Opinion

Changing e-commerce needs with technology

Venkat Rao | Updated on August 05, 2021

Traditional kirana stores will have to navigate the e-commerce path to grow   -  Bloomberg

Technology is key to converting in-store buyers into online buyers for the long term

As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect businesses, e-commerce is likely to fill the gap. Consumers are expected to continue avoiding brick-and-mortar stores and shopping centres, so traditional retailers and shop owners in both metro and non-metro are increasingly looking to go online amidst predictions for future waves. The disruption and change for businesses and consumers have led to emerging technology trends that will be here to stay.

There are four trends that businesses need to be aware of:

e-commerce growth will continue

The upward trend in e-commerce will continue as top giants and consumer-facing companies deepen their reach within the country in tier three and beyond towns, expanding operations and moving towards online and direct-to-customer environments. In addition, smaller and home-based e-tailing businesses are also experiencing significant growth, driving them to invest in solutions that empower them to meet customer needs.

The technology dependence continues to dominate with the following trends:

(a) Emergence of meta-aggregators that are enabling small and large sellers alike to go online: hundreds of e-commerce platforms are empowering companies and individuals to create online stores with all the necessary functionality in one place.

(b) Digital payment systems (including cards and mobile) have made online shopping easier, letting consumers buy domestically and internationally with equal ease.

(c) Shipping platforms are encouraging this shift too, letting users compare different carrier options, as well as pricing information and delivery times. The solutions offer order management features, greater flexibility, and more visibility, delivering cost management and optimising the customer experience.

(d) Hyperlocal strategies are enabling last-mile delivery and helping control associated costs. e-commerce giants are executing their last-mile delivery policies with a combination of owned warehouses and integrating with local stores to build a robust supply chain framework.

Increased use of analytics for deeper, more valuable insights

Organisations that invest in solutions that provide greater insight into parcel tracking and delivery will also be able to alleviate concerns over lost and delayed parcels. By leveraging technologies that use simple dashboards to display information, managers will be able to see crucial data at a glance to drive better, more informed business decisions, including forecasting trends and cost efficiencies.

Parcel shipping solutions can help track packages and documents, and provide visibility into volumes, delivery information, shipping spend, and more. SaaS and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) models are letting businesses come online on a shoestring budget with bespoke development. Analytics is helping faster response to monetise new parcel categories and tracking customer classification and quality of products and services provided by the ecosystem (third-party logistics, sellers, and platforms).

Free versus fast delivery

Currently, customers have the option to receive their parcels within hours of ordering via hyperlocal providers or even through international delivery that has pushed efficiencies and rates predictability for sellers by as high as 99 per cent. Consumers are expecting fast and free delivery, which is much coming from their experience with large online shopping platforms. This expectation is not always easily matched by smaller e-tailers, as there is no such thing as free shipping … someone ends up paying for freight. When deciding on speed and cost of delivery, it’s therefore important to consider what will drive the best customer experience and result in customer loyalty.

Fast shipping has led to technology innovations in each step of parcel delivery. Pitney Bowes has recently launched ParcelPoint™ Smart Lockers that automate, streamline and digitise parcel and mail management delivering a user-friendly, safe, secure, and convenient contactless pickup experience at office receptions, railway stations, gated community complexes, university campuses, and more.

Shipping weight is the new reality

In 2012 or earlier, India’s fast internet speed was limited to cosmopolitan areas and the user and customer experience was average when it came to delivery times. The logistics service providers had prohibitive tariffs based on dead weight with multiple challenges around freight capacity and route optimisation.

Technology has been a significant enabler in shifting from dead weight measurement to volumetric-based tariffs for parcels. Since 2014-15, volumetric weight measuring has been empowering freight optimisation, capacity and route management, leveraging geo-mapping and geotagging, which has resulted in improved and consistent customer experience.

For e-commerce sellers, this has enabled in streamlining delivery timelines, packaging guidelines and proactive customer and carrier engagement. This is helping with new idea generation in this space and creating many start-ups in the country.

The future is in converting in-store shoppers to online buyers, retaining them over time and growing their share of online spend. The best way to achieve this is to continuously adopt new technologies and grow investment in the underlying data assets to support this.

The writer is Vice-President & Country Head, Sending Technology Solutions, India & ASEAN at Pitney Bowes

Published on August 05, 2021

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