery systems. When margin management and real-time inventory are combined, it becomes possible to build customized deals, such as mystery packs and product bundles, that increase AOV or average order value.
Customization is another popular way to provide a memorable CX and add value. It’s easy to personalize orders through size, style, packaging, engraving, embroidery, and more. It’s important to remember, though, that today’s buyers expect a rapid turnaround. If you plan to offer personalization services, be sure they can be done efficiently enough to drive responsiveness. Doing these tasks closer to the buyer will decrease response times.
Finding enough workers to support fulfillment is still challenging, despite record unemployment rates. To build their workforces, many companies are turning to robotics and automation. If your company’s investment in automation is cost-neutral, or very close to it, it’ll likely be a good one.
Fulfillment at Warehouses
When a business grows so big that a few employees can’t do everything, it’s time to learn about warehousing fulfillment. These services are designed to cut costs while allowing companies to store products at the warehouse and ship them under their own brands. While it’s an important trend to monitor, warehouse fulfillment may lead to significant challenges as far as space availability and inventory management are concerned.
Of all the costs of e-commerce fulfillment, shipping is one of the most significant. Package delivery companies’ fee structures are often inflated, complex, and subject to rapid change. During 2021, it will be crucial for companies to develop package delivery strategies that allow them to shift when carriers implement surcharges and rate increases. Now is the right time for businesses to optimize their shipping portfolios by using regional carriers, postal workshare, and other niche options.
As people buy more of their big-ticket items online, there’s an increased demand for last-mile and white-glove delivery services. Rather than scheduling a delivery when making an in-store purchase, buyers now want to do the same online. If your company plans to offer these important services, you’ll need to integrate them at checkout.
Diversification of the Supply Chain
During the past year or so, sellers that used a single carrier or supplier found themselves more vulnerable. This year, business owners can expect to see increased diversification across marketplace, carrier, fulfillment, and sourcing channels.
To minimize exposure, consider planning for catastrophic events and finding ways to reduce the risk of service disruptions. For instance, many of today’s companies are opening multiple distribution centers so they can offer more fulfillment options and move products nearer to buyers.
The Bottom Line
In today’s competitive marketplace, opportunities for innovation and improvement in e-commerce fulfillment will become vital to a company’s success. For sellers, it’s important to keep up with the emerging trends that are shaping the e-commerce industry.
For companies to grow and thrive, multichannel fulfillment strategies are essential. By getting in touch with our e-commerce specialists, you’ll be able to determine how to implement these key trends, increase efficiency, and give customers the best experience now and well into the future.