Can e-commerce fulfilment keep up with customer demands? 81% of us start our search for a product with a Google Search – it’s pretty incredible to think that the search giant and engine behind some of the world’s most successful businesses was only 18 months old when we watched the millennium countdown in 1999 when even the behemoth that is Amazon was a mere 5 years old. Fast forward to 2022 and the world has changed dramatically. E-commerce has become an absolute cornerstone of our retail economy, in fact, the e-commerce sector is now worth an incredible has £3.17 trillion and growing, with over 2 billion of us purchasing both goods and services online.
The UK has one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in Europe, thanks in no small part to the pioneering nature of our entrepreneurs and business landscape not to mention considerable shopping habits. The sector, which is worth £76 billion to the UK represents around 26% of retail revenues is forecast to grow to 34.5% by 2023 – but it’s competitive, ruthless and remarkably fast-moving as anyone in the e-commerce sector will attest to. Consumers expect immediate, quality and fast fulfilment in almost every sector and for e-commerce businesses and e-commerce fulfilment then this means that connected data has become more important than ever, after all, “any delay in data is a delay in action”.
Opportunities for action and fast-moving platforms emerge quickly within e-commerce and can often be predicted by social and cultural springboards that simply pop up from anywhere. Whilst many may look for the holy grail of curating and creating such opportunities through influencer and engagement marketing, often growing and established e-tailers are actually trying to carefully balance a mix of sales channels, marketing activity, product promotion and e-commerce fulfilment. In fact, based on our experience most successful e-commerce businesses will have an average of 3-4 sales channels and 100+ product SKU’s that they’re consistently looking to grow profitably.
In this blog we’ll look at some of the key trends that are separating the brightest e-commerce brands from those that seek to follow in their footsteps, looking at how the changes in buyer behaviours, complex inventory landscapes and need for quality, speed and accuracy in e-commerce fulfilment is driving business growth. We’ll also be looking at some of the ways that smart e-commerce businesses are utilising technology to gain better, more informed, and real-time visibility across their whole fulfilment landscape and some key takeaways for anyone looking to improve both the customer experience with better SLA’s and bring down costs to boot.
Research from Google suggests that far from slowing down – changes in e-commerce behaviour are accelerating, driven in many ways by the effects of the pandemic. 81% of consumers surveyed said they’d discovered new brands online during the pandemic but many of them are changing the way in which they search to look for new terms that impact the way in which e-tailers need to respond.
With the growth in these modifier terms, e-commerce leaders looking for growth will be keenly aware that in addition to pinpointing marketing and acquisition strategies they will undoubtedly need to provide improved levels of accuracy in stock levels and a range of fulfilment options to keep pace with these behaviours. It’s not enough anymore to simply offer a one-size-fits-all approach to delivery or an aggregated view on stock levels. Customers demand more – we want to be able to personalise, bundle and of course control how we receive our orders regardless of where and when we want to shop.
E-COMMERCE SUCCESS FACTOR – 63% of customers say delivery speed is an important consideration when shopping online
Which brings us to another massive area for e-commerce retailers; platforms and sales channels. As consumers, we’ll all recognise the frustration of switching from app to website, Amazon to Shopify or Woocommerce to Magento and whilst we may not, as consumers, recognise these as platform jumps we will absolutely recognise the frustration of not being able to order quickly or simply and don’t even get us started on personalisation or delivery options. Yes – e-commerce retailers everywhere will be carefully weighing up their own ability to scale into new platforms and expand into new markets. What impacts though can expanding into a new channel or channels have for retailers?
Well, simply put it should be nothing but positive, reaching new audiences and new buyers should be a natural part of any growth strategy but for many growing brands adding new channels can create a headache for delivery and logistics teams. Poor integration and lack of visibility as well as consolidating inventory can make growing into new channels a headache for growing brands, partnering with an experienced e-commerce fulfilment solution provider can remove the hassle that so many organisations face during growth periods.
When we look at the change in customer behaviours it’s easy to see why the brightest e-commerce brands are adapting their fulfilment functions to provide the services that their customers expect, reducing returns, abandoned cart rates and creating happier customers at the same time as growing their businesses.
Incredibly “out of stock” items are one of customers biggest frustrations with e-commerce businesses, worse still that “out of stock” sticker is likely to drive your potential customer straight into the arms of a competitor. In bricks and mortar retail a recent study from Zebra Technologies showed that 43% of retail staff cited customer complaints about out-of-stocks as their biggest point of frustration and unfortunately repeated “out of stock” issues are likely to damage brand reputation and customer confidence. Further down the supply chain stock issues can also create production, supply and quality issues if left unchecked.
So, what can growing e-commerce brands do to avoid empty baskets and lost shoppers? For starters many of the brands that we work with at Codestorm
100% Real-time Inventory tracking
Full returns tracking built-in
Goods inward stock verification
Integrated scan, count and document control
Full batch tracking/ expiry management using FIFO
Ability to quarantine and recall stock
Whilst there is a plethora of basic options available to anyone looking for an e-commerce fulfilment provider be mindful that most are not designed to provide the level of insight and control that a custom-built e-commerce fulfilment provider like Codestorm will, so do your due diligence carefully, ask your provider for a live demo and take virtual or in-person tours of potential facilities to make sure that any provider will really help your business to grow.
Customer champion Which? recently released a shocking league table on the performance around the performance of some of the UK’s best known (if not best-loved) brands including Homebase, John Lewis and Moonpig. Ever in the headlines, retailer Sports Direct “scored a single star for the helpfulness of its staff and its convoluted complaints process following problems with returns and missing deliveries.’
Getting the customer experience right is essential for success and it’s a familiar tale for many of us in growing e-commerce brands, but what really makes the difference in delighting your customers?
- Fast, affordable delivery options
- Easy, simple tracking
- Speedy error resolution
- Well informed customer service
- Simple, quick check out process
Oh, and of course, it helps if you have a great product! In FMCG especially whilst your products will get your noticed how you treat your customers should be the formula for growth. Whilst this can be relatively easy to manage on a small scale as businesses grow often additional complexity in SKU’s, product groups, inventory and/ personalisation can mean that delays and mistakes creep in. In putting customers at the heart of everything they do, progressive e-commerce organisations will already recognise that professional fulfilment solutions and real-time data is essential to delivering the level of customer experience that we as modern consumers expect. And as we’ve seen from the Which? study brands that don’t invest in back end functionality and real-time fulfilment will always be (in Which?’s words “at the bottom of the table”.
There is little doubt that e-commerce and e-commerce brands are forging new routes to market across all landscapes, B2C, D2C and B2B. The shift in our behaviour as buyers and consumers driven by the pandemic in all categories it seems is here to stay, and with it a huge opportunity for new, established and emerging brand growth if they can master the golden trio of Speed, Accuracy and Quality behind the scenes.
In looking at some of the ways that smart e-commerce businesses are utilising technology to improve performance these three areas consistently rank as top priorities for brand leaders looking for growth.
Speed – how quickly are orders received, picked, packed, processed, and delivered? How can we improve this performance and at what cost? How can we provide our customers with improved speed of delivery and service?
Codestorm partners also told us that “I wanted all my orders to be delivered on time, first time and I want to give my business real-time information to help me stay ahead of my competitors. With LINK I was able to connect my sales channels to my fulfilment and be able to see everything in one place. We increased our speed of delivery from 72 to 24 and it’s made a massive difference to us”
Accuracy – how precise is our inventory and how accurately are we able to make supply chain, production and stock decisions in real-time? How well can we inform our customers of the status of their orders quickly and seamlessly? What tools do we have to measure performance, service levels and how can we use that to ensure we provide absolute precision for our customers?
Codestorm partners also told us that “Fulfilment and delivery is a key part of our supply chain but it’s also a cost – we needed it to be slick, effective and always on time without breaking the bank. We found a partner that helps us understand and optimise our inventory, helps us to see all of our data in one place to make better decisions, deliver every single time to our customers and works with us to keep costs as low as possible.”
Quality – how can we ensure that our customers’ orders are fulfilled with care, our brand looked after at every stage and how can we improve quality at every level to reduce costs and wastage whilst improving
Codestorm partners also told us that “We built our brand on delivering an amazing product, we’ve had incredible success but there is more out there – I want to grow my customer base, my revenue, my product lines across all channels and I needed a partner that can help me do that quickly and effectively. My world is changing every day and Codestorm meant I was able to give my teams everything they need to really deliver our amazing product, my fulfilment is only one part of that but if we got it wrong then we’ve got unhappy customers, the Codestorm team help us get it right and delight our customers meaning they keep coming back to us time after time.”
From the humble beginnings of e-commerce to the sophisticated multi-billion pound industry we see today it’s easy to forget that behind every great online brand is a team of dedicated individuals navigating an ever-changing landscape of product, technology and fulfilment options. At Codestorm we work with some of the brightest brands in the UK to help them accelerate growth by connecting their sales channels to our real-time fulfilment platform, reducing costs improving accuracy and delighting their customers time after time.
If you’d like our help and support with e-fulfilment solutions and technology please get in touch, our team would love to hear from you.