Future-proofing your eCommerce strategy by Gavin Masters, Industry Principal, Maginus

With an ever-growing list of retailers to compete with and innovative developments from eCommerce giants, businesses must be aware of the industry changes heading their way to stay ahead of the rest and remain competitive. 2019 will bring new technological advancements that will allow retailers to fulfil their customers demands in new ways, as well as bringing new demands to the table.

Mobile comes first

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. However, while mCommerce is growing more popular there is still progress to be made on this front to perfect the mobile shopping journey. Mobile conversion is still lower than desktop and that is due to a clunky, poor experience consisting of bad page load times, bad layout and a complex check out experience. As we move into 2019 there will be an increasing focus on fixing the issues that we are currently seeing in mobile-first commerce. The number of consumers turning to mCommerce is not set to waiver in the next year, so businesses need to get prepared and perfect the technical foundations in 2019 to effectively host this kind of traffic.

Furthermore, eCommerce giants 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 other than to invest heavily in their mobile strategy in order to meet the standards set by these big players in terms of speed and real time delivery information or risk being left behind, no longer able to attract the new generation of shoppers. For many organisations which have not yet invested budget in a dedicated mCommerce team, this will incur a large financial investment upfront. However, if companies are strategic and proactive, and utilise existing partnerships, networks and strategies, they can mitigate against this cost. Businesses need to focus on how to ensure that they provide that compelling mobile experience, but also that this mobile-first design strategy experience stretches across the entire eCommerce lifecycle – not simply on the eCommerce platform – to ensure that all orders are fulfilled effectively past the buy-button.

Fast and flexible delivery

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 if retailers aren’t offering flexible fulfilment to meet the needs of their modern consumers, shoppers may look elsewhere. The year ahead is sure to see advancements in this area in order to keep up with the growing consumer demands as retailers are accepting that successful, timely 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 same-day or next-day delivery expected by many. However, offering the widest or fastest range of delivery options 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 over the years, with the introduction of click-and-collect and omnichannel integration enabling returns to be sent in store or to an offsite partner location; but there is still room for improvement. Most people have a daily routine that changes minimally throughout the week, 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 be able to ‘learn’ a consumer’s routine and, depending on the time of day, will deliver a package to a different address. This form of smart delivery will reduce the number of undelivered parcels and ultimately 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, we will also see delivery windows expand in 2019, providing the consumer with the freedom to choose delivery slots when they want it. The option to choose anti-social hours would be a welcome adaption for many, especially for those who don’t work traditional hours and couriers who want to work around other lifestyle commitments.

A new purpose for the High Street

At this point in time, the death of the High Street seems inevitable unless something is done to shift consumer retail preferences. This cannot be achieved by a single retailer in isolation but instead needs to be achieved through the combined work of the retail industry as a whole and the local government. The High Street shopping experience needs to be transformed in order to give consumers something they cannot get online. This is likely to come from building a community and giving people a reason to make the trip and visit the town centre. Once consumers have been enticed to the High Street, they may find that the way they use brick-and-mortar stores has changed. This year has seen many companies transform their brick-and-mortar stores into customer service hubs and show rooms that enable tasks such as product testing, account management, orders & returns and collecting products purchased online. This trend will only continue into next year, as more retailers adopt this strategy as a way to survive.

Wholesalers going direct

A trend that will begin to gain traction in 2019 is business to business (B2B) companies opening a direct to consumer (B2C) sales channel through an eCommerce strategy. This is a direct consequence of the downturn in High Street retail revenue and consequent store closures. High Street stores are where B2B businesses traditionally sell products and many executive boards have decided that they can no longer trust their goods in the hands of others and selling B2C as well as B2B is the most future-proof business strategy to adopt next year. The outcome of this shift will be that more companies will start to invest in their own eCommerce solutions, widening the market. Having an eCommerce presence will give B2B organisations control over the whole customer experience including the brand, margins, promotions and pricing, and bring more potential opportunities to the table. On the flip side, this will also mean that brick-and-mortar retailers should expect to be hit from both sides, with both customers and suppliers pulling out.

Fulfilling frictionless promises

‘Frictionless commerce’ is a buzz term that had been popularised throughout this year, however it does have a significant role to play in the development of the retail sphere throughout 2019. The most important step in working towards ‘frictionless commerce’ is to ensure that the business definition of the term matches that of the consumers and what they define as a stress-free experience. Many businesses wrongly claim to know what consumers want and define as frictionless but organisations must rely less on data and industry trends and place more value on interacting with customers and finding out what they really value. These developments must be unique to each business to be the most successful. For example, someone shopping on an online marketplace may value lower prices and next-day delivery, whereas if a consumer is buying a luxury item, they may place more emphasis on imagery, video content, product information and aftercare.

Frictionless eCommerce will also need to be supported in the back office to ensure that these ‘frictionless’ promises such as next-day delivery are fulfilled. 2019 will see the existing technology cement its presence in the warehouse, as well as significant advancements in this area. Mobile devices, such as scanners and pickers will remain commonplace and the uptake of robotic automation will gain momentum. These developments will help to ensure customer service levels are upheld by reducing the risk of human error in terms of mis-delivery of products and dispatch targets being missed. Mobile scanners allow data about every order to be recorded which will enable customers to be informed, in real time, of the status of their order. This will reduce the frustration and wasted time that comes with having to call customer services to resolve a simple issue or ask a question.

By implementing an Order Management Software (OMS) that is fully integrated with the eCommerce site and updated in real time, organisations will be able to successfully manage the warehouse and integrate all variables, such as warehouse automation, picking and delivery, minimising any negative affects this transition might have on productivity. As well as the customer, the business itself will benefit from data interconnectivity. Real time analysis and integration of data from throughout the eCommerce chain will allow management teams to monitor the company as a whole and identify potential problems before they occur.

The evolving warehouse

A shortage of warehousing space and an abundance of retail space will come hand-in-hand with the death of the High Street and the consumer preference towards shopping online. It may be the case that some retailers try to fix both of these problems simultaneously by adopting a micro-warehouse approach in which companies develop a small warehouse within existing retail spaces. While a micro-warehouse model might be more suitable to a small to medium sized business, larger companies could consider buying up retail park space that is now available due to the closure of big brands. This method of obtaining warehouse space will leave companies with hyper-local, smaller warehouses in close proximity to the end-customer. Local warehouses will facilitate next- and same-day delivery by reducing the physical distance goods have to travel to reach its destination. As a result of this, a trend to expect in 2019 will be retailers having smaller, satellite warehouses located around central warehouses which house the full range of stock.


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