To weather Covid-19 and economic challenges, the retail and eCommerce space has experienced immense innovation and adaptation throughout 2020. Online shopping has risen dramatically. Businesses have leaned into contactless payments methods. And order fulfillment has shifted to focus on limited contact options like curbside pickup and doorstep delivery.
However, with January right around the corner, there are also new trends on the horizon. Here are 9 that retailers can take advantage of as we head into 2021.
Now that more customers are making the shift to online shopping, fulfillment is splitting in every direction. Customers are having products shipped directly to their homes from warehouses. They’re picking up orders curbside and in-store. And retail and eCommerce businesses are shipping products from every location, including their brick-and-mortar storefronts and wholesalers.
This has made it much more convenient for customers to shop. However, it’s also made logistics much more difficult for many retail and eCommerce businesses. To effectively scale to meet the coming demand for online shopping in 2021, retail and eCommerce businesses will need to start thinking about adopting an omnichannel OMS solution.
BOPIS and BOPAC
Customers have grown attached to alternative shopping methods like in-store and curbside pickup. And not just because they’re the more health-conscious option either. Since BOPIS and BOPAC allow customers to browse your products on their mobile devices and pick up their order when it’s most convenient for them, the ease of in-store and curbside pickup is far greater than other shopping methods.
To keep up with demand (and the other 90% of businesses who plan to implement the strategy come 2021), retail businesses will need to take a serious look at their BOPIS and BOPAC strategies.
Ship from Store
With eCommerce shopping predicted to grow another 25-35% this quarter, retail and eCommerce businesses need to find ways to accelerate order cycles and improve their overall fulfillment logistics.
One trend that’s poised to make this possible in 2021 is “ship from store” fulfillment, which allows businesses to use their storefronts to ship online orders. Being located much closer to customers’ homes, these alternative “fulfillment centers” allow businesses to ship orders faster while decreasing the overall cost of fulfillment.
Last Mile Notifications
Knowing where packages are when in-transit is important to your customers. Not only does it give them peace of mind, but it also allows them to plan accordingly so their order isn’t left out in inclement weather or stolen from their doorstep.
And while customers are not yet able to track every step of the fulfillment process, the improvements made to last-mile tracking have made it possible for customers to visualize the movement of their order over the last mile of the fulfillment process.
As we approach 2021, we can expect to see more improvements made to package tracking, and more specifically, last-mile tracking for online orders.
It’s no secret that social media is a powerful tool for eCommerce and retail businesses. Between advertising and selling products, the platforms offer a lot of value. However, many companies have yet to tap into the full potential of social media as a customer support tool.
Given the fact that many customers prefer social media over phone calls, adopting and scaling your use of social media to improve customer care can result in a massive payoff. In fact, it can lead to a 25% increase in brand advocacy.
Expectations for customer support are growing all the time. To stay in customers’ good graces, retail and eCommerce businesses have to find ways to answer questions and solve problems faster and more effectively.
As a result, many are planning to take more a proactive approach to customer care, by delivering answers before they’re asked and solving problems before they occur. As we head into 2021, some popular solutions we’re likely to see include FAQ pages, knowledge centers, Visual IVR technology, and AI chatbots designed to pull answers on-demand and share information proactively.
“Buy Now Pay Later”
During 2020, a lot of consumers faced financial hardships, as they lost their jobs or had their working hours significantly reduced. However, by offering layaway programs and “buy now pay later” options, many businesses were able to continue catering to hard-hit individuals. As a result, these businesses have seen immense benefits in the way of new customers and larger amounts of revenue.
In 2021, “buy now pay later” options like Afterpay, Affirm, and Sezzle are likely to help retail and eCommerce businesses hang onto customers and potentially turn a larger profit (particularly with their larger ticket items).
Customers’ wallets are expanding. Now, instead of being restricted to debit and credit cards, they can make payments using mobile options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, PayPal, and even cryptocurrencies.
However, the number of retail and eCommerce businesses that accept the same wide range of payment options is still relatively small. At least for now. With eCommerce shopping predicted to boom in the coming year, businesses will likely continue expanding their accepted payment methods to make shopping easier and more accessible to everyone.
Tax & Fraud
AI Fraud Detection
In the past, human employees were the ones to detect fraud. They’d review receipts, view shipping addresses, and generally do all of the authentication work by hand. But, with the recent advent of artificial intelligence, many businesses have opted to hand off their fraud detection work to trained algorithms.
Unfortunately, while this has accelerated the fraud detection process, it’s also made online shopping much more inconvenient for customers -- as the algorithms require extensive amounts of information to run effectively.
In 2021, AI fraud detection will likely get more sophisticated and streamlined to ensure a proper balance with customer experience.
Every year, new opportunities emerge for eCommerce businesses and retailers to improve their customer experience and logistics. And 2021 looks to be no exception. From new payment options and artificial intelligence to omnichannel fulfillment and proactive customer care, there are a lot of exciting trends headed our way.