The retail apocalypse has received plenty of attention over the past three years. Industry experts feared it would spell doom for traditional, brick-and-mortar establishments, but e-commerce is having an unexpected effect. Brick-and-mortar stores that understand the invaluable role of e-commerce in relation to omnichannel supply chain success can help retailers avoid the retail apocalypse. To achieve lasting success, shippers need to understand how e-commerce shipping strategies are quintessential steps in this process.
E-Commerce Threatens to Undercut Brick-and-Mortar Sales
As explained by Steve Dennis of Forbes, the threat of the retail apocalypse goes back to a simple problem; physical retail has experience load growth rates when compared to e-commerce platforms. In a sense, the retail apocalypse, which some believe is all hype and not fact, is about comparing apples to oranges. Brick-and-mortar locations that have not ventured into the realm of e-commerce will falter in comparison to companies that have already embraced e-commerce. In addition, major stores, such as Dollar General and Aldi, are barely scratching the surface of e-commerce, but they are still opening more brick-and-mortar locations. Although brick-and-mortar locations account for more than 90 percent of all retail stores in the US, projections indicate that statistic will drop to 80 percent within the next five years.
The simple truth behind the retail apocalypse is that it is not coming today or tomorrow, but it could happen within the next decade for retailers and shippers that do not reevaluate their use of e-commerce and develop robust e-commerce shipping strategies.
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An Effective E-Commerce Shipping Strategy Mitigates Losses From the “Retail Apocalypse.”
Brands that do reimagine shipping strategies to unify e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales can avoid the snarling teeth of the retail apocalypse, says Dennis. In fact, companies entering the e-commerce market for the first time may consider using outsourced services, but it may come at a cost. The idea is to use third-party resources with white-label branding, allowing for a seamless experience for customers. In turn, the company takes advantage of outside resources that may not be possible within existing shipping strategies, reports Kate Patrick of Supply Chain Dive. This is the making of an effective e-commerce shipping strategy.
Tips to Master E-Commerce Shipping Strategies
To avoid the retail apocalypse over the next five years, asserts Salesfloor, shippers must follow these best practices in e-commerce:
- Make customer service a priority in “faceless” e-commerce transactions. The winning e-commerce shipping strategy must consider the fact that online shoppers may not have any real interaction with physical customer service representatives. As a result, the importance of customer service grows in the realm of e-commerce.
- Use data to understand customers’ online shopping habits. Shippers must also work to understand customers online shopping habits, a key step in an effective e-commerce shipping strategy. Understanding customers online shopping habits, as well as brick-and-mortar shopping habits, such as the opening of new stores in necessity-based anchor sensors, such as grocery stores, can help retailers navigate the use of e-commerce in conjunction with brick-and-mortar retail.
- Leverage new technology to improve e-commerce checkout, shipping, and returns management. Since e-commerce has a significantly higher rate of returns, then brick-and-mortar returns, approximately 21.2 percent, shippers must leverage technology to improve the entire e-commerce shopping journey, ranging from an initial point of contact to returns management.
- Make getting a shipping quote hassle-free for customers. Speed is everything in the world of e-commerce, and customers want to find out information about a product and its cost without being forced into signing up for a customer account or logging into a given company’s website. This may include adding shipping information to product pages.
- Try to avoid profitability in shipping. The biggest problem with an e-commerce shipping strategy develops when shippers seek to turn shipping into a profit center. This is next to impossible in the e-commerce-driven world, and successful e-commerce shipping strategies aim to break even on shipping costs. Shippers should make their money in the cost of the product, not how it arrives at a customer’s doorstep.
- Ship next-business-day as standard shipping for e-commerce purchases. Customers expect delivery on their purchases yesterday. While this is impossible, the next best thing is next-business-day delivery. Should be the standard for all e-commerce shipping strategies and purchases.
- Use technology to track shipments in real time. Customers and shippers can improve profitability by increasing traceability of shipments, and viewing shipment status in real-time can mean the difference between a canceled order and repeat orders in the future.
- Address lost shipments immediately. There will be instances when a shipment is lost or otherwise damaged during transportation. Any cases involving lost or damaged shipment should be addressed immediately, so it may be necessary to outsource claims processing or implement automated freight claims processes.
Putting It All Together
E-Commerce is forcing shippers to rethink their existing shipping strategies, and even those that wish to hold onto brick-and-mortar locations must follow the tips for success in e-commerce shipping. Failure to do so will result in added freight costs, which will translate into higher prices for consumers. Unfortunately, the scenario ends one way; your customers will go to your competitors. Avoid that risk by implementing a winning e-commerce shipping strategy today.