November 11, 2015

‘Tis the season to shop, as you’ll have noticed if you’ve stopped into any big box store in the last week or so.

The digital world is gearing up for holiday ecommerce as well, with Black Friday flyers leaking out online and retailers shouting “free shipping!” from the rooftops.

So far, so standard. But what is changing is the way consumers perceive this annual shopping extravaganza. Continue reading Cyber Season: Holiday Ecommerce Blurs Shopping Boundaries

September 11, 2014
Free twitter bar
Next stop: Buy Me on Twitter? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of focus on one-click buying in order fulfillment circles, and with good reason.

Established online retailers like Amazon and eBay have embraced the impulsive allure of quick click purchases for some time, but it’s the more recent roll outs by social networks, first Facebook and now Twitter, that offer the most promising area for expansion.

Retailers already do plenty of work within their own digital walls to up sell and cross sell existing customers. Outside of their own ecosystem the focus has been to attract new customers through advertising and optimizing their sites for search engines.

Social networks, until now, have been an sandpit in which companies can talk to their customers and perhaps raise awareness of their products, but rarely are they seen as a source of direct sales.

Integrating easy-to-use buy buttons within the walls of popular social media sites could change all that, expanding the reach of ecommerce operators exponentially.

one click buying button

One of the main challenges to both retailer and social site to date has been losing control of the customer.

For the retailer, it’s a balancing act between showcasing products on a social network without selling too heavily and driving customers away from the brand in general. For the social network, sending users to another site for another activity has to be balanced with the desire to keep them on site, enjoying the entertainment element that brought them there in the first place.

If immediate buy buttons become a common enough element of social sites both of these problems could be addressed with one solution. Customers can spot a product they like, quickly process the transaction within the walls of Facebook, and get back to catching up with friends, commenting on a cat meme, or playing the latest Facebook game fad (and unwittingly inviting the rest of us to do so). Sale for retailer, easy purchase for customer, increased stickiness for social network, a win-win-win scenario for all involved, no?

The answer to that will slowly be revealed as Facebook and Twitter test their buy buttons, but there are certainly some obstacles.

For one, social sites aren’t currently considered as the online malls that retailers and tech startups might like them to be. Although some transactions are carried out already, such as in-app purchases and buying advertising, the general act of social media shopping is in its infancy. As such, there are plenty of bumps in the road to navigate before brands convince customers to not just like or follow them there, but also buy what they’re selling. And that selling is also somewhat at odds with the general consensus that social media marketing is based on being informative and entertaining, not yet another sales space. The former could limit the latter, even when simple sales functions are put in place.

The other aspect that still worries many customers is just who they can trust with their details online. The biggest brand names online and off – Target, Apple, Home Depot and many more – have been dragged through the mud this year thanks to digital hacker attacks, making customer leary of expanding their purchase activity outside of the providers they already trust. Overcoming these security concerns will be just as important as convincing customers that social sites are a place they want to shop in the first place.

Even against these pronounced challenges, social network shopping holds so much potential that retailers will be pulling out all the stops to build a foundation for its future.

If they’re successful, those of us providing ecommerce order fulfillment services must be ready to meet the resulting rise in demand.


July 2, 2014
Web test devices
What does your smartphone mean for your shopping habits? (Photo credit: mono_spaced)

Mobile technology and ecommerce are inextricably linked, so any significant shift in the dynamic of the former can have major implications for the latter.

Here at the business end of the industry, where online activity is finally translated to physical delivery, we see and feel these shifts more than most.

So when Amazon announced its new Fire Phone last month, those of us in the business of order fulfillment started calculating the likely impact.


Amazon Drives Up Shopping on Smartphones

The move is the next logical step for Amazon, who moved quickly a few years ago to secure delivery of digital goods through their Kindle Fire tablet.

Positioned at the cheapest end of the market -and presumably sold more or less at cost – the device brought a raft of new users to the 7″ inch screen. More importantly for Amazon, it brought plenty of new customers into the company’s retail ecosystem.

With an “always-on” connection, the Fire Phone is likely to have a similar effect, even if competition in the more mature smartphone market limits adoption. At its most fundamental level, Amazon wants you to be able to buy anytime, anywhere, and spend more as you do so. As Marketwatch reports a 55% increase in spend when using an Amazon device, it seems to be working.

Or, as credit expert Ben Woolsey puts it in the same article, “Amazon Fire Phone definitely appears to be a mobile wallet first, with the phone functionality being a necessary but ancillary feature.”


How Your Smartphone Choice Influences Your Shopping

Amazon’s expansion into the mobile phone market means even more ability for consumers to define just how much we want to do with our smartphone. Consider these 3 ways your smartphone influences your shopping:

  1. Seamless Purchases: Browsing on your smartphone is becoming almost indistinguishable from actually buying. One-click purchasing takes most of the opportunity for buyer’s block to hit, so being plugged into Amazon’s vast online retail space as part of the phone’s operating system. This is less likely for physical goods on Android and Apple phones, but digital content and in-app purchases can still make a dent in your wallet without a moment’s thought.
  2. Impulse Buys: Where as physical points of sale can only store a few select items to impulse buy as you check out (usually those that are everyday necessities or that tempt your sweet tooth), online retailers can add a wide variety of extra recommendations, targeted to your unique buying patterns. Recommendation algorithms are getting better at knowing exactly what we want, when we want it, and are bumping up shopping bills as we add extra items to the cart.
  3. Access Everywhere: Your smartphone goes everywhere you go, more or less, and enables retailers to communicate with you in almost every way. Emails, texts, push notifications and in-app advertising all offer a route to push your shopping buttons with special offers and limited-time sales.

It remains to be seen whether Amazon will wield the same kind of influence on smartphones as they have achieved on desktop and tablets, but online retail as a whole is undoubtedly going to thrive as more consumers go mobile. Just make sure you keep an eye on those credit card bills!



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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September 3, 2013

Warby Parker LogoWhen hip e-commerce glasses site Warby Parker launched three years ago is was said to represent the future of retail. Stores it was said would soon be a thing of the past. The glasses were inexpensive, stylish and could be purchased from the comfort of your laptop.

Well, the future of retail is beginning to look a little bit more like its past. Warby Parker now has 4 stores and 12 “store in stores” around which offer on-site eye exams and sell glasses. Last week, Neil Blumenthal, the co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker said last week that the future of retail is “omni-channel.” That means the best way to distribute its products is to make them available everywhere.

I’ve never been a huge fan of buying exclusively online. Let’s be honest, buying online can be a hassle. Warby Parker will send you five frames. That’s a good start but many shoppers (like me) often try on many more. Then there’s the hassle of returning them. Just this afternoon my wife was on the phone with another e-tailer trying to figure out what went wrong and arranging for a return.

Warby Parker has figured out that sometimes it’s just easier to go to the store. Neil Blumenthal also said that research shows that buyers who make purchases across multiple channels are more valuable in the long run. They key is to lock them into the brand.

The logistics behind making good available across multiple channels can be complicated. No longer are wholesalers merely shipping products to retail outlets. Now, they’re doing that in addition to making goods available on line. It could become a costly proposition, increasing prices ultimately for consumers. Let’s hope that increasing volumes of sales make an “omni-channel” approach worthwhile.

Pando Daily’s interview with Neil Blumenthal:


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