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Opinion

In e-commerce, delivery is the real differentiator

As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, the crowded e-commerce space has never faced higher competition. In fact, it’s predicted that more than 2.1 billion people worldwide will buy goods and services online by 2021 – compared to 1.8 billion in 2018. The increase in demand has put customers firmly in the driver’s seat, and has sent brands scrambling to meet their ever-increasing expectations.

With this in mind, more brands are looking at shipping and delivery as a way to differentiate their services from the rest of the competition. 

Shopping doesn’t end at check out

With 9.5 million Aussies buying online, according to Roy Morgan, shipping and delivery options can offer a point of difference – whether it’s offering additional services like parcel lockers, twilight deliveries or partnering with eco-friendly shipping providers.

Aussie retailer, The Iconic, is a great example of a brand using shipping as a competitive differentiator. The online clothing market has become increasingly saturated with fashion brands from around the globe all competing for market share. By offering customers free shipping on orders over a certain amount, coupled with different options for delivery depending on the item selected, delivery address and the time of day a customer wants their package delivered, The Iconic has dramatically grown in popularity, with approximately 15 per cent of Australian households now shopping on The Iconic (up 6 per cent since 2017).

Meeting customer demands

As customer expectations rise, brands need to be proactive in their thinking. As such, it’s important to understand what customers want from the brand, instead of relying on assumptions. 

Social media, in particular, gives brands a tool with which to communicate directly with their existing community of customers. Additionally, it gives brands a pulse and real-time feedback on what customers are saying about the brand and their experience. 

In particular, online-fashion company, GlamCorner, has built a strong online presence offering customers, on-demand rentals for high-end, designer clothes. GlamCorner taps into the “insta-inspiration” market, connecting with influencer-inspired customers via social media to offer quick and easy access to high-quality designer items. The business offers customers express delivery options, which not only helps them to stand out from competitors but also provides customers with that feeling of instant gratification, which closely resembles the in-store buying experience.

Failing to meet expectations 

With global retail e-commerce sales predicted to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021, there is a growing recognition of the importance of online shopping, but all too often, we see traditional retail stores struggle as they underestimate or fail to meet the evolving expectations of their customers.

Australian department stores David Jones and Myer were slow to offer customers the seamless shopping experience they’ve come to expect – both in-store and online. As a result of their clunky systems, both chains are rapidly losing both market share and credibility, with their once loyal customers quickly turning to other brands. 

E-commerce businesses face significant challenges, competing not only with the instant gratification of in-store buying, but also with hundreds of other online businesses, and as a result, customers expect a high level of experience. From product selection, to payment – including the availability of options like Zip and Afterpay – and finally flexible shipping, having the right infrastructure in place to stand out from the crowd is crucial. Online businesses only have one opportunity to get the experience right and to earn the loyalty of the customer.

The time is now 

The shopping experience doesn’t just end at check out. Shipping and delivery should be considered as an equally important customer touchpoint. The brands that are able to provide the best shopping experiences, fair prices, outstanding customer service, and thoughtful shipping options – will be the ones that can build and maintain long-term customer relationships.

Shannon Ingrey is vice president and general manager, APAC, at BigCommerce.

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