3 E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2014
With e-commerce sales expected to reach $434.2 billion by 2017, retailers need to keep pace with new technological advances and lofty customer expectations to capture a larger portion of sales this year.
Although the retail landscape changed dramatically in 2013, many common themes that were introduced last year will continue to shape the industry and have a greater impact throughout 2014. In particular, three major trends will play a large role in retail e-commerce strategies as we move into 2014:
1. Delivery speed: Amazon.com's recent announcement that it will use drones to deliver packages under five pounds within 30 minutes positioned delivery speed top of mind for consumers. Although it's just a blueprint, Amazon's plans represent a fundamental shift in customer expectations regarding the demand for ultraspeedy deliveries.
While this is a futuristic concept for most major retailers, same-day and next-day delivery are gaining traction in the industry. Last fall, Amazon announced it would offer same-day delivery in many large U.S. cities. Since then, many other big-box and online retailers have announced similar offerings, most recently Home Depot.
We can expect this trend to continue as more consumers expect same-day and expedited delivery at a reasonable price. Implementing faster delivery times and same-day delivery can be a logistical nightmare however without the technology and processes in place to track and fulfill timely orders. Retailers should ensure their third-party logistics provider can quickly scale for higher order volumes with no impact on quality or speed.
2. Omnichannel expansion: Many brands were focused on building and experimenting with their cross-channel capabilities in 2013. In 2014, the omnichannel concept will continue to evolve as brands focus on further integrating the offline and online experiences through social media, physical showrooms for online-only retailers, mobile and tablet offerings, and branded delivery.
This is an area with huge growth potential, but most major retailers still have a long way to go. It's important to provide a consistent experience across every channel. Shoppers should be able to seamlessly browse for products on their mobile device, check out on their tablet, pick up their order in-store and return through the mail.
Retailers should also offer an accurate picture of inventory levels both in-store and online, regardless of channel. Unfortunately, many retailers fell short this holiday season by featuring out-of-stock products on their e-commerce websites. An effective logistics provider can help you ensure an accurate view of real-time inventory regardless of location or delivery method.
3. Leverage data to capture real-time purchases: E-commerce gives retailers access to valuable customer data on past behavior and preferences. Brands that aren't leveraging this data to offer personalized deals that push the consumer to purchase are missing out on valuable revenue opportunities.
For example, if a customer purchases one pair of pajamas every Christmas from the same online retailer, the retailer could offer a coupon for 20 percent off a second pair of pajamas. Having access to this information and incentivizing customers to buy more products with customized offers can increase revenue and encourage repeat purchases.
There's also an opportunity for savvy brands to leverage online pricing data to replenish low inventory by repurchasing discounted products from another retailer and selling it at a higher price point. This works well when convenience is a priority and consumers want to purchase all of the items they need from one retailer.
With the rapid pace of change in retail and emerging technologies, it's critical for retailers to stay ahead of the latest trends and shopper behaviors. Moving into 2014, the most successful retailers will implement practical solutions to capitalize on these opportunities and gain competitive advantage.
Maria Haggerty is CEO and one of the original founders of Dotcom Distribution, a premier provider of B2C and B2B fulfillment and distribution services. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business with a concentration in Accounting. Maria plays an integral role in developing and defining all aspects of the business, including sales and marketing, operations, finance and IT. As CEO, she is responsible for providing strategic leadership, establishing long range goals, and developing strategies for the senior leadership team. Maria has developed the systemic and procedural infrastructure necessary to provide timely and accurate analysis of budgets, financial reports and financial trends in order to assist the Board, senior executives and clients in performing their responsibilities while achieving favorable results. She works closely with the leadership team to enhance, develop, and enforce procedures that will improve the overall operation and effectiveness of the corporation. During her tenure at the Dotcom, Maria has developed an environment of continual improvement by supporting the Senior Leadership Team and their department managers on continuous process, space labor, automation, and financial best practices. Prior to founding Dotcom, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and was later the CFO of GoodTimes Home Video where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. When Maria is not in the office, she enjoys traveling around the world and practicing her photography skills.