June 19, 2014

The rapid growth of ecommerce and, more recently mcommerce, has forced businesses to question the future of retail.

Where for years it was assumed that the Walmart model of big box = better was the way forward, even the behemoth is starting to think smaller is slicker, in some cases. Continue reading The Future of Retail: Bigger & Better or Smaller & Slicker?

March 25, 2014
English: The Home Depot in Knightdale, North C...
The Home Depot in Knightdale, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a $300 million investment this year in connected order fulfillment channels, Home Depot has posed a question that cuts to the core of transactions in the digital era: do we really need the ‘e’?

The nationally recognized brand is investing to synchronize its web, mobile and bricks and mortar shopping experience by developing enhanced distribution centers. These improvements aim to offer customers a seamless experience no matter how they decide to buy, which in turn lessens the focus on traditional e-commerce solutions.

With a significant proportion of its online orderers opting for physical store pick-ups, Home Depot has come to the conclusion that e-commerce is really just plain old commerce via new channels, and perhaps too much focus on the online aspect blinkers it to opportunities to connect the dots of its order fulfillment.

So far from e-commerce killing the shopping mall, it seems that physical stores will in fact play a role in killing e-commerce. The trend towards buying online is going nowhere, of course, but the term itself could soon become as outmoded as “personal computer” and “surfing the web.”

The important element for supply chain managers is to note the underlying alignment of technology that will drive this trend to connected order fulfillment. Consumers now carry an array of devices, from laptops and smartphones to tablets and “phablets” in between. While there remains a gap in the user experience on each of these, it is narrowing rapidly and cloud technology has us expecting a synchronized, seamless transfer between devices with every new development.

In the same sense, shoppers will increasingly expect to complete purchases in one part of the order process and jump to another for delivery.

A last-minute order over the phone may require expedited home delivery, while one placed in line at the bank may be ideal for pick up from your store around the corner. Customers will continue to destroy any distinction between being online or off as this happens. Retailers would be well advised to do the same for existing e-commerce initiatives, as we prepare for the next evolution of ordering.

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February 14, 2014
Rose bouquet (Photo credit: ** RCB **)

Continuing where we left off yesterday, the inability to provide Valentine’s Day flower deliveries snowballed into quite a media storm over the last 24 hours. And as the big day dawns, opinions seem to be varied as to just how well florists will be able to meet delivery demand today.

Over at CNN’s Fortune, the impact of snowstorm Pax is thought to be limited because the flowers have already arrived in the country and been cut, ready to order. Everyone knew that the storm was coming and most have made alternative delivery arrangements, whether before or at some point over the hastily adjusted “Valentine’s Weekend.” The adverse weather is a mere inconvenience at this point, they suggest.

The Washington Post, however, sees a much more difficult day ahead for florists desperate to make the most of the biggest day for their business. Their report tells of owners desperately making deliveries themselves, seeing every one as an opportunity to offset some of the inevitable lost sales.

Online orders also seem to be a mixed bag… bouquet.

Proflowers is sticking to the message that we reported yesterday, accepting no new delivery orders because of the storm. But main rival 1-800 Flowers seems to be sticking to business-as-usual, with Valentine’s Day delivery orders being accepted up to noon in each time zone.

And amid all of this weather confusion in the East, it’s perhaps comforting to know that the discussion on the West coast sticks to a good old-fashioned moan about exploitative Valentine’s pricing.

The truth will out over the next 12 hours or so as to just how much impact the snow has on flower deliveries. If you’re looking for a last-minute bouquet for your sweetheart on the East coast, though, we’d suggest getting a shovel and digging on over to your nearest store. Nothing says I love you like a five-hour trip to the florist!

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January 21, 2014
English: A shopping cart full icon from "...
Shopping cart full icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia – iSimple System Icons)

If there was any uncertainty over the importance of ecommerce to retailers and the wider world economy, the sheer speed of its breakout growth is quickly dismissing that doubt.

A study conducted by OC&C and Google set the six-year growth of online retail at the $130 billion mark by 2020, taking into account major Western markets including Germany, Britain, and the U.S.

The figure may not surprise those of us who see first-hand the amount of physical goods flowing through the supply chain thanks to orders originating online, but there are many retailers whose ecommerce platforms need some fine-tuning at best, or a complete overhaul at worst. The order fulfillment process lies at the heart of this improvement, but there are also implications for the customer service, sales and marketing functions right behind getting the order correct and in the hands of the customer.

Interestingly, despite the vast consumer base and the fact that many technology solutions originate here, the U.S. is not the world’s most advanced ecommerce market. That distinction goes to the considerably smaller U.K., which nonetheless has an online trade surplus of more than $1 billion.

The U.S. still has a healthy $180 million by the same measure, but will be expected to catch up with its European counterparts as more of the population owns one-click consumption devices like tablets and smartphones. North American businesses need to be ready to transition to taking a majority of orders online as that happens, again referring back to that expected fivefold increase in ecommerce by 2020.

This latest study is proof positive that consumers are moving to the 24/7 ordering model, with all of the associated opportunities and challenges that come with it. If you have questions about how the supply chain of your business must change to rise to the ecommerce boom, get in touch with us!

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