Business Leader received some expert analysis from Brightpearl – a technology platform for retailers and wholesalers that helps automate back office functions – on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on deliveries from e-commerce brands.

The Covid-19 outbreak has turned the online sales ecosystem upside down and has seen a huge surge in sales. Today’s e-commerce is booming and catapulting online shops to new heights. E-retail revenue is projected to hit $ 6.54 billion by 2022 as more retailers and entrepreneurs go online.

In our research, we found that 65% of consumers will shop online more often in the next 12 months. 20% say they are only expected to shop online within five years. Clearly, there is a tremendous opportunity here for challenger brands – especially in the DTC space – to capitalize on the huge increase in online customers, especially as buyers – up to 81% of them – want to buy products directly from brands.

Unfortunately, while most brands in the direct selling race know everything they need to do on the front end, few are trying to manage operational complexities that are beyond the buy button. That said, many online brands screw the doggie when it comes to delivery.

Let me add context here – since the pandemic began, 61% of consumers have had trouble buying brands online – with a quarter of shoppers disappointed by ordering online since the crisis began.

The reliability of delivery has led to a crisis of confidence for some consumers. 48% of US shoppers say online delivery has taken longer since the crisis, and 38% of UK shoppers agree.

It’s not difficult to say that today’s e-commerce market is fraught with fulfillment problems. These widespread errors and delays result in customers missing important deliveries, leading to greater disappointment and distrust when shopping online.

Online demand creates costly mistakes

When consumers go online, vendors need to process the increased demand for online orders faster – and that can lead to errors. When out of stock or regularly shipping to the wrong addresses, these glitches are often due to ineffective workflows or human error.

With online brands, these delivery errors won’t find favor with customers – they quickly undermine trust in your brand, and you can count every repeat business. After Covid, maximizing the value of customer lifetime becomes even more important. Recently we saw that data showing the value of customer loyalty versus acquisition, like improving customer loyalty by 5%, increases profits by up to 95%.

Forrester also expects customer retention and retention spending to increase by 30% over the next year after adding numerous new online customers in the 2020 e-commerce boom.

We know that post-purchase experiences, from delivery to return, have a huge impact on customer loyalty and loyalty – and these are precisely the scenarios that should be addressed over the next 12 months. To further this point, in a survey by Brightpearl we found that 77% of all 1-star reviews were related to issues with deliveries such as goods being delayed or items being shipped to the wrong location.

With this in mind, optimized delivery strategies for fast-growing brands must be high on the agenda. As online sales continue to grow, revising your ecommerce delivery strategy to make online deliveries faster, more reliable, and more flexible could provide the competitive advantage that will attract and retain customers over the long term.

Brands that fail to improve their services run the risk of missing out on one of the greatest digital opportunities in recent years.

Spill the secret sauce

When it comes to online delivery, the top performing retailers all have something in common. They consistently meet or exceed customer expectations for delivery times and respond quickly and seamlessly to changing customer needs or peaks in demand.

These brands understand that they are competing with the big players on the court. This means that Amazon considers fast, reliable delivery and fulfillment to be extremely important.

The top performers exceed expectations and can stay competitive because they have an automated delivery strategy in place. While Amazon continues to be faster than any major competitor, these top retailers are bridging the void by fully automating customer orders, inventory updates, sales decisions, and more. This avoids human error and increases the productivity of the process when items are moved out of the door faster.

When it comes to shipping speed, automation can improve this exponentially, allowing a brand to present itself as a viable alternative to the giants with the speed, convenience and consistency of service that ensures customers are satisfied and sooner return to repeat purchases.

New Era – New Solutions Required

COVID-19 has put existing business and retail models in the spotlight and proven to be an extreme stress test. Fast delivery, guaranteed order fulfillment and excellent customer experiences are the bare minimum for online retailers. In my view, the increased demand is not going to let up, and brands should fully expect that changing expectations and interests outside the traditional “tops” are the new normal – and companies need to be aware of their need to keep evolving.

Understandably, many retailers are struggling with the logistics of increased demand and decreased operating capacity. In order for retailers to directly address these challenges while delivering on their service promises, e-commerce companies need to improve their digital retail infrastructure and streamline operational processes as much as possible. I encourage companies to take the time to use feedback to identify weaknesses in the end-to-end customer journey and the impact of the pandemic on their organization.

By taking strategic steps to streamline operations, fast-growing companies can maximize the opportunities that arise in our current environment. I believe that superior DTC models are emerging that are based on agility, expandability and speed that will reduce market share and become new market leaders over time. Without a doubt, their successful consumer-centric strategy and exceptional online delivery models will build on solid foundations – and accelerate the adoption of automated workflows.