By Ben Kaye, E-commerce and OMS expert at Mintsoft
Peak season is just around the corner, and it’s expected to be bigger, longer and earlier than ever. With this being the second ‘digital’ Black Friday, preparation is expected from consumers, meaning inaccurate orders and poor delivery services won’t be tolerated. As an online retailer, how can you make sure you’re prepared to offer a great customer experience and retain customer loyalty?
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. Something as small as a missing item or poor lack of delivery choices is enough to lose a loyal customer – or even a sale.
It’s estimated that 28% of people will buy more online this holiday season, and pairing this rise in demand with the current supply chain issues and driver shortages, it’s set to be a challenging period for online retailers.
Gain a true understanding of your inventory
First thing’s first – in order to survive peak season, you must ensure you have a handle on your inventory. Overselling items is bad for both online retailers and customers alike, but luckily this is easily avoidable. By proactively controlling and managing your stock, you can prepare yourself for peaks – both expected and unexpected.
Having the ability to anticipate peaks and being aware of lead times from suppliers is pivotal. Getting a handle on the data behind your inventory saves you time and money later down the line. Whilst it’s important not to oversell items (which can often be a logistical nightmare), it’s just as important to avoid ‘stock outs’ and backorders because it’s reported that 70% of shoppers will head over to a competitor’s E-commerce store if they can’t get what they’re looking for.
By using an order management system (OMS), automated reports can be set up and sent every day, week or month and can be teamed with critical alert notifications for out of stock, low stock, and general stock movements – meaning you’ll never oversell or run out of stock again. You can also integrate your inventory systems with your online marketplaces, keeping them up-to-date at all times, meaning every aspect of your E-commerce business can work in tandem.
Don’t forget about multiple delivery choices
Customer experience continues to be the main differentiator for the top E-commerce brands, and where delivery is concerned, this means choice and transparency. Recent reports have shown that consumers don’t necessarily want the quickest delivery option possible anymore, but the ability to choose a specific day and time slot, which is forcing online retailers to implement a more robust delivery strategy.
In order to offer multiple delivery choices to meet your customer’s needs – whether it be the cheapest option, fastest option or a dedicated day delivery – you should look into establishing a multi-courier strategy. A strategy which integrates multiple courier companies helps to boost up your business by getting more competitive rates and the ability to offer superior customer experience. Again, this approach is made easy if you have an order management system, as you can connect and integrate with couriers, and easily select the best delivery option for your customer. Today, customers expect to be informed every step of the way across the buying journey which means things like regular email updates, tracking information, and delivery status alerts – this can all be done from a dedicated OMS.
More importantly, having access to multiple couriers, rather than relying on a single company, means you’ll always have a backup plan – making it easier to keep operations ongoing even in such demanding times.
Consider a dropshipping approach
With the levels of online shopping continuing to increase, online retailers are feeling the effect of the rising demand for order fulfilment. To keep up with demand, single retailers are now looking for multiple routes to market and a robust logistics strategy to support that.
22% to 33% of internet retailers have adopted drop shipping as their primary method of order fulfillment. Dropshipping is a low-risk online business model that guarantees profits and puts you between the supplier and the customer and ensures timely delivery of your orders by automating the supplier purchase order process.
When you focus on bringing in sales from multiple platforms without holding stock, there’s the promise of only selling what people want and reducing some traditional business concerns over delivery, maintaining a physical place of business, over purchasing and storage issues.
Dropshipping could also be a great solution to the current supply chain problems that are going on as by relying on a third party company to ship your stock, you remove the headache of having to source stock yourself.
Partner with a tech-led 3PL or warehouse
Nowadays, many 3PL and warehouse businesses have evolved their offerings by transitioning into tech-first entities, so using a 3PL that has invested in technology means you can deliver a more responsive and consistent service.
Partnering with a 3PL is the process of outsourcing logistic processes which helps with order fulfilment by eliminating strain caused by fulfilment and logistics. In addition to helping with fulfilment, online retailers can also rely on third-party partners to take care of time-consuming processes such as reporting, delivery updates and billing and accounting tasks,
A good question to ask yourself if you already use a 3PL is whether they have invested in technology to provide automated processes as this can have many benefits for online retailers – including enhanced customer experience. According to Retail Insight Network, 78% of consumers say they value convenience more today than they did before the pandemic, so offering a great customer experience is pivotal to surviving this year’s peak season and beyond. It’s an opportunity to reach a new customer base and create long-lasting relationships.
Fulfilment and shipping both play a major 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. Therefore, speed of delivery and the accuracy of orders is pivotal to creating long-lasting relationships with your customers and gaining loyalty over your competitors