E-commerce sales are expected to continue skyrocketing over the next few years, with a recent projection suggesting they will reach up to $4.9 trillion worldwide in 2021 from a projected $3.5 trillion in 2019. The projection adds that e-commerce, at its current trajectory, will have a 17.5% share of all retail sales in the world by 2021.
One consequence is that the lines between online and brick-and-mortar shopping behavior will continue to be blurred and shoppers will increasingly use multiple channels to buy what they need and want. A recent study showed that 74% of US consumers on occasion make purchases online after seeing the product at a retail store, while 15% do it regularly.
Multichannel fulfillment is firstly about understand customers’ behavior – what, where, when, why, and how they purchase products. Secondly, it is about creating a system that makes the shipping experience seamless.
The Customer is King 2.0
You are buying shoes online. You find the right pair, but you want to try them on at the store. You go to the store, try the shoes on, and buy them – but later you regret your decision as the color is not quite right. You send the shoes back after having a made return case on their website.
All those steps are expected by the customer to go smoothly. If they’re told on the website that a certain size is available, they will be disappointed to find that size out of stock when visiting the store. If they can’t use the website or app for returning the shoes, or if they contact customer service and don’t get the right information, you may never see that customer again.
The adage of the customer being king is doubly true now. They know what they want and they know when they want it. Any mistakes will not be quickly forgiven.
A large part of the multichannel fulfillment exercise is about managing data. You start the process of breaking down the complexity by analyzing the data flows to and from your channels to your content management systems (such as your customer service system). The key to a seamless solution has two main components:
1. One single database
Having just one database that all employees involved in fulfillment use and draw data from is crucial. If Customer Service looks at one system while Logistics looks at another, the end customer will likely experience discrepancies between what they are told. You need a single point of entry.
2. Connection between database and channels
The data flow from the main database to sales channels, e.g. the shopping app, needs to be precise and to have no latency in both directions. Order handling, delivery, financial transaction, marketing reporting, as well as any other fulfillment elements all need to be connected.
What Does your Customer See?
Many sales-driven companies are great at strategy, planning, and building, as well as promoting their products and services, but forget two crucial elements in the customer experience: delivery and care. It’s those two key elements that can make or break a customer’s experience with that company.
It all comes down to integrating the entirety of your supply chain into one strong front end. You may have multiple procedures, priorities, interests, systems, and suppliers, but what the customer should see is one unified company that provides a pleasant shopping experience.
Key Benefits of DSV’s Omni-Channel Fulfillment Services
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