What should luxury eCommerce brands look for in a fulfilment partner?
In its 2019 annual report, British luxury brand Burberry revealed that ‘digital was the fastest-growing luxury sales channel in 2019, growing 22% versus previous year and representing 12% of all luxury sales’. Fast forward to 2020 and we see Covid-19 forcing similar luxury retailers shifting their focus to eCommerce.
Global management consulting firm Bain & Company, found that online channels (already experiencing double-digit growth), will continue to gain share and account for up to 30 percent of the market by 2025. The report goes on to state that ‘every aspect of the market, from creation to distribution, marketing to supply chain, and crucially the interaction with the final customers will need to be re-imagined to suit a changed world.’
While Covid initially led to the shutdown of brick-and-mortar stores, online luxury remains resilient, however – with a luxury product comes an expectation of a premium buying experience. The service provided should wholly reflect the price point from end to end.
So then, what should luxury retailers look for to ensure their fulfilment provider is up to the job?
When thinking about outsourcing luxury online orders to a fulfilment centre, it’s important to seek out their track record. Have they worked with, and are they still working with, companies that sell similar products? Perhaps they already deal with designer fashion, high-end beauty, watches and jewellery, or consumer electronics. A long-standing history of fulfilling these types of items is an excellent sign that they can cater to your customers’ needs and do it well.
Luxury eCommerce products carry a much higher price tag than average stock, so may look attractive to thieves. Ensure that the warehouse(s) where your goods will be kept is safe and secure – pay them a visit if you can. Proper warehouse security should consist at the very least of full coverage, 24-hour CCTV, and a high-tech alarm system. A restricted access high-value goods area with additional security is also important for those extra-expensive items.
Data security is also extremely important. With fraud more prevalent than ever, consumers want to feel reassured that their information is protected. Any third party that your luxury goods business works with, whether for fulfilment or otherwise, should follow strict data protection standards.
Care and accuracy
Consumers who like to indulge in more luxurious purchases generally have higher expectations when it comes to customer experience. For this reason, it’s important to avoid mistakes wherever possible. If the customer is going to spend £300 on a designer jacket, they expect the correct item to arrive at the specified time in one piece. Anything otherwise is nothing short of a nuisance for them. Your order fulfilment should use a software system with proven, near 100% accuracy. Failure to get things right could lose repeat business.
In order to compete with the best luxury eTailers around it’s also important to think about the traceability of your goods. Can each order be tracked through each and every point in its journey, from the moment it’s placed to the minute it’s delivered, in real time?
While very important, tracking isn’t the only area you should consider when it comes to the traceability of your luxury goods. If your luxury goods include items like watches, cosmetics or consumer electronics then batch control is also important. If a particular product batch is found to have a fault or contamination issue then knowing who these products went out to will make the process of replacement, repair or recall far easier. Where your products might have an expiration date, Best Before End date management is also important.
Ready for returns
It goes without saying that people will occasionally want to send items back. The hassle of posting a return, followed by the anxious wait for your refund or exchange, plays a huge part in the customer experience. Slow returns with poor customer communication can leave things on a sour note and ultimately damage your brand’s reputation.
One of the best ways to simplify and tidy up your returns process is through technology. While it’s difficult and time-consuming to develop your own, there are third parties that can provide you with access to their expert Returns Management Authorisation (RMA) systems.
RMA allows the customer to generate a return online, providing you with reasons and any extra comments. Once posted, you and the customer can track it through to resolution, reducing the influx of customer service queries and leaving your customer feeling reassured.
James and James Fulfilment
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own.
We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.
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