Managing the Amazon Effect
Whether online or in-store, customers expect an immediate and frictionless shopping experience, thanks to Amazon. To compete, you must level the playing field with experiences that keep customers coming back to your branded e-commerce site.
1. Provide consumers with convenience experiences. Convenience experiences can include anything from customizable products to buy-now-pay-later options to simply providing convenience. Offer consumers the option to choose the most convenient delivery method, select the delivery date, or accept multiple ship-to addresses. Retailers that can provide "convenience experiences" similar to what Amazon does will continue to compete.
2. Look at the entire purchasing process. Examine the purchasing process from browsing and checkout through delivery and returns. Every interaction with a brand is pivotal in developing a repeat—or better yet, lifelong—customer.
3. Use seamlessly integrated systems. When used together, order management systems and e-commerce storefronts enable retailers to automate manual or time-consuming processes to manage inventory, transactions, or fulfillment.
4. Enable customers to see all inventory. Make sure customers see accurate inventory across all channels as this is one of the first customer-facing interactions that consumers have with a retailer. Allow customers to pick and choose how they want their order fulfilled—pick-up-in-store, curbside, or home delivery.
5. Enable omnichannel fulfillment. Be certain you can fulfill any order from any distribution point with improved shipping times. Make sure your fulfillment capabilities successfully scale, such as having the ability to fulfill orders locally from a micro-distribution center or a centralized warehouse or other location.
6. Implement a customer service (CS) portal. Representatives need to promptly and accurately answer customer questions and inquiries. A web- and role-based CS system provides global visibility so that representatives can see all the orders placed across every channel. Give customers the ability to change their minds on their fulfillment location with grace periods before sending orders to be fulfilled.
7. Offer preorders and accept backorders. These offers help you gain momentum and improve the customer experience. If a product is out of stock, highlight on the storefront when it is expected back in stock. When retailers integrate ERP information with order management and inventory, they know what inventory is scheduled to show up at the DC. This helps businesses gauge the volume of demand they might expect by having pre-sales or pre-orders. Retailers won't lose orders by being able to supply a backorder scenario where customers wait a few extra weeks.
8. Make returns and exchanges easy. Give customers the ability to self-initiate the process. Retailers can also incentivize consumers to make additional purchases during the process. Retailers need to be prepared for an influx of returns post-holiday and as e-commerce sales continue to soar. Use technology to optimize returns and ensure a seamless end-to-end customer experience.
9. Communicate often and well. Be sure customers have what they need, when they need it, including order status, shipment notifications, and SMS notifications. Communications on a BOPIS or curbside order are more complex as customers need details about where to pick up the order, when it will be ready, and if there are any additional charges.
10. Implement a buy anywhere,fulfill anywhere, return anywhere model. These options range from BOPIS and curbside pick up to drop shipping and ship-from-store. This type of convenience delights customers and makes them want to do more business with a retailer or tell their friends about how great it is to shop with the store.
SOURCE: Ed Rusch, Chief Revenue Officer, Deck Commerce