What's in store for ecommerce brands in 2019? - Mamas & Papas opinion

By Chris Greenwood

2019 is going to be the year of more change for the UK retail sector. Primarily, the power and potential of true customer-centric delivery will be realised by the ecommerce industry. A conscious effort to move away from simply offering ‘fast and free’ delivery should be expected, in favour of delivery options that are more customisable and transparent, prioritising customer convenience.

There are four main factors I believe will impact the industry this year.

Falling in and out of love with Amazon

Consumers place online marketplaces like Amazon in high regard because of the breadth of delivery choice offered. Amazon is widely admired for customisable, fast and free delivery, and lots of retailers are looking to emulate that in their own delivery function. However, if you’re representing a luxury brand, with luxury products, the same strategy will not align with your brand values. In my experience, delivery strategy needs to be led by three things: your customers, your brand and your product.

I’ve recently spoken with some fellow UK retailers, and the perception is that Amazon is driving up expectations. In actual fact, it’s making it challenging for retailers and placing pressure on them to mirror delivery offerings that are either not necessary, or impossible. Without using data from customer purchases to inform what kind of delivery options brands should have at the point of checkout, delivery becomes ineffective and it can also become difficult to manage if retailers try to do everything themselves.

When overhauling the delivery function in ecommerce, retailers need to ensure technology supports and integrates with their existing services. For a retailer, their ecommerce business never stops, particularly as they can’t afford a lengthy carrier onboarding process.   

Technology

Delivery complexities smoothed out thanks to automation

It’s important that retailers figure out what parts of the delivery and logistics process to automate. For example, if you have a broad portfolio of products like we do at Mamas & Papas – everything from cots to baby booties – it creates shipping complexities. First, how do you match the right delivery type and carrier to individual items? And secondly, from a technology perspective, how can you automate that process at checkout?

The trick is to deploy an automation tool – preconfigured with carrier options and services – with built-in machine learning. It needs to rely on a robust rule-based engine in order to consider a number of things instantaneously. For example, what kind of product is it? What is the basket mix? What location are the items going to, is it remote? Mamas&Papas ships far and wide, and somewhere like the Channel Islands can only handle a 3-day delivery option, so the rule-based system would automatically show the appropriate delivery options for that location.

Drawing of robot

What about Brexit?

There is still a lot of uncertainty around the implications of Brexit in the lead up to the deadline. And because of this, a lot of industries remain at a standstill. However, retailers need to look beyond the Brexit gloom, specifically at how international growth will be a key driver this year.

Recent research from Global Freight Solutions showed that online retailers are exploring growth opportunities outside of Europe, in response to uncertainty around trade regulations caused by Brexit. Currently, only 1 in 3 retailers attribute 10 percent of revenue to international business, but there is a clear ambition in 2019, that UK retailers (76 percent) expect to increase international revenue.

Huge potential lies outside of the EU with retailers prioritising the US, Australia and China for growth opportunities, yet we still need to have a plan that covers all eventualities, in order to come out of the EU.

EU flag

The future of delivery, the big picture

Despite the general fervour around the possibilities of drone delivery, taking into consideration health and safety laws and robustness of the solution, it’s still a way off yet. This year, it’s all about being pragmatic, and having the flexibility to change and adapt with the market. This enables customers to find a breadth of relevant options.

Pure and simple, online customers want convenience. While retailers need to match changing consumer trends and tastes, they also need to match that where delivery is concerned. Retailers need to overhaul their functionality and carrier partnerships for the right commercial reasons as well. Your customers, your brand and products should be at the centre of your delivery strategy.

Chris Greenwood, CIO, Mamas & Papas

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