The retail industry is constantly evolving. And in a market that is hyper-competitive, businesses that want to thrive must differentiate themselves. By understanding consumer preferences and trends, you can make informed decisions that position your business for success.
How are consumers purchasing products? What are their expectations when they do? And how can you strike a balance between meeting customer expectations and keeping your margins healthy? Below, we’ll answer some of those questions and explore a few of the current retail trends your fulfillment operation should be keeping pace with:
- Online shoppers expect fast and reliable delivery
- Data integration and real-time tracking is a must
- Customer loyalty requires an omnichannel experience
- “Peak” season may look more like a hill than a mountain
- Mobile retail is becoming mission-critical
1 . Online shoppers expect fast and reliable delivery
Today’s online shoppers have high expectations when it comes to shipping and delivery of their orders. Fast, reliable service has become the standard, and a pivotal factor in their overall shopping experience. Customers have grown accustomed to quick turnaround times, and anticipate seamless order processing, accurate tracking information, and timely delivery.
Clear communication and updates on their order status, combined with hassle-free returns and dependable customer support are also musts.
Meeting these expectations is no longer an option but a necessity for businesses aiming to thrive.
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2. Data integration and real-time tracking is a must
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us just how brittle the supply chain was. As the retail industry continues to recover from its effects, many are realizing that the ability to adapt to changes in real-time can provide a critical buffer for businesses. Data silos are common in fulfillment operations, but more tech-savvy businesses are setting themselves up for success by opting for better data integration and real-time tracking of product movement and inventory.
Integrated, real-time data allows businesses to gather data-driven insights, proactively resolve issues, optimize operations, improve efficiency, and improve communication with retailers and end customers. Data also shows that customers are happier when they have access to accurate delivery estimates and real-time updates.
3. Customer loyalty requires an omnichannel experience
Customers, especially younger generations, are digital natives and expect a seamless experience. Convenience is key, and omnichannel retail experiences meet the customer where they’re at, whether that’s on your brand website, an online retail marketplace, or in a brick-and-mortar store.
Omnichannel logistics can be complex - but that’s what your 3rd party logistics (3PL) provider is for. And once your omnichannel operations are up and running, you’ll be able to reach customers across all your sales channels—online and in-store - increasing conversions while saving time and money.
Another benefit of omnichannel fulfillment is improved data and transparency. With just one system—rather than many separate systems—you will have one source of truth for data, allowing you to make informed decisions about your business’s operations and adapt quickly. And in a market that’s highly competitive and always evolving, that flexibility is critical.
4. “Peak” season is more of a hill than a mountain
Every year, it feels like holiday promotions are popping up in stores earlier and earlier - and, in fact, they are. A few decades ago, holiday shopping and peak season was primarily in-person and limited to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cyber Monday entered the game in 2005 as online shopping boomed and more consumers opted to shop at home rather than go out.
In the years since, retailers and brands have tested different tactics to differentiate themselves and gain more peak shoppers. Today, it’s not uncommon for the first “holiday” sales to start in October or even September. And that’s not to mention how Prime Day has created a “Black Friday in July” phenomenon. What does this mean for your business? The typical “peak” may actually span out across several months. It is important to ensure that you have sufficient stock—and staff— to manage increased demand throughout the months leading up to the holidays.
5. Mobile retail is becoming mission critical
The popularity of mobile shopping continues to rise, and today over three quarters (76%) of all U.S. adults say they buy things using their mobile phone—and that number is much higher for shoppers under 50. The most mobile-friendly age group was 30-49, with a whopping 92% reporting having made purchases via smartphone. If your target demographic is under 50, having good mobile purchasing options is a must. And even if it isn’t, it’s still a good very good idea.
While Americans report that they generally prefer to shop in-store versus online, we also know that many shoppers do pre-purchase research on their phones, and that mobile shopping ticks up during the holiday season. To maximize opportunity, savvy businesses will meet customers where they are at, whether in store, on a computer, or—you guessed it—on a mobile device.
Businesses that adapt their logistics operations to stay on top of current retail trends will be most successful in today’s omnichannel environment. A great 3PL will help you gain a competitive edge with fast shipping options, real-time data, “peak” season flexibility, and accurate fulfillment across all your sales channels.
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