There is more opportunity in the world of ecommerce than ever before. But businesses wanting to tap into that opportunity need to navigate significant complexity and high consumer expectation.
The global ecommerce market is currently worth over 5.7 trillion USD and is expected to grow to over 8.1 trillion USD by 2026, according to Statista. The COVID-19 pandemic and closure of many physical stores drove more consumers to shop online than ever before, accelerating the growth of ecommerce. Morgan Stanley calculated that in 2020 and 2021, more than 1 in 5 USD (20%) spent went to online purchases. The growth has persisted - in 2022, 22% of sales are online and that is expected to rise to 27% by 2026.
For businesses, ecommerce has many advantages compared to traditional storefronts or ‘brick and mortar’. They include being:
- Cheaper to set up and maintain
- Not restricted by geography and opening hours
- Easier to scale
- Access to data and analytics
While ecommerce has been a gamechanger for businesses, it has also changed consumer behaviour. Consumers now expect easy access to a wide range of goods, plus cheap and fast delivery. They are also less loyal to brands. The 2022 PwC Customer Loyalty Survey showed volatility in consumer behaviour is at an all-time high. More than half of respondents (51%) said they would not stay loyal to a brand if the online shopping experience was difficult or unenjoyable.
This means that while ecommerce will continue to grow, businesses will need to prepare to deliver exactly what consumers want, when they want it. To survive and thrive online, a business will need to ensure its ecommerce supply chain is resilient, flexible, and agile. Integrated logistics solutions, which cover all aspects of the supply chain – from procurement to customer fulfilment and returns – may be the missing link for many businesses.
Improving visibility with ecommerce logistics services
One of the key benefits of integrated logistics services is end to end visibility. With integrated logistics services, the business can collect accurate, real-time data from processes, partners, vendors, and technology. Even consumers understand the importance of data collection - a 2022 PwC survey found that four out of five consumers would agree to share personal data for a better online shopping experience.
Good data can equip a business with the necessary tools to improve inventory visibility and work towards demand forecasting. With all aspects of the ecommerce supply chain connected, a business can understand which products are in high demand where and decide how much of each item (or stock keeping unit, SKU) to store at each location.
The right products in the right place with integrated commerce logistics
According to a 2022 Ipsos survey, more than half of online shoppers in Europe (57%) expect to have the option of same day or next day delivery. Retail Asia says a similar number of consumers in Asia expect same day delivery (56%), while Statista says it’s expected by 65% of consumers in the United States. End to end ecommerce logistics can help a business ensure the right product reaches the consumer as soon after they place the order as possible.
As outlined above, integrated logistics services support the ecommerce supply chain. They can ensure the relevant SKU is at a warehouse or fulfilment centre close to the consumer. When a consumer places an order, the SKU is already at a warehouse where it can be processed and fulfilled quickly and efficiently, ensuring that no time is lost in getting the order to the consumer.
Integrated logistics services can also include returns management. According to Retail Dive, over 20% of online purchases are returned, versus just 9% for bricks and mortar purchases. And the expectations around returns are high - Shopify says 62% of customers expect an exchange or refund within 30 days. If the returns experience is good, 92% of customers said they would buy from that business again. A logistics partner can help a business, by receiving the return at a suitable warehouse where it can be stored until it is ready to be picked up for a new order.
Resilient, flexible, agile ecommerce logistics
While the supply chain disruptions of recent years are set to ease, 2023 is expected to bring fresh challenges for ecommerce. High energy prices and rising inflation has resulted in changes to consumer spending. Those that are spending are choosing experiences over products or moving away from products that were popular at the peak of the pandemic, such as homewares and leisurewear. Many businesses are finishing 2022 with unexpected levels of unsold inventory. Here too, integrated supply chain management in ecommerce can help. It can connect businesses with a network of warehouses and manage the movement of goods to and between them. It means a business can free up space where it is needed most. Businesses can store stock where it will reach the right consumers, if it is needed, or where it will be cheapest, if it won’t be sold in the immediate future.
Integrated logistics solutions can also help protect a business from other external pressures like geopolitical situations and weather events. When an issue arises, a business can respond quickly. It can vary transportation types and routes. It can move stock from warehouses. It can also lean on its logistics partner to manage much of the complexity, leaving it to focus on its business priorities.
The potential for ecommerce is huge – regardless of the size of a business. For a business that secures a resilient, flexible, and agile ecommerce supply chain, the opportunities to reach new heights are endless.