It is no surprise that with the growing popularity of eCommerce, online retailers following the business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) branches of trade will need to keep up with consumer demand shifts in the near future. In the US, eCommerce trends to focus on include the presence of omni-platform and device sales, the rising demand for increased fulfillment options, involvement in B2C platforms such as Amazon, the use of enhanced AI, and a general focus on improved customer experience.
Creating a cohesive experience across platforms
As noted in the eCommerce industry at the moment, omni-platform channels, specifically between devices, are becoming increasingly popular as shoppers search for products in the way that is most convenient to them. Many shoppers, for example, will look at product information on their phones, visit a store to see the product and try it out, look at reviews online, and purchase on their computer.
Keeping up with the quick switching between platforms is important in maintaining customer satisfaction, and the first step to fulfilling this is to integrate online platforms and devices. Whether using a third-party platform to sell products or using a business website, it is important to follow an omni-channel business strategy to keep up with the expectations of customers. Customers are now expecting the experience of dealing with one business across all platforms, instead of experiencing separate parts of a business when transitioning through platforms.
There is not an easy solution for this, as omni-channel businesses require intensive platform development, increased online inventory management, and a synthesised and communicative experience across platforms, but trends show that customers expect improved platform experiences, meaning it should be a focus point in the near future.
Keeping up with competitive fulfillment demands
With online marketplaces offering customers shipping direct to their door, click-and-collect options, and next day delivery, it is important to keep up with the tight turnaround expectations of the eCommerce industry. The near future sees delivery and fulfillment expectations increasing, with faster and more efficient offers such as estimated delivery times, in-store pick up, and easy return options. To accommodate for this added pressure, eCommerce businesses need to tighten and perfect their online inventory management, ensuring that products can be sent out as soon as they are purchased. Larger warehouses increase automation by using delivery and packing robots to prepare their orders, however smaller companies should focus on having a product ready for delivery the same day it is purchased. Cost-effective and efficient delivery is key to impressing customers, who now demand competitive fulfillment options.
Using well-known platforms
Tried and trusted platforms such as Amazon are still increasing in popularity as eCommerce becomes more common. As a platform, Amazon has shaped the way online sales are completed, offering various shopping experiences with their Prime offers, a wide range of products, and free shipping on certain products. The attractive idea of using a third party such as this to store, package, and sell product makes online inventory management easier for businesses and increases the reach of your product. Taking advantage of this valuable resource has its pros and cons, but the customer service features available on the site such as voice-activated shopping, international capabilities, and online assistance services can ultimately improve your customers’ eCommerce experience.
Chatbots for customer satisfaction
Most growing B2B or B2C platforms have used the development of AI-powered chatbots to assist customers in place of physical shop assistants. These chatbots can offer services from suggesting similar products, finding a matching item, understanding delivery times, and enabling customers to ask questions about the products they are looking at. In this way, eCommerce platforms are emulating physical stores as a way to improve customer satisfaction. Taking advantage of this powerful feature can keep customers engaged and feeling important to businesses, which is an experience that has previously only been found in physical retail shops. Also, with AI technology, chatbots have the ability to learn from customer conversations, meaning that the more they get used, the better they can be of service.
eCommerce is steadily becoming more successful than physical retail, with improved technology and customer relations creating a better environment for online trade. Following the trends of online retail, focus on omni-channel development and a synthesised multi-platform experience is important, as well as understanding the fulfillment expectations of customers. Technology upgrades, improved online inventory management, and ease of use for customers should be targets to stay on top of the industry.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.