In the latest in our series of predictions pieces running between Christmas and the New Year, Gavin Masters, industry principal at Maginus, looks at what retailers need to do to meet consumers’ rising mCommerce and eCommerce expectations.
Consumer expectations and demands are constantly evolving in an ‘always on’ world, especially as the capabilities of large eCommerce retailers continue to increase. Therefore, the coming year is sure to see advancements in the eCommerce industry that will enable retailers to satisfy the new demands of their consumers and stay competitive in an evolving retail sphere.
Seamless and efficient mobile-first eCommerce
Looking back on this year, there has certainly been a focus on a mobile-first strategy within the eCommerce industry. Consumers are shopping on the go and placing more trust in their mobile devices when it comes to buying items online. In fact, the analysis from recent holiday sales highlights this growing trend. Over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday period, US shoppers used their mobile phones to make $2.2bn worth of purchases, and consumers searched for more deals using a handset, with Argos reporting that 50% of its purchases were made via a mobile device. However, while mCommerce is growing more popular, there is still progress to be made to perfect the mobile shopping journey. Mobile conversion rates are still lower than desktop due to a clunky, poor experience consisting of bad page-load times, poor layout and complex checkout experiences.
There will be an increasing focus on fixing the issues mCommerce is experiencing during 2019. A recent report from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Google and PayPal forecast that by 2020, around two thirds of online retail in the UK – around £43bn annually – will be conducted via mobile, with four in five transactions involving a smartphone. So, businesses need to get prepared and perfect the technical foundations in 2019 to effectively host this kind of traffic.
Furthermore, eCommerce giants like Amazon are investing large chunks of money in mobile eCommerce technology, such as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and it won’t be long before they perfect the platform. As such, small and medium retailers will have no choice but to invest in their mobile strategy to meet the rising standards of speed and real-time delivery information or risk being left behind, no longer able to retain or attract shoppers.
For many organisations which have not yet invested in a dedicated mCommerce team, this will incur a large upfront investment. However, if organisations are strategic and proactive, utilising existing partnerships and networks, they can minimise this cost. Businesses must focus on providing a compelling mobile experience, but also ensure that this experience stretches across the entire eCommerce lifecycle – not simply on the eCommerce platform – to guarantee that all orders are fulfilled effectively past the buy-button.
Providing an excellent customer experience is vital to maintaining a successful and trusting relationship with consumers and ensuring repeat business. Customers commonly judge their experience with a brand on ease-of-delivery, and may look elsewhere if retailers don’t offer flexible order fulfilment. Businesses are accepting that ensuring successful and reliable delivery is crucial if they want to remain competitive and relevant in a fast-paced environment. Shrinking delivery times are becoming the norm, with next-day delivery expected by many. However, offering the fastest delivery won’t necessarily ensure customer satisfaction, instead providing the most convenient and flexible choices will give retailers the competitive edge. Therefore, we will see 2019 become the year of personalised delivery.
Delivery systems have already developed drastically, with ‘click-and-collect’ and omnichannel integration enabling returns to be taken in store or to an offsite partner; but there is still room for improvement. Most people have a weekly routine that changes minimally, such as working 9-5 Monday to Friday or perhaps going to the gym every Tuesday. Through IoT wearable devices and mobile connectivity, the delivery systems of the future will ‘learn’ a customer’s routine and deliver to a different address based on the time and day. This form of smart delivery will reduce the number of undelivered parcels and cut down on delivery costs, as couriers won’t have to return to an address multiple times before making a successful delivery. To increase delivery convenience, delivery windows will also expand in 2019. The option to choose anti-social hours would be a welcome development for many, especially for those who don’t work traditional hours and couriers who want to work around other lifestyle commitments.
The idea of ‘frictionless commerce’ has been popularised throughout this year, however it has a significant role to play in the development of the retail sphere during 2019. Businesses can work towards frictionless commerce by ensuring that their definition of the term matches that of their consumers. Many organisations wrongly claim to know what their consumers define as frictionless, but must rely less on data and industry trends and place more value on interacting with customers to discover what they really value. For example, Amazon’s customer may value lower prices and fast delivery, whereas a consumer shopping with a luxury brand might value imagery, product information and aftercare.
Frictionless eCommerce must be supported in the back office to ensure that ‘frictionless’ promises such as next-day delivery are fulfilled. 2019 will see existing technology, such as mobile scanners and pickers, cement their presence in the warehouse, as well as advancements in the form of robotic automation. Automation can help uphold customer service levels by reducing the risk of human error that can cause mis-delivery and missed dispatch targets. Additionally, mobile technology records data at each step an order takes, letting customers track their orders in real time and reducing the frustration that comes with having to call customer services to resolve a simple issue or question.
The business itself can also benefit from data interconnectivity by implementing Order Management Software (OMS) that is fully integrated with the eCommerce site. This will update in real time and help organisations successfully manage the warehouse and integrate all variables. Real-time data analysis and integration from throughout the eCommerce chain will allow management teams to monitor the company as a whole and identify potential problems before they occur.