With new technology constantly emerging to enhance the overall retail experience, customer expectations continue to rise. The typical online shopping process has improved in almost all phases, causing e-commerce sellers to adapt and meet the evolving preferences of the modern shopper. These purchasing shifts have impacted fulfillment requirements and methods.

    High customer expectations are affecting logistics in many ways, perhaps none more so than with regards to fulfillment transparency. Studies show greater visibility when an order is in transit will have a positive effect on customers making additional purchases from that retailer. Because of this, real-time updates and on-demand information are necessities, not value-add features. Despite this growing trend, many retailers and brands are currently unable to achieve the goal of full supply chain visibility.

    Improving all areas of the fulfillment process, transparency included, goes a long way toward improving the lifetime value of a customer, especially for e-commerce brands. To effectively grow, e-commerce brands need to make every effort to maintain satisfaction with shoppers while their orders are in transit. This is not an easy task as fulfillment methods are becoming more complex to meet omnichannel demands.

    Key Considerations

    E-commerce brands must educate themselves on the best practices for providing shoppers with accurate, up-to-date order status. One method to achieve this goal is to invest in the appropriate technology stack. Here are three vital components to more effective supply chain management to meet the demands of today’s consumer:

    • Order Management System (OMS) – A necessary tool to optimize order entry and processing, inventory management, and customer service across all channels is a sophisticated OMS. With this tool, sellers can create real-time visibility that allows customers to “travel” with their order throughout the entire fulfillment process. Additionally, a quality OMS can assist customers during the return process, providing current information of an item’s status along its journey back to the seller.
    • Transportation Management System (TMS) – Available through the cloud or on-premise, TMS is a solution that handles most critical functions of the delivery process, including route optimization, and provides heightened transparency while in transit. This software can update the retailer and customer of any issues and even provide estimates on when a product will reach each stage.
    • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – As another link in the technology chain, a CRM system is used to compile useful data on customers. With this information, brands can create personalized messaging and order information to shoppers to enhance customer service and the overall experience.

    While these are certainly not the only helpful technologies, they are essentials for every retailer to keep pace with the demands of today’s fulfillment. Emerging programs offer sellers a growing list of solutions that can (and should) be assessed with current business goals in mind to determine the best fit. Ideal solutions will have a strong customer focus, providing functionality that can improve fulfillment transparency along with overall supply chain efficiency. Whatever technology is used, it is imperative that every system works in tandem to provide perpetual, accurate updates. Not providing enough information can be its own issue, but incorrectly notifying a customer of his or her order status can be more detrimental.

    Maintaining Customer Engagement

    A traditional approach to updating customers throughout the delivery process is to provide tracking numbers that can be typed into a branded page to check on an order. To satisfy today’s consumer, however, more is necessary. Most shoppers feel email updates are a better way to provide this much-desired transparency. This presents an opportunity for emerging e-commerce brands to engage with customers and create a more satisfying and convenient delivery experience. For example, allowing shoppers to personalize when they receive order status updates can prevent potential complaints that may stem from overcrowded inboxes.

    While email notifications are a preferred communication platform, text messages are becoming a viable alternative, as well. Retailers and brands with their own mobile app can utilize push notifications to keep shoppers up-to-date with a quick link to specific order progress timelines. Not only does this satisfy a customer request, it allows brands and retailers to maintain communication with shoppers to ensure that every interaction with a retailer is pleasant and helpful. Even though logistics has become more advanced and efficient, some errors and delays are unavoidable, so it is important for e-commerce brands to make sure their customers know their order status 24/7/365. Email and text messages achieves this goal in a manner that customers prefer.

    Conclusion

    In today’s competitive retail industry, shoppers face no shortage of choices for any product or service. For this reason, consumers prefer to purchase from businesses they feel have their best interest in mind and promote simplicity, reliability, convenience, and quality. Various industry reports predict that the customer experience will soon overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, meaning e-commerce businesses must go above and beyond with the consumer or they risk falling behind. This is particularly true when strategizing to improve the fulfillment stage.

    Providing timely and accurate updates to keep customers informed on the status of their orders is no longer optional. Logistics companies must incorporate fulfillment processes that help nurture and communicate with customers to empower them and feel appreciated. Not doing so can be the difference between a one-time customer and a loyal brand advocate.

    As a founder and CEO of third-party logistics provider Dotcom Distribution, Maria Haggerty leads the charge toward helping retail brands achieve loyalty and return sales by acting as a catalyst for improvement. Recognizing that the e-commerce journey does not end at delivery, Dotcom guides clients in transforming lackluster packages into unboxing experiences worthy of excitement, praise, and sharing. Previously, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and CFO of GoodTimes Home Video, where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. Follow on Twitter @dotcomdist, @mhaggertyceo, or email info@dotcomdistribution.com for more information.

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