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How Retailers May Have the ‘Perfect Storm’ of COVID, PEAK & BREXIT

2020 has seen a seismic shift in online retail. Forced closure of bricks and mortar stores at the start of the year due to COVID-19 meant 37% of us shopped online more than ever before. As a result, eCommerce sales, which had been hovering around 20% YoY, skyrocketed to a ten-year high. Since then, retailers have been battling with a dizzying cocktail of unprecedented order levels, local lockdown restrictions and vastly reduced staff numbers in warehouses – only to be met with a second national lockdown at peak season.

As we battle through the final stretch of this difficult year, thoughts are turning to 2021. Brexit, still largely an unknown quantity, is only a matter of weeks away and with many believing COVID has changed consumer shopping habits for good, retailers could be facing the ‘perfect storm’.

Controlling delivery options at the checkout

Delivery and returns are at the heart of the customer’s online experience and will be crucial to winning their confidence as we move into uncharted territory. Retailers must not only provide great communication and transparency to their customers, but also provide them with a wide range of delivery options. This means having a detailed view of your shipments and offering options such as same day, next day, nominated day or click and collect, for example. The more delivery options, the happier the customer, and the less you need to worry about offering fast and free delivery for everyone. The additional benefit to this approach is that, if teamed with the right technology, you have the potential to add or remove delivery options depending on capacity. Controlling delivery options at checkout level will nip any capacity issues in the bud, helping to avoid bigger delays and disappointed customers further down the line.

Optimising delivery costs by using multiple carriers

The nature of an on-going pandemic means you can no longer plan and forecast in the usual way. Instead, businesses must focus on mitigating risks with robust contingency planning, ensuring they have the flexibility and agility to adapt whatever the circumstances. This means it is vital retailers work with more than one carrier to fulfil their shipments. Relying solely on one carrier is far too risky. As we saw at the peak of the pandemic, it is not uncommon for carriers to stop taking new orders or ‘switch off’ non-core services, meaning your parcels will have nowhere to go if you don’t have back-up. A multi-carrier approach also allows you to optimise delivery costs by selecting the most cost-effective carrier based on the size, weight or destination of the shipment. This means you can provide your customers with the range of services they desire whilst keeping an eye on the cost to you.

Confident international shipping post-Brexit

There is still a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen when border-free trade ends on the 31st of December, but it is likely there will be changes to customs and import/export duties. This could lead to delays and longer transit times. In preparation, retailers should check what procedures their carriers have put in place. Some will be well prepared and will require lots of information such as product EORI numbers or HS codes from you. Others may have not prepared at all. You will also want to ensure your shipping platform is set up to handle customs documentation so that you can provide your carriers with accurate data. To do this, retailers might want to consider implementing automated label printing and despatch to minimise mistakes and streamline shipping processes. This will not only save time but provide peace of mind that the parcels have the correct documentation to prevent hold-ups at customs, unnecessary fines, or the dreaded ‘return to sender’.

A multicarrier partner to provide contingency when you need it

2020 has presented huge hurdles and challenges in the world of retail, but there are plenty of lessons we can learn from the pandemic moving forward. Most important of these is to:

  • Have maximum visibility of your shipments so you can identify potential issues early
  • Control delivery options at the checkout
  • Rely on multiple carriers for flexibility and contingency
  • Ensure you and your carriers are Brexit-ready

Managing all of this whilst protecting the bottom line is perhaps the biggest challenge, especially for retailers who want to continue to grow internationally. Working with a single multicarrier provider, however, could help. With one of the widest ranges of global multicarrier services and localised international expertise, GFS will not only allow you to access hundreds of carrier services at affordable prices, but they will be managed through one relationship and technology platform. For an affordable price, this will ensure a tailored and consistent service for your customers, giving you contingency no matter what happens, or where your customers are in the world. 

2021-05-11T10:19:02+00:00December 18th, 2020|

In my opinion – a robust delivery strategy enhances the customer experience, says GFS

The e-commerce industry has been growing year on year, but the Covid19 pandemic has accelerated this growth as consumers were forced to take their shopping online. As the country went into lockdown back in March, consumer habits shifted dramatically, with 37% of us shopping online more than ever before*. For e-commerce businesses, tapping into this customer demand meant more sales and more profit. However, retailers were under pressure to balance peak level order volumes with social distancing measures in the warehouse, delays in the supply chain and capacity issues with carriers. Even those who were able to continue trading without disruption found themselves with delays of up to 10 days.

During the pandemic, consumers were initially more forgiving of delays and grateful for what they are able to get their hands on, understanding that these are unique times for all of us. However, this could lead retailers into a false sense of security that consumers will continue to accept this as the status quo. With buying online likely to continue to be big business, brands need to be ready for the lifting of this temporary ceasefire in consumer expectations as we return to some kind of normal.

Delayed deliveries and unhappy Customers

The global nature of coronavirus caused a disruption in the supply chain never seen before. Businesses who relied on supplies from other countries found themselves unable to get their orders fulfilled, and the stock ran out. The knock-on effect was not being able to deliver quickly or unable to sell at all. Certain items had big competition during this time, like home and garden, exercise gear and food. Not being able to get products into customers’ hands quickly was the difference between a sale or customers buying from a competitor.

In addition, if they had the products to sell, many experienced problems with actually delivering, as carriers became overloaded and struggled to cope. Any retailers who relied on one carrier were left scrambling to find other carriers who could deal with the extra demand. The result? Unfulfilled or slow deliveries, and potentially unhappy customers. Customer returns also experienced disruption due to the pandemic. As physical stores closed, the option of ‘click and collect’ and ‘return to store’ became unavailable, and new policies had to be drafted.

Delivery has always been important for customers, with 60% of customers saying they would buy again from a retailer if they had a good delivery experience*. However, during the coronavirus era, a robust delivery system became even more important.

Keeping customers up to date and happy

Communication is key, and during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been more important than ever. With retailers balancing disruptions, keeping consumers informed has been important to keep them happy. Brands who do not let the customer know about delays or changes to their usual customer experience risk a bad delivery experience and loss in consumer confidence.

The desire for communication will continue as we move on from the pandemic. 70% of consumers consider all types of pre-delivery notifications important*. Customers expect to be able to track their parcels in real-time to be fully aware of where it is in the process. Communication means a good delivery experience and more chance of repeat purchasing. This applies to returns too, with 80% wanting confirmation that their returns parcel has been received*. This ensures more transparency on the process and when to expect the refund. Communication is not only good for the consumer, but it’s also good for businesses. Managing the expectations of the customers means you cut down on customer enquiries asking for updates on their delivery or returns.

Adapting delivery beyond Covid19

The burst in online shopping at the beginning of the year would usually be a great opportunity for e-commerce businesses. Instead, it became stressful and difficult. The companies coming out on top were those who had already invested in contingency plans for peak selling time. Instead of struggling to fulfil orders, or starting to work with new carriers, those with visibility over their supply chain were prepared.

As we return to more normality, some businesses may not change their processes, expecting disruption like this not to happen again. However, this is a risk – there is no way to predict global events or issues arising during peak times that could disrupt delivery again. Retailers must heed the lessons of the crisis and invest in their supply chain management and delivery strategy. Doing so means they can find quick solutions whatever happens and be able to adapt easily. These are the businesses that will continue to thrive, no matter what the market throws at them.

A robust delivery experience, whatever happens

Having a robust contingency plan helps retailers manage any issues that arise during normal peak times and protects you when the unexpected happens. When it comes to delivery, customers have high expectations and letting them down may mean they don’t shop with you again.  Working with multiple carriers is a key way to have an uninterrupted delivery process, no matter what happens. If one carrier has capacity issues, you need to be able to switch services quickly with no disruption to your internal operations or your customers’ experience. Working with multiple carriers, however, can seem like a headache. It would be best if you manage different pick-up times, contracts, and technology. A delivery management company like GFS makes this easier whilst also saving on cost. You can trust GFS to protect your delivery all the way to the customers’ door and back again, with a robust delivery and returns system. Plus it has all the latest in groundbreaking technology to make your processes even easier.

As we move on from the pandemic, businesses must make sure they have the backup to recover from a disruption quickly and the flexibility to adapt when your delivery needs to change. Only through doing this can they continue to give their customers a great experience no matter what happens, grow sales, and build customer loyalty.

*https://www.imrg.org/data-and-reports/imrg-reports/imrg-data-report-uk-consumer-home-delivery-review-2019-20/

Originally appeared on retailtimes.co.uk

 

2021-05-11T10:50:55+00:00November 15th, 2020|

How Does Last-Mile Delivery Affect Your Ecommerce Brand?

By Bobbie Ttooulis

The eCommerce industry continues to grow, and it is estimated that in 5-10 years consumers online shopping will surpass shopping in stores. The current pandemic has only accelerated this trend and just as online spending is growing faster and bigger, so too are the demands and expectations of the digital consumer.

When competing in the online space, meeting those expectations is important to ensure that you don’t lose customers to direct competitors offering a better experience. This applies to the entire customer journey – not just the online shopping experience on your website, but the final mile of delivery and returns. Ignoring the last-mile delivery experience could drastically affect your eCommerce brand, from stopping a sale in its tracks to reducing the chance of a repeat purchase.

The Link Between The Last Mile and Sales

The very nature of online shopping means that customers who do so are expecting convenience, choice and smooth online experience. The convenience of being able to buy with just a few clicks needs to carry over to a delivery experience that’s just as convenient. Customers want the flexibility to decide how they will receive their parcel so they can choose a delivery that offers minimal disruption to their daily routine. This includes Click and Collect locations, day/time selection and different price points. How important are these options? According to IMRG, 45% of customers will abandon a purchase if there is a lack of convenient delivery option and 95% of consumers will shop elsewhere if delivery options don’t suit their needs. Ensuring that you can give your customers the flexibility over their final mile experience can be the difference between a sale, or the customers going to a competitor.

Once you secure a sale, the final mile delivery experience continues to be important for customer loyalty. 70% of consumers consider all types of pre-delivery notifications important according to IMRG and want to be able to track their parcel in real-time. Constant communication, including warning them of any delays that may occur, is essential for a customer feeling they have had a good experience even if things don’t arrive exactly when they want it to.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Returns.

Many retailers focus on outbound delivery when assessing customer experience. However, the seamless customer journey needs to involve returns too. 78% of consumers consider the quality of a returns service when choosing where to shop, and 85% of consumers have a preference of how they would like to make a return.  A simple and easy returns process, with options for convenient ways to return, is just as important as delivery to customer loyalty.

The need for consistent communication applies to returns too, with 80% wanting confirmation that their returns parcel has been received according to IMRG. This ensures more transparency on the process and when to expect the refund. Communication is not only good for the consumer, but it’s also good for businesses. Managing the expectations of the customers means you cut down on customer enquiries asking for updates on their delivery or returns.

Beware of Negative Reviews

With the delivery and returns experience so important for customers, a bad experience not only affects that customers likelihood of buying again, but also the opinion of other customers. Customers are more likely to leave a review if they have a bad experience, and these negative reviews are bad for business. This is especially true when selling on marketplaces, where customers can directly compare reviews on products to your competitors. Get the final mile experience right, and you will increase the chance of returning and new clients.

Solving The Final Mile Issues

To meet customer expectation, retailers need to look beyond working with just one carrier to offer different delivery services at competitive rates. Working with multiple carriers means you can give your customers the best delivery experience, encourage customer loyalty and grow your sales. Numerous carriers can give you options of cost and services, and retailers can move their consignments between carriers based on their capacity to ensure delivery remains quick. However, this adds an additional layer to their logistic strategy. Managing multiple carriers means multiple contracts, pick up times and costs to consider.

Working with a multi-carrier service provider means you can get all the benefits of a multi-carrier experience, without the extra pressure on your team. You can benefit from their delivery and returns experts to ensure you can give your customers a seamless final mile experience, improve customer loyalty and increase sales.

Originally appeared on allthingssupplychain.com

2021-05-11T11:08:05+00:00September 5th, 2020|

Overcoming the returns challenge – don’t let your returns process slow you down

By Bobbie Ttoulis

The ecommerce industry shows no signs of slowing down, but as online spending grows, so does the problem of returns. With 35% of shoppers deliberately over-ordering to see items in person and then return anything they don’t like, the returns process is an important aspect of ecommerce strategy.

Larger retailers find it easier to access the budgets and technology to build a seamless returns process. However, for SME’s, additional operational complications and trying to offer the same customer experience as tier one businesses can leave them struggling.

Returns Policy: A Barrier to Sales

Businesses often focus on customer experience in relation to the online journey and quick delivery. Returns are pushed aside and seen as just an afterthought. However, for customers, they’re more important than that. 42% of shoppers have returned something in the last six months*, so giving those shoppers an easy returns process is a key part of their experience. Crafting a returns policy that works for the customer the matters before the sale is even made. Over three-quarters of customers look at the returns policy before making a purchase. A good returns policy gives consumers the confidence in buying something they haven’t physically seen, touched or tried on. Leaving them unsure will make them less likely to take that risk. This can lead them to buy from a direct competitor with a returns policy they have confidence in.

The operational cost of returns

Returns can have a huge impact on the bottom line. UK retailers lose out on £60bn a year from returns alone. With so many customers returning items, it’s important to balance the cost and operational impact with the customer experience. Retailers usually don’t have visibility or control over the returns process. When a product is returned, retailers often don’t know what products will be returned, their condition, when they will be returned, or the cost of delivery until it already happened. This model makes it impossible to plan and manage the reverse supply chain, leaving them playing ‘catch up’.

The upshot of this? A delay in getting re-saleable goods back into stock and potential lost sales. For businesses selling globally, international returns mean further complication such as customs documentation and duties and taxes. All of this creates an operational headache that can drain the resources of smaller businesses and cause a huge dent in the bottom line when stock becomes tied up and handling costs are high.

Getting returns right – What today’s customer expects

When it comes to returns, consumers expect the same level of convenience that they do with delivery. That means quick and simple options for returns that fit in with their lives. Failure to do this has a direct impact on conversions rates and repeat purchases. A bad offering means customers are less likely to purchase, and a bad experience means they’re less likely to buy from retailers again.

So, what do consumers want to know when it comes to returns?

  • The length of time they have – when do they need to have submitted the form by?
  • Have they got a range of convenient options to return the item? Are there options for couriers or drop off locations?
  • How much will the returns cost?
  • Are they able to exchange the item?
  • How quick will the refund come through if they do return the item?
  • How will they know that the parcel has been received?

Customers also need to be able to trust that retailers will refund them quickly and make the process convenient for them. It’s especially important if they aren’t 100% certain on a product, which happens more often online where they can’t touch or try it on. A positive returns experience could potentially convert a first-time customer into a loyal customer.

Transparency and communication are also key to that seamless experience. Customers say themselves that clear tracking and receipt of return is an important aspect of the returns process. Transparency gives them the assurance that their return is in transit, with the added bonus that retailers have less customer service enquiries to deal with.

Managing cross border returns

For international customers, buying online can feel like more of a risk, with duties and taxes to pay, and more waiting time for a delivery or a return. Returns policies are, therefore, even more, critical to international sales. However, the challenges of returns are amplified by cross border logistics.

One of the issues can be that different countries have their own cultures influencing their expectations when buying online.  For example, German has a real returns culture, with 70% of fashion purchases returned. In France, 50% of consumers choose to return their parcel at a specific drop off location. Parcel lockers are more popular in China than any other country for a return, and the returns policy is most important in Spain and China where they are more likely to abandon a purchase^. With these differences across countries, understanding the different markets and having a policy specific to them, is vital.

Duties and taxes are a further barrier in cross-border returns. They’re not just important for the retailer, but 68% of all consumers worldwide check if there are any additional taxes paid before shipping overseas*. Duties are paid when the product goes to the customer, but not for a return. However, it’s important to have the right documentation to prove that it’s already been paid or retailers can risk charges or fines. Technology can help generate the necessary customs relief documentation and the right kind of returns label. This guarantees a seamless returns experience for the customer and helps the small businesses avoid unnecessary costs that can damage the bottom line.

Smooth returns means returning customers

92% of shoppers who have received good returns experience make repeat purchases. ^ Today’s online shopper has high expectations of their returns policy. Retailers need to offer choice, flexibility, convenience, speed and visibility. All of this might be simple for the big players, who have large budgets, sophisticated technology and access to an endless number of services. However, it’s harder for smaller businesses to compete. It’s therefore important that they find a returns solution that is affordable and offers a good customer experience.

The solution for many small businesses is to improve relationships with multiple carriers. This gives them access to various services that are important for customer experience. However, it can put pressure on operations, as they deal with multiple picks up times, contracts and relationships. By partnering with a multi-carrier delivery and returns expert, the struggle of operational management can be alleviated at a low cost for these small businesses.

* GFS/IMRG Consumer Home Delivery Report 2019/20
^ IMRG Returns Review 2020

Originally appeared on linnworks.com

2021-05-11T11:38:50+00:00June 9th, 2020|

In the press: What can retailers do to improve their environmental image?

By Ben Sillitoe

I’ve seen a few comments and analysis pieces recently scoffing at retailers’ attempts to be more environmentally-friendly, and I feel lots of the criticism is a tad unfair.

Yes, of course we need to be mindful of so called ‘greenwashing’, and there’s a strong argument that caring for the environment we all live in should have been front and centre of businesses strategies from day one, but surely the now daily raft of green industry initiatives we’re hearing about is a good thing.

By our very existence and that of business, a carbon footprint is inevitable, making the meaning of true sustainability difficult to define, so the focus has to simply be on being better. Being better to slow down the damage we are doing to our planet, and being better at getting others to follow the cause.

From frozen food retailer Iceland’s ongoing efforts to “turn down the tap of plastic production” and its plastic bottle deposit return scheme, to Tesco’s promise to reduce 350 tonnes of plastic per year by eliminating multi-buy wrapping, there are plenty of examples of positive action being taken.

In fashion, where many big names have been hauled into Parliament to face an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into fashion sustainability, there are encouraging moves being made. To name just two, H&M has taken a majority stake in Sellpy, a re-commerce platform that sells second-hand clothes, while Burberry said this week that it will be “entirely powered by electricity from renewable sources” by 2022 – moves that need to be applauded, if not taken as strategies that will save the planet by themselves.

As Alecxa Julia Cristobal, marketing content writer for electronic payment provider Asia Pay, says: “If you’re in the fashion industry, capitalising on sustainable clothing is now a trend.”

Top tips for being better

Thanks in large part to Sir David Attenborough and his Blue Planet BBC programme – not to mention the unseasonal extreme weather-related disasters we’re seeing around the world – the health of the environment is well and truly under the global spotlight. And shoppers are starting to take retailers’ environmental policies into account when making purchasing decisions.

Accenture research shows 83% of consumers across North America, Europe, and Asia believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. And 72% said they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago.

Brendan Murray, content marketing manager at Akeneo, an open source product information management company, says: “Consumers increasingly want the brands they buy from to be good corporate citizens – even if they have to pay a bit more for the privilege.”

Appealing to the ethically conscious customer is going to take more than just labelling things “green”, though. As product provenance becomes more transparent, at the demand of shoppers, token eco-gestures are not enough – companies need to build being good into their very make-up.

As Mike Hayers, UK country manager at ShipStation, a shipping software company, remarks: “Going green has been a great way to elevate your brand’s image for close to two decades now.

“But while concerns grow more and more to the collective forefront, simply stating “we went green by packaging in recycled boxes” no longer cuts it.”

Pollution

And Steve Tainton, head of sustainability and CSR at Wincanton, a logistics services provider, says: “The responsibility is on the retailer to be more transparent about their supply chain.

“If they want to attract ethical consumers, they need to be crystal-clear in demonstrating their ethical credentials and completely authentic in their data and position.”

Adrienne Burns, director of customer experience at Summit, a digital commerce agency, acknowledges that “making radical changes to an entire operation will be tricky and takes time”.

“However, I would suggest that retailers look at what customers expect to see when it comes to being environmentally and socially conscious and start there – whilst of course looking at how to make long lasting and forward-thinking changes,” she comments.

Burns also advises giving consumers choices, noting: “You don’t need to roll out everything at once but let consumers know what you have changed and give them the option to purchase more sustainably.”

Mike Richmond, chief commercial officer at Doddle, a parcel and returns collection service, challenges the idea that being green is about image, saying that “feels superficial”.

“Consumers can see the wood from the (carbon neutral) trees when it comes to ‘green-washing’ and conversely, they are proven to react immensely positively to retailers which heed their demands for ethical behaviour,” he states.

“Shoppers want to know that your product is produced and delivered in a way that is genuinely sustainable. And in the context of delivery, I think there’s a lot of catching up to do.”

And, of course, if consumers are so tuned into being green as the surveys and the anecdotal evidence suggests, it’s now up to retailers to effectively communicate what they are doing to meet those demands.

Sarah MacDonald, northern EMEA regional marketing manager at Magento, an eCommerce platform provider, advises retailers to design their websites to clearly state their green practices.

“Whether this is talking about recyclable packaging in the delivery/returns section, or highlighting what their clothes are made of in the product information – it’s now more important than ever to be upfront about being green,” she comments.

Marginal gains to be made in delivery

In the early days of eCommerce, some digital-only retailers, including grocer-cum-tech-company Ocado, touted their deliver-to-home services as a greener option than consumers taking their own cars to the supermarket. There may be some truth in that, there may not – but as eCommerce has grown in popularity and more and more trucks and vans from multiple retailers hit the road, the argument has been watered down.

It means there are several stages of the delivery and supply chain process that retailers could focus on to make marginal gains that, when combined, add up to huge differences in terms of environmental friendliness.

Daniel Ennor, Chief Commercial Officer at GFS, a global delivery technology company, notes:

“By consolidating the number of pickups and collections, companies can improve efficiency, and maximise delivery performance.”

Meanwhile, Joe Farrell, vice president of international operations at PFS, a fulfilment services provider, says attention to product packaging is one of the most visible ways retailers can improve their supply chain sustainability.

“Retailers only stand to gain when they embrace sustainable packaging,” he remarks, adding reducing the amount of waste consumers themselves have to dispose of upon receipt of products is a key way of improving a business’s reputation.

Emily Cotterill, head of sustainability at Rebound, a returns platform, agrees packaging is important, but argues that shoppers are increasingly “becoming mindful of how green the delivery and returns options are”.

“In an Advanced Supply Chain Group returns white paper published this month, 43% of respondents said that they would be more likely to purchase from a retailer if they offered a green returns service, but only if it was free,” she notes.

“Interestingly, this percentage drops to 23% if the customer had to pay. Therefore, retailers must consider what resonates most with their customer base, making their proposition appealing to ethically conscious consumers, whilst also economically viable.”

Matthew Robinson, Co-CEO at NetDespatch, a shipping and parcel data management platform for carriers, acknowledges retailers and carriers alike are “feeling the pressure to have sustainable advocacy in their business plan”.

But, judging by consumer trends, there is no use battling against the tide. Soon enough, being green will be a prerequisite, and that means there is effectively no option but to get better at finding environmentally-friendly ways of retailing.

“As the new generation comes of age, their preferences and purchasing power will start to have a big impact on business,” Robinson says.

“Given the rocketing profile of environmental issues, retail businesses need to respond or risk becoming out of touch with the new generation of customers.”

Out of touch and out of business, perhaps?

Summary

Although the industry is not short of useful advice, as highlighted by the above comments from IMRG members, it is my view that the sector needs more eco warriors. In the past we’ve had The Body Shop founder, Anita Roddick, and in the years since Lush co-founder Mark Constantine has been a baton carrier for the sustainability cause.

Today, Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, is an audible voice in the battle to prevent ocean plastic pollution, lobbying the government to help businesses better deal with the plastic mountain within retail. There are others, of course, but we need additional figureheads to adopt more activist attitudes, and to take their concerns – and their practical ideas – to the top.

Consumers will appreciate it and, judging by the millions who have taken to the streets around the globe to protest about the climate crisis in recent months, they’ll be standing right behind them – and all that has the potential to influence significant change.

This article was originally posted on imrg.org on 13th February 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:43:45+00:00April 14th, 2020|

In the press: How H&M are shifting their focus from the high street to digital retail

H&M recently announced its plans to turn more than 5,000 stores into hubs for online orders, showing a significant shift towards online shopping

As a sure sign of the impact digitalisation is having on the retail industry, the announcement by fashion retailer H&M of its plans to reposition its 5,000-plus store estate into logistics hubs for online orders suggests a definitive shift in focus from traditional retail to digital growth.

Many retail experts see this as a logical change in strategy, and would argue that many of the retail closures seen recently can be attributed to those businesses failing to recognise the changing role of the store, or to adapt to the new retail paradigm.

“In addressing this head-on, H&M is probably doing more than most to cement its future on the high street,” says Stuart Higgins, partner at management and technology consultancy BearingPoint. “It is acknowledging that the store of the future needs to embrace additional roles as part of a more complex and emerging customer purchase and fulfilment journey, one that includes using store stock to fulfil online orders and acting as a returns point and reprocessing facility.”

With every high street retailer facing the same challenges of declining sales and reduced store profitability, he believes that all retail chains should consider following H&M’s lead, looking at the role of their stores, and how they can make their business more digitally enabled.

Such a move could be feasible as long as the customer experience isn’t compromised, although for some, changing real estate to logistic centres could be a step too far. Mark Andres, head of in-store at vouchercloud, says: “Younger shoppers in particular – a key demographic of H&M – are looking for shopping experiences and still want a physical location to go to and try clothes on. That customer service is a unique selling point. For H&M to make this move a success, it needs to maintain or enhance the customer experience it is known for.”

Putting the customer first

Others argue that the company’s repositioning is being somewhat misreported as a forward-looking move on H&M’s part. Rob Curran, chief experience officer at creative, data and digital agency Wunderman Thompson, believes it would be more realistic to view it as a potential solution to a business issue of the company’s own making; that of opening too many stores, too quickly.

“This radical transformation wouldn’t have been so essential if H&M hadn’t over-stretched itself in the first place,” he says. “Retailers have to match the scale of their physical network to their digital offer and vice versa, and there’s clearly been a disconnect here. From a customer experience perspective, it’s imperative that modern retail brands factor digital ordering, click and collect, returns and so on into their holistic plans when planning for growth.”

The practicality of managing multiple logistics hubs internally is another consideration in H&M’s move. Without the right level of dedicated delivery expertise, the customer delivery experience is at risk, as are, potentially, online sales.

Bobbie Ttooulis, Executive Director at Global Freight Solutions, says

“As H&M works to reposition away from the high street, and as in-store interactions decrease, these delivery touch-points will be increasingly critical in providing a great overall customer and brand experience.”

Equally important is the returns experience – and returns are at the forefront of customers’ minds at the point of purchase. She adds:

“In preparing for the future of retail, H&M must source the necessary multi-carrier delivery capabilities to give consumers the breadth of delivery choice and convenience at checkout, as well as the confidence that the final mile experience is not going to let them down.”

This article was originally posted on telegraph.co.uk on 13th February 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:45:00+00:00February 14th, 2020|

In the press: Industry reacts to UK customs check plans

Industry reacts to UK customs check plans

The UK government has confirmed it will introduce import controls on EU goods coming over the border at the end of this year. The announcement confirms what was the widely expected result of the government’s plan to exit the EU’s customs union and single market and strike trade deals.

We look at how retail and logistics trade bodies responded to the news.

Freight Transport Association

Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s UK Policy Director said: “Today’s announcements about the UK’s future relationship with Europe provide more much-needed clarity for logistics operators, and his assertion that there will be no extension to the transition period gives businesses a finite deadline to which to work.  The news of funding to help industry prepare for operation outside the EU is certainly welcome, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.

“Mr Gove put to rest Sajid Javid’s assertion that industry had plenty of time to prepare.  It is encouraging for industry that he said he does not underestimate what needs to be done and that he has his civil servants focussed on capturing and providing industry with the details we need, we hope within the timeframes we need to prepare.

“As representatives of the logistics industry, we are naturally disappointed that the promise of frictionless trade has been replaced with a  promise that trade will be as seamless as possible but not until 2025, with a more realistic but costly “make do and mend” approach to be employed until then.  Industry will need the support of government during this period to Keep Britain Trading effectively.”

British Retail Consortium

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Government will need to move fast if it intends to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry out full border controls on imported goods from January 2021.Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The Government needs to establish import and export processes along with necessary infrastructure capable of conducting checks on rules of origin, SPS, VAT and more1. Staffwill need to be hired and trained to carry out these checks on the thousands of lorries that enter the UK every day. IT systems must be adapted and tested. Holding facilities for lorries, particularly at Dover and Folkestone, will need to be constructed. It is not enough to announce checks will take place, we must see plans now as to how this will be possible in practice, or it will be consumers who suffer on 1st January 2021.”

Road Haulage Association

In a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps MP, RHA chief executive called for more information from government to allow businesses to prepare in time for the deadline.

“We need HMRC to clearly define the process so that we can understand how many customs agents will be required to support traders and hauliers.”

He criticised the lack of a firm deadline for when the customs processes would be published and warned that there could be a shortfall of customs agents.

GFS

Bobbie Ttooulis, Executive Director at Global Freight Solutions, said:

“Retailers can no longer ignore the impact that Brexit has on their businesses, especially as border control changes the impact on customer delivery. It’s crucial that they forecast for changes to border procedures, documentation, duties, taxes and pressures that will impact their supply chains.

“While Brexit has been initiated, uncertainty still hangs over trade. So, the safest best is to prepare for tough border controls. Long delays at the ports are going to be part and parcel for this new Brexit reality. If your business ships into the EU, and in the event of a backlog at the Channel tunnel for instance, partners will need to be able to divert product from the road to the air to avoid delays to the end customer. Adopting a paperless clearance system will also help minimise delays from reading handwritten documents, plus ensuring you have the right European Union Registration and Identification Number. An 8 or 10-digit HS code (Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System) will also need to be supplied to support efficient customs clearance and enable accurate duty and tax calculations.

“Delays in the supply chain, caused by custom checks will lead to retailers being forced to hold more stock in their supply chain than they’re used to. This will have a direct financial impact on those businesses, who’ll either need to expand storage capabilities or hire more staff to cope with the increased volume of stock. Ultimately, communication and transparency will be key. Transparency of the resulting duties and tax cost incurred to customers at the checkout, as well as communication at each stage of the delivery journey, will minimise disruptions and keep customers on side.”

This article was originally posted on edelivery.net on 12th February 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:45:40+00:00February 13th, 2020|

In the press: Brexit barriers – is your business ready?

Brexit barriers – is your business ready?

By Dan Ennor – CCO at GFS

After a prolonged period of uncertainty, Brexit has happened. And retailers need to be prepared for the changes this will bring. A strong Brexit strategy for retailers all boils down to preparation. However, many businesses are still unsure how Brexit will impact them and the changes they’ll have to make as a result. Which means they need to act fast. But, how can companies plan for what they don’t know?

1. Documentation and procedure

I have no doubt Brexit will surely see the end of free trade movement in the EU for the UK, and when that significant change occurs, alterations to paperwork and procedures will follow. Reforms to trading will be a blow to unprepared retailers and their delivery companies, both practically and within documentation. Post-Brexit legislation will mean they need to update their processes in order to be compliant depending on the EU country they’re delivering to. With that in mind, retailers need to ensure the delivery companies they work with go paperless with their admin to prevent costly clerical errors.

Following the introduction of new laws and regulations, there will be plenty of red tape, and storing this information on paper will create a logistical nightmare for organisation and compliance. By adopting a paperless clearance system, expensive delays caused by misreading handwritten customs documentation are avoided. Submitting documents electronically to customs also eliminates the need to print and manually attach them to shipments, saving paper, time and hassle.

It’s also important for retailers to take note of some of the extra information they’ll need to provide at customs, post-Brexit. For example, customers will need to provide a European Union Registration and Identification Number in order to ship to the EU versus just a UK VAT number. And this will need to be checked and enforced to prevent failed deliveries. An 8 or 10-digit HS code will also need to be supplied to support efficient customs clearance and enable accurate duty and tax calculations are added for all products.

2. Delays to the supply chain

Going forward, when trading with EU nations, retailers will notice additional border checks, and major delays to their supply chain. This is something that needs to be built into every delivery company’s forecasting going forward.

Above all, communication is key. Operating transparently will ensure your consumers receive order notifications, keeping them fully informed throughout the process. This will become increasingly important during the early stages of Brexit, when the concept is new to everyone. Retailers will need their delivery providers to keep them abreast of how long a delivery’s going to take in real-time, so they can set expectations with shoppers accordingly and ensure customer satisfaction doesn’t suffer. Further to that point, eCommerce businesses will need to adapt their delivery promises on their website, as opposed to simply updating customers via SMS. This needs to be calculated accurately so retailers aren’t made to seem dishonest or ill-informed.

Furthermore, delays in the supply chain, caused by custom checks, will lead to retailers being forced to hold more stock in their supply chain than they’re used to. This will have a direct financial impact on those businesses, who’ll either need to expand storage capabilities or hire more staff to cope with the increased volume of stock.

3. Transparent duties & taxes

The most obvious, and perhaps well-documented barrier that Brexit will impose on delivery companies and retailers, is the duties and tax added to product prices depending on the shipping destination. With extra costs now attached to trade goods between EU countries, the overall cost of delivery will go up, and it’s on retailers and their delivery provider of choice to consider who’ll pay that extra fee.

With the cost of delivery in the EU rising, delivery companies will likely need to reflect that in their price, so the added cost doesn’t fall to them. That means that duties and taxes will likely be passed onto retailers, and retailers will inevitably be forced to pass that fee to customers, rather than absorbing it themselves. What will be important in the infancy of new duties and taxes for EU trading, is transparency across the board while everyone gets used to the transition.

Most importantly, eCommerce retailers will need to communicate these new duties and taxes to consumers at the point of checkout so they’re aware of the charge prior to, and at purchase. Unexpected fees will simply lead to cart abandonment worsening or goods being refused at the border. In the grand scheme of things, duties and taxes will make UK retailers less competitive versus those based in the EU, and that will directly impact on export revenues. Something for delivery companies to be wary of as they plan ahead.

The details of what Brexit looks like are still being decided upon. But that doesn’t mean that retailers should sit idle. There are steps brands can take to prepare for the impact of Brexit. What should be abundantly clear is that the choice of delivery provider for retailers, will impact their strategy, and ultimately their success. We know for certain that trading in the EU will change, and this will directly hit retailers’ delivery process. However, only by retailers and their delivery providers being aware and acting on these changes before they hit, can they best prepare their businesses to minimise disruption.

This article was originally posted on bdaily.co.uk on 6th February 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:46:22+00:00February 7th, 2020|

In the press: How big a priority should cross-border expansion be for retailers?

How big a priority should cross-border expansion be for retailers?

By Ben Sillitoe

I recently got my hands on a pretty substantial report looking at the benefits and challenges related to expanding eCommerce operations internationally – and it acts as a strong manifesto for international expansion and cross-border trade.

The Visa Global Merchant eCommerce Study, published in January, suggests 87% of business leaders view foreign online sales as one of their top growth opportunities. Two in three of those that do not currently sell cross-border plan to do so in the near future.

Visa questioned 1,000 leaders from ten different countries, including China, the UK, and the US, and found, on average, those already trading across borders generate 31% of their revenue from outside their home nation.

However, the Visa research cautions that no two retailers, regions, or consumers are the same, making it absolutely critical merchants understand the landscape of the new territories they plan to set their sights on next.

Indeed, Joanna Bedward, eCommerce product manager at global payments provider Elavon Europe, notes: “UK retailers should take advantage of the European market – with many countries growing more strongly than the UK. But it’s important to research which market, as there are many differences in how consumers want to pay.”

“The UK shopper is generally happy with cards and e-wallets, but across Europe there are many different popular local payment methods, including local card schemes, bank transfers and e-wallets.”

The question retailers should probably be asking themselves, then, is not whether to prioritise cross-border expansion; instead, it’s perhaps a case of understanding which borders to prioritise based on their respective propositions.

Below are a few tips for UK retailers from Elavon Europe’s fellow IMRG members.

Strategic planning

The considerable sales already coming from cross-border trade, cited by Visa, and the fact lots of businesses are doing it or planning to do it, suggests it should be a priority for retailers. But that shouldn’t necessitate a gung-ho approach.

Joe Farrell, vice president of international operations at PFS, a fulfilment services provider, certainly advises retailers not to rush into anything.

“Through short-term leases and modern equipment, fulfilment via pop-up distribution centres allows brands to provide customers fast, in-region order fulfilment at a fraction of the cost and time required to set up permanent operations,” he says.

“Brands can then determine if regional demand warrants more permanent operations, or continue utilising pop-up solutions during peak demand periods.”

Bobbie Ttooulis, group marketing director at GFS, a delivery technology company, says Brexit should prompt retailers to put global growth high up the agenda.

“With the UK having now left the European Union, cross-border expansion absolutely should be a priority for retailers,” she notes, adding that remaining domestic “would be a misstep for retailers”.

“In order to remain competitive, at times of upheaval, brands need to evaluate how they can tap into new markets to expand their revenue streams,” Ttooulis says, recommending fast-growth markets such as India, China and Latin America.

market growth

Global growth strategy cannot be considered without reference to Brexit – it is an issue that has dominated business chat over the last three years. Indeed, the Visa research says the uncertainty in Europe is a concern for 64% of UK leaders.

Brexit has had another impact, though. The relative strength of the euro has caused the UK retail market to capture the attention of European shoppers.

Worldwide, more than 715 million consumers made a cross-border purchase in 2018, spending $676 billion in the process. These figures are slated to rise to 943 million cross-border consumers spending $994 billion this year, according to figures published in a recent eBook by Akeneo, an open source product information management company.

What a massive market for UK retailers to tap into. Brendan Murray, content marketing manager at Akeneo, argues: “A strong euro isn’t the only reason for expansion – the recent increase in international commerce has provided additional incentives for those selling across borders.

“However, some sellers remain hesitant to expand internationally despite these incentives, in large part because of the burden that comes hand-in-hand with expansion.”

Whether it is relisting products per country, additional marketing costs, delivery infrastructure, or other administrative elements, there’s lots that might put retailers off making cross-border expansion a priority.

Patrick Frith, cross border business development director at Avalara, a software company helping retailers with tax compliance issues, encourages retailers to “cash in” on the opportunities of international growth, but agrees there’s a lot to consider.

“To make cross-border eCommerce a successful initiative for your business (i.e., profitable), you need to be prepared to deal with the complexity of processing transactions, including shipping, for international customers,” he comments.

“By having the right partners, systems and technologies in place from the start, you give your business the best chance of success.”

Complex Planning

The Delivery Conference

Many of these potential partners, systems and technologies were on show at The Delivery Conference (TDC), an event hosted by delivery management software company MetaPack, on 4 February.

IMRG was a partner for the annual event, which gathered the industry together in London once again – including this editor – and brought to attention the key issues facing retailers distributing products in the UK, internationally, or both.

Representatives from Transport for London, Yodel, P2P – a FedEx company, An Post, Loqate and Amazon Shipping were in the spotlight, on stage.

Dave Dowman, head of fulfilment at P2P, used his presentation to underline the importance of being close to customers and, emphasised how third-party fulfilment partners can help extend a retailer’s global reach.

He said: “The successful players in the fulfilment sector have grown and adapted in harmony with retailers, offering new fluid channel integrations, economical and scalable warehousing options, [and] enablement opportunities – with fulfilment facilities worldwide – to bring brands closer to their customers.”

Summary

The presence of Dave Ashwell, managing director of electrical retailer AO’s logistics division, at TDC served as both inspiration and a warning to retailers considering cross-border expansion. The UK-based business is doing so many things right, as it develops its proposition in the UK, but growing losses in Europe in 2019 prompted the company to exit The Netherlands and focus its global operations solely on Germany, for now.

AO launched its Dutch service based on the infrastructure of its German business in 2016, but pulled the project three years in, underlining the challenges of international growth.

Visa comprehensive research’s is encouraging in its outlook for cross-border expansion activity over the coming years, but clearly success will only come to those who prepare and prioritise accordingly.

This article was originally posted on imrg.org on 5th February 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:57:32+00:00February 6th, 2020|

In the press: What did we learn from the peak trading period in 2019?

What did we learn from the peak trading period in 2019?

By Ben Sillitoe

The results are in. Well, most of the larger UK retailers have reported them, anyway, as have multiple industry bodies.

By results, we mean Christmas and peak trading period sales figures – and as ever they provide a polarised picture of the state of the retail sector, making it very difficult to conclude what it all means for the industry as a whole.

One thing for certain is that retail faces many challenges as we move into 2020 and a new decade. That’s not exactly news, but the figures we’re seeing are starting to illustrate just how tough many retailers are finding things – and just how much the pattern of events at their most lucrative time of the year is evolving.

Black Friday takes bigger seat at the Christmas table

UK retailers have been talking about the changing shape of peak for several years now, basically since the US’s Black Friday concept arrived on these shores and really embedded itself in the nation’s psyche around 2014. You may remember that was the year Asda shoppers were throwing punches at each other in a battle for televisions.

From IMRG’s figures for 2019, December’s sales growth fell sharply versus November – it was down by 20% month-on-month, which was the greatest December decrease since Black Friday’s arrival in the UK. As we’ve previously discussed on these pages, Black Friday-fuelled online sales growth was very encouraging in November – and it seemingly replaced some consumer spend usually reserved for the immediate run-up to Christmas.

Black Friday is now well-established as the biggest shopping week of the year. Indeed, the evidence of the Black Friday period becoming increasingly influential is mounting up from several different angles.

Flora Frichou, senior content strategist at Trustpilot, a consumer reviews website, notes: “In 2019, Trustpilot saw a 44% increase in users reading reviews on Black Friday alone.

“It’s safe to say that once again, Black Friday wins the “biggest shopping event of the year” award. However, in the past few years, Black Friday has become more than just a full day of big discounts. It’s become a month-long sale, pushing consumers to buy all of their Christmas gifts early, as well more expensive items such as electronics or furniture.”

Daniel Ennor, chief commercial officer at GFS, a delivery technology company, agrees, saying: 

“Peak trading in 2019 tells us that the peak trading period, and particularly Black Friday, isn’t going anywhere – but we’ve learnt that this cyber sale moment may take a different guise.

“This year saw retailers extend promotional events across several days or weeks, avoiding the typical single day sales spike; making 2019 the year of ‘Black-vember’.”

Black Friday

Insights from industry

What else have we learned from peak trading 2019? A few of Trustpilot’s and GFS’s fellow IMRG members have shared their thoughts, below.

Citing Black Friday research from eCommerce marketing technology firm, Bluecore, the company’s vice president and general manager for international, Mike Harris, says: “Shopper behaviour during the peak trading period in 2019 proved extremely promising, but the biggest gains have yet to be realised.

“Data reveals that 54% of customers made purchases from brands they had never bought from before and 22% of those first-time buyers are likely to make a second purchase from those brands within 108 days. That means the clock is ticking for retailers convert these peak trading period shoppers into loyal customers that come back year-round.”

Meanwhile, Mike Brown, retail sector lead at Avora, an enterprise analytics platform provider, says there is a decrease in pay-per-click marketing and social media return on investment during peak trading due to the more competitive landscape.

“Companies less able to adapt and change their campaigns and strategies (e.g. lack of marketing optimisation agility) typically wasted much of their budget at the most important time of year,” he states.

Consumers’ growing appetite for Black Friday deals came despite reports from some independent bodies that they should be wary of unauthentic offers.

Victoria Barker, senior client manager at Summit, a digital commerce agency, comments: “Despite early reports claiming only one in 20 Black Friday deals are genuine, shoppers were unfazed by this year’s event, suggesting that Black Friday is still an attractive occasion for UK consumers. The retail environment was particularly stale in 2019, with the prospect of Brexit looming over business and shoppers, it’s no surprise that consumers were more prepared to pick up a bargain during the event last year.”

With such demand being placed on retailers during such a short period of the year, successful businesses are modernising their systems to ensure smooth service. The outgoing Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe, actually reflected on what was a relatively flat Christmas for the group overall – good in food but less impressive in general merchandise – by describing it as a “standout performance operationally” thanks to the processes and support network the company has put in place in recent years.

Sian Hopwood, senior vice president of B2B operations at BluJay, a logistics and transportation software provider, remarks: “It’s clear that shoppers searching online for deals at the busiest shopping time of the year trust that processes, including super-fast delivery, quick order processing in the warehouse, and seamless parcel tracking, are scalable even at the busiest periods.”

Shopping trolley on keyboard

Summary

So, standout learnings from retail’s golden quarter are, firstly, that Black Friday – or Black November or ‘Black-vember’ as some are now terming it – is of similar importance to December, if not more important, in terms of capturing retail spend.

And, secondly, retail’s challenges are not going away. They need some help – perhaps from the government, which continues to offer aid to other sectors in their time of need, such as travel and manufacturing, while many in retail feel it is just playing lip-service to making the major structural changes required to turnaround and support their industry.

Finally, although it has slowed somewhat in 2019, online is where the growth continues to be in retail – the end-of-year figures illustrate that. Businesses operating in the sector must get their digital offering spot on to capitalise on that situation as best they can.

This article was originally posted on imrg.org on 30th January 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T11:58:00+00:00January 31st, 2020|

In the press: What are the big things to look out for in 2020?

What are the big things to look out for in 2020?

By Ben Sillitoe

Predicting what is in store for retail is becoming an increasingly difficult task. One just has to look at how things panned out at the end of 2019 to understand the challenge of guessing industry performance.

IMRG’S very own forecasts for online retail during Black Friday week were arguably as subdued as they have ever been for a peak trading period, but the reality was that sales at the time jumped by 11.7% – and the feel-good factor remained throughout November.

What impact that had on sales in December and the direct build-up to Christmas is anyone’s guess, but the moral of the story is that retail is full of surprises. And that was emphasised further by fashion retailer Joules – a star performer of recent years – issuing a profit warning in January, off the back of an internal eComm malfunction.

So, against our better judgment, perhaps, we’ve dusted down the crystal ball to gaze at the year ahead. It seems the done thing to offer start-of-decade predictions, so we sought out insight from our members to understand what to look out for at the onset of the 2020s.

Events, dear boy

One thing we can all be pretty sure about is 2020 will be the year the UK officially starts the exit process from the European Union (EU). Prime minister Boris Johnson’s stonking majority in last December’s General Election has seen to that, much to the delight of Leavers and the continuing despair of many Remainers.

Although the process is set to take several years to complete, the wheels of the Brexit bus will soon be very much in motion – and it will affect business in many ways.

Tom Williams, head of eCommerce at online solutions provider Maginus, which announced in December it had been acquired by private equity firm Black Dragon Capital, says the “B-word” will have a significant impact on retail headlines, “as it will influence change all along the supply chain”.

“Taxation, logistics and suppliers will all be affected, so retailers will have to deal with these new fluctuations, which could impact price and availability, and therefore consumer satisfaction,” he adds.

On the subject of business levies, Richard Asquith, vice president for global indirect tax at Avalara, a software company helping retailers with tax compliance issues, draws attention to “four quick fixes” to business-to-business VAT rules on EU cross-border transactions, agreed by EU member states from the start of 2020.

“These changes will help reduce some compliance obligations for businesses operating cross-border supply chains,” he comments.

“It will, however, place new administrative requirements on them to ensure they can continue to enjoy VAT simplifications, such as zero-rating on intra-community supplies.”

Daniel Ennor, chief commercial officer at GFS, a delivery technology company, predicts 2020 will be the year we see “Brexit frustration finally boil over in the world of commerce”.

“Unable to wait any longer for government direction, more businesses and retailers will focus on international expansion and will seek ways to simplify cross-border delivery, as borderless trading within the EU ceases,” he notes, adding that he expects a growing number of retailers to expand their presence on marketplaces, notably US-based ones.

This year is also an Olympic and Paralympic year, and the summer will see Europe’s best football teams battling it out across the continent in a European Championship tournament, culminating in semi-finals and a final in London.

The UK’s most astute brands will be doing all they can to capitalise commercially on a bumper summer of sport.

Robin Martin, CEO of Intelligent Reach, which helps optimise and enrich retailer’s product data feeds, comments: “It’s the start of the year and with the Olympics on the horizon, retailers are reviewing their strategies to find opportunities to grow sales. This insight is provided by data and analytics – a retailer’s best friend.”

Football Stadium

It’s the environment, stupid

As suggested on these pages, last year, and as evidenced in the raft of retailers putting a greater focus on their environmental impact, consumers’ mindset around the sustainability credentials of the products they buy is undertaking a sea change.

Alecxa Julia Cristobal, marketing content writer at AsiaPay, an electronic payment provider, states: “With the environmental debate that’s becoming a worldwide crisis, retailers are called to have sustainable advocacy in their business plan.”

While, arguably, this should always have been an important part of any retail business plan, drastic action is now being taken in some quarters. Some of the largest fashion businesses in the sector, H&M and Farfetch for example, are adding reused and recycled products to their inventories, and there are multiple campaigns calling on people to reduce the volume of items they buy in light of the carbon footprint created.

Against this backdrop, Matthew Robinson, Co-CEO of NetDespatch, the Royal Mail-owned shipping and parcel data management platform for carriers, predicts the delivery industry will be asked to look at how it can become more environmentally sustainable.

“Journey consolidation and smart routing for both delivery and returns, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), are promising more efficient, less polluting delivery options and we will likely see growing focus on this area as the year unfolds,” he says.

Joe Farrell, vice president of international operations at PFS, which offers fulfilment services to brands such as Asics, L’Oreal and Moleskine, doesn’t deny sustainability is an important focus point, but he says a priority for businesses this year is to shape their organisations and invest in technology so they can stay on top of any trends.

“Success in the next decade will be inherently tied to anticipating the changing preferences of consumers and delivering a personalised experience consistent with customers’ wants and needs,” he argues.

“Sustainability and health conscious products are two leading topics as we head into 2020, but the focus for shoppers five years from now will likely differ.”

Environmentally Friendly Bags

Open doors of opportunity

Common retail parlance over the last decade has been “change”, and there are calls to continue the evolution as 2020 dawns. Most businesses seem aware of the changing landscape – be it in the form of consumer behaviour, new regulations, or additional competition – and headway is being made in reshaping their organisations accordingly.

One key element of retail change in 2020 relates to payments. The 14 September 2019 deadline for merchants across Europe to introduce the Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirement of the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) was extended by 18 months, and means retailers will be working to comply over the next 15 months in order to boost their consumers’ security.

Ralf Gladis, CEO at Computop, a payment services provider, calls the new regulation “a powerful shot in the arm for retailers for 2020”, as it potentially removes payment authentication from banks, placing it back at the point of purchase with enrolled retailers who can move to make the checkout easier and more secure.

“What’s also important about SCA, particularly for consumers who like to shop with a mobile, is the focus on using biometric authentication during log-in,” he adds, suggesting that biometric authentication will bring various benefits to retailers and consumers alike.

Joanna Bedward, eCommerce product manager for global payments provider, Elavon Europe, calls the latest version of 3D Secure “a massive improvement”.

It actually takes account of shoppers buying from a mobile, and will be much better for reducing fraud without losing customers at the checkout,” she explains.

Mobile Phone Purchase

It’s not just payments technology that is evolving – there’s innovation across retail. Stephen Hill, senior eCommerce consultant at Vaimo, an omnichannel agency, predicts more growth in 2020 for retail subscription services, selling on social media, and mobile payments.

“Very soon mobile payments will become the norm – and entering card details will feel archaic,” he states.

Malcolm Berg, UK sales director at Stored Value Solutions, a gift card processing and programme management firm, expects the UK’s “love affair” with online shopping to continue in 2020, driven by sales made on mobile devices, with the winners likely to be “the brands offering the most seamless digital journeys, including physical-to-digital gift cards and the strongest social media profiles.”

Jason Fagan, marketing manager at eCommerce platform Kooomo, predicts growth in brands selling direct to consumers, and thus reducing the need for retail channels. Citing Nike as a prime example of this movement, he says: “We have witnessed a growth in this way of doing business over the years but now it’s solidly here.”

Maginus’s Williams and Matthew Furneaux, global commercial director at Loqate – a GBG solution, are among the industry folk expecting big things for voice-enabled technology in 2020. Williams says it will “become adopted more widely and now is the time to put the foundations in place, so when it takes off, retailers don’t miss out”, while Furneaux adds that “voice technology and the promise of widely adopted conversational commerce will create a new wave of eCommerce opportunity”.

Brendan Murray, content marketing manager at Akeneo, an open source product information management company, offers a holistic view: “As customers continue to head to new channels, powering newfound popularity in social commerce, voice-activated shopping, and virtual reality, for example, making consistent and compelling omnichannel experiences a must-have for B2B and B2C sellers alike.”

Future Of Retail

Summary

Retailers don’t really make new year’s resolutions; there’s no real delineation from one year to the next – it’s simply a constant slog to sell as much as possible and continue to engage consumers in the most relevant ways. That’s always the target no matter what new technology or events emerge, and many of our members suggest that relevancy increasingly centres on blurring the boundaries between online and physical shopping.

But as we’ve noted, some seismic events are on the horizon in 2020. The most successful retailers will take all this into account and have the agility to deal with whatever the year throws at them to keep their 2020 vision intact.

This article was originally posted on imrg.org on 17th January 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T12:01:55+00:00January 18th, 2020|

In the press: Global Freight Solutions – providing a consultative approach

Global Freight Solutions: providing a consultative approach

Over the festive period, Daniel Ennor, Chief Commercial Officer at Global Freight Solutions, spoke with Supply Chain Digital and provided an insight into his firm. 

Could you briefly describe the company and your role?

Global Freight Solutions (GFS) is a delivery management provider that offers retailers and B2B buyers the tools necessary to deliver the widest choice of delivery options from checkout to doorstep. As Chief Commercial Officer, my role is helping our customers understand how optimised delivery offerings can drive sales and support their ambitious growth plans.

What are the current trends within your industry?

Brexit has brought much uncertainty to the retail market, especially around transparency of duties and taxes. This has spurred on an interest among UK retailers to expand globally and look to other regions outside of the EU to support growth ambitions. Another trend we’re seeing is that ‘fast and free’ delivery is losing its lustre as a purchase incentive. According to research GFS conducted with IMRG, 2019 saw an 11% decrease in the number of consumers who said a free delivery offer encouraged them to buy. And while convenience is still a big factor for delivery satisfaction among consumers, that gap is widening when it comes to comparing delivery with returns satisfaction.

What makes your company competitive?

Our carrier relationships provide customers with options that suit their business and our consultative approach to delivery is what sets GFS apart from competitors. Our technology also allows customers choice, resilience and control. They can switch on and off certain carriers at the flick of a switch. This is helpful in the event of any issues like the weather or unforeseen transport disruptions that may impact a certain carrier, so that the retailer can still maintain service levels and meet customer demands.

What innovations has your company been developing during 2019?

A focus for GFS this year has been on making our customers resilient in the event of Brexit and the uncertainty that brings to their business. Whether that’s from a duties and taxes perspective, or how-to future proof their business through international growth.

What are your predictions for the industry in 2020?

Next year, we’ll see Brexit frustration boil over. More businesses and retailers will continue to focus on international expansion and seeking ways to simplify cross-border delivery. Sustainability will be even more front of mind with the consumer, so we will see a strong trend amongst retailers offering more sustainable delivery and returns options. This will come in conflict with consumers’ ever-growing expectations of delivery choice and convenience, which is a constant at the heart of any delivery proposition.

This article was originally posted on supplychaindigital.com on 6th January 2020 – find the article here.

2021-05-11T12:02:22+00:00January 7th, 2020|
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