You can’t jump on every ecommerce trend that hits the market – you have costs to control. However, some ecommerce trends justify consideration, as they could affect your competitive position in the market.
You should either be prepared for, or be preparing for, the following four ecommerce trends in 2018 and 2019.
Amazon redefined “fast” in regards to ecommerce delivery; with their plans for continuous speed improvements using new technologies and business models (e.g., drone-based deliveries, delivery to your car’s trunk, and integrated Whole Foods shopping), every supplier must increase the pace of their own deliveries to compete.
For SMB product suppliers, this means modernizing systems to enable streamlined, seamless experiences that start with a customer’s online purchase and move to your fulfillment area (warehouse or 3PL provider) to kick off the fulfillment processes. By adopting a strategy that incorporates ecommerce with ERP and the warehouse (generally via EDI) your business increases order fulfillment by avoiding manual intervention throughout the process.
Don’t sell something you don’t have – customers dislike finding a product they want only to discover it’s out of stock. Customers, particularly B2B customers, are demanding real-time reporting of which products you have in stock.
Once again, an ERP system integrated with your ecommerce system will help; automated stock and purchasing replenishment functionalities in modern systems ensure the right products and quantities are available, reducing stock-outs and inventory costs. Advanced inventory management offers visibility and control over stock levels while highly-accurate forecasting anticipates customer demand patterns.
It works this way: orders placed on an ecommerce website automatically launch ERP functions. An ecommerce order appears automatically in ERP (via EDI) as a sales order. If your ERP system connects to your warehouse, the ERP communicates item availability to the ecommerce site in real time, allowing (or not) orders based on inventory levels, so no one can order out-of-stock items.
You can even take a proactive stance on stock outs by using EDI flows from upstream suppliers. Your ERP system would receive early notification of supply chain interruptions, allowing you to proactively remove item displays from an eCommerce site until regular supply patterns recommence. This way, customers won’t even see the items as a purchase option. You can also establish rules within the eCommerce system to stop displaying products under an ERP notification status.
Most B2B customers don’t want to speak with sales reps to order – they prefer self-service mobile apps or web portals that allow them to order any time (sometimes during non-traditional business hours). With an integrated ERP-ecommerce systems approach, you can easily enable B2B customer self-service, making your customers happy and saving costs related to sales rep time and customer service personnel headcounts.
The right ERP system should also provide each B2B customer with their organization’s customer-specific pricing. These rules are simple to embed in modern ERP workflows and offer the added value of making customers feel known.
“Click and collect” means customers can buy online and go to the brick-and-mortar store to pick up their items – a great way to compete with Amazon. Customers have fallen in love with buying online and picking up in the store because there are no lines for checkout but also no waiting for their items and no delivery charges. Click and collect is even more valuable to consumers who live in places where delivery services can be slow and hit-or-miss, such as low-population areas and apartment complexes.
Internet Retailer conducted the following consumer survey in August 2016:
What are the main reasons you’ve chosen to pick up an online order in a store? (Select all that apply).
|To avoid shipping fees||73.0%|
|The store was nearby, and it was convenient for me to just pick it up||32.2%|
|I needed my purchase that day and couldn't wait for delivery||30.4%|
|I was going to that store anyway, but I wanted to be sure they had my desired item in stock||21.7%|
|I'm worried about deliveries to my home being stolen. I'd rather pick up orders myself||9.6%|
|A retailer offered me a coupon to pick up my online order in stores||7.0%|
Having a retail site for in-store pickup reduces your operational costs and offers opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell with in-person sales reps. If nothing else, it’s a great venue for connecting with customers to solidify long-term relationships.
At Sapphire, our fingers are always on the pulse of the ecommerce marketplace, enabling us to bring together systems knowledge and market knowledge to help SMBs win in today’s increasingly complex and hyper-competitive product supply industry. Contact us today; we’d love to help you modernize your distribution business.
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