If there’s one aspect of online shopping that has challenged retailers most, it’s shipping. Managing increasing consumer expectations regarding timing and flexibility of order dispatch, without draining profits made from purchases, is an on-going battle – especially considering fulfillment trends are constantly evolving.
In fact, during the course of this year, the shipping landscape is set to change again, with new issues coming to the fore. Here are 3 major trends we predict will impact U.S. ecommerce companies in 2015:
Consumers will continue to set the trends
Shoppers are driving the pace and direction of retail. When it comes to delivery options, they crave convenience, speed and value for money, and ecommerce companies that can best offer this will thrive in 2015.
One of the major challenges with these ever-rising expectations is meeting demands without damaging profit margins. Even the industry benchmark for fulfillment, Amazon, operates at a loss in some cases to ensure timely delivery – something that smaller companies cannot afford to do.
In order to reach these consumer-set standards this year, a growing number of technology vendors will launch fulfillment solutions to make fast, flexible delivery more profitable.
These solutions will address not only the challenges of shipping to online customers, but meeting the requirements of omnichannel orders – balancing inventory and fulfillment via digital orders with demands in the store.
Cross-border trade with Canada will increase
As more online retailers expand into international territories, the cost and practicalities of fulfilling across borders are reduced. This is certainly true of the U.S. and Canada, where ecommerce boundaries are being lowered all the time.
The opportunity in Canada is strong; according to the Canada Post, 4 in 5 Canadians have bought an item online, while 2 in 3 have had goods delivered from overseas.
Not only this, but many of the barriers that hinder ecommerce companies from trading overseas – language barriers, unfamiliar legislation and currency, cultural differences – are not a concern when appealing to a Canadian audience.
Like with customer-centric shipping, as fulfillment technologies improve throughout 2015, establishing a delivery network to neighboring countries will become even easier.
Returns will be ecommerce’s next big battle
Many e-tailers have created effective strategies for shipping goods, but haven’t yet worked out how to profitably manage returns. Those with an omni-channel presence may be struggling to accept the return of online orders to a store, while pure plays are trying to find a way of making sure returned purchases don’t drain their profits.
Particularly for growing businesses, high return rates can cripple cash flow, so it’s essential to streamline the process in order to limit the strain of reintegrating unwanted stock.
A positive returns experience also has the power to drive repeat business, so ecommerce businesses should be placing greater emphasis on refining this process. Simple changes include giving customers the option to print off a returns label at home, or including a prepared label in the outgoing packaging, should the end buyer decide they want to return the item after all.