Expert: What the ecommerce shift means for merchants

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Kristina: What is the biggest shift in shopper expectations over the past year

Guy Bloch, CEO, Bringg: In the past few months, ecommerce in the United States has nearly doubled. As a result, a significant shift has taken place in consumer delivery expectations, creating a larger dependence on more diverse fulfillment levels such as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, contactless pickup, and same-day delivery. Curbside pickup, for example, became a central fulfillment model last year, with 77% of retailers planning to section off in-store space dedicated to curbside pickup.

Kristina: What does this shift mean for merchants and brands?

Guy: The transition to ecommerce dependence poses a new set of challenges to brands who now require automated delivery technology in order to compete. Consumers expect immediate and easy order fulfillment, meaning brands must optimize their last mile delivery operations. Delivery optimization requires increased visibility into inventory location and driver availability across the supply chain. Automated technology supports the overall customer experience by ensuring accurate delivery times based on capacity, and provides increased control and visibility into all resources. This technology allows retailers to determine bottlenecks and streamline deliveries, enabling quick adjustments and management of high customer expectations. Additionally, automated delivery and fulfillment technology ensures resources don’t go to waste, by connecting data from drivers, stores, vehicles, warehouses, etc. With such high last mile costs, greater efficiency is required for brands to increase margins. .

Kristina: How can brands build better customer relationships when they aren’t ‘seeing’ the customer?

Guy: In the world of ecommerce, the only physical touchpoint with the consumer is at the point of fulfillment. For this reason, ensuring a great delivery and pick up experience is critical. This means offering customers a wider range of fulfillment choices (pick up, delivery, contactless, next day, same day, lockers, etc.), constant visibility to where the order is with live tracking, live mobile communications with the driver an store, as well as an easy-to-use tool to communicate their experience post fulfillment. This will ensure the customer remains at the center of the sale, helping to maintain a strong customer relationship.

Kristina: What role does customer data play in relationship building?

Guy: Customer data is at the core. Fulfillment can be better personalized if brands have insight into customers behaviors. For example, if a customer is interested in sustainable products, the brand should also offer sustainable delivery solutions. If a customer prefers same day delivery, the brand should offer inventory from the closest store. If a customer orders pickup at their local grocery, the brand should be able to notify them that they can now fulfill orders more quickly or offer a new curbside experience.

Kristina: How can brands fulfill what customers want – the product, the fast delivery – without sacrificing branding?

Guy: The increasing demand for varying fulfilment methods and rapid delivery over the past year has made it more challenging for organizations to present consistent branding to the customer. To build and maintain customer relationships in the long run, bands must invest in infrastructure that will support customer service and build brand awareness. Research from McKinsey showed that 75% of American shoppers altered their brand preference amid last year’s turmoil. This is why it is critical for companies to use technology that offers them the ability to brand the delivery service as their own. Customer communications, tracking and visibility should all have the brand face in order to provide a consistent brand-customer relationship. Even the driver at the customer door is a representative, meaning brands must find solutions to keep their name in front of shoppers at all points of delivery fulfillment. This is why Instacart is not a long lasting solution for grocers, because ultimately, the consumer will remember shopping with Instacart instead of the brand selling through its marketplace.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with BizReport.com, NBC News, Soaps.com, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.