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Brace yourselves! Something is going to happen. But what? 

There’s no doubting the fact that consumer spending habits and behaviours have changed as COVID-19 dominates our ‘new world’ (or, buzzword alert – ‘new normal’). The trajectory of the virus over the coming months in the lead up to Black Friday is uncertain, and as restrictions ease-up, businesses are having to quickly adapt or rethink their strategies altogether.

So, unless you have a claimed psychic ability, how can you plan for the unpredictable? Well, we can start with what we already know (at time of publishing) about the current eCommerce landscape.

One thing’s for sure, driving growth is the lifeblood of successful eCommerce businesses and even in challenging times, opportunities exist for those with forward-planning strategies and these facts/factors in mind.

5 things we know

1. Online biz is booming

The prediction that eCommerce will continue to boom is ever-present. It is estimated that 17.2 million UK consumers (25% of the population) plan to make permanent changes to the way they shop with online retail sales estimated to increase by an additional £4.5bn in 2020.

Interestingly during lockdown, Brits spent over £40bn to simply lift their spirits, with the average UK adult spending £771 on non-essential items (we quite like the random purchases of a piece of the moon, an inflatable pub, and a Penny Farthing).

Aside from novelty, the top three key online purchase drivers have been free delivery, availability and price. Looking at your online offering, are these covered, and are you managing your inventory effectively to avoid ‘Out of Stock’ disappointment? Our intelligent reports provide up-to-the-minute sales trend data and live stock levels so that items can be reordered in good time, without over-stocking.

onlineshopping scaled e1598526351453

2. Savvy saving

Consumer spending and banking habits have/are shifting. The Toluna and Harris Interactive COVID-19 Barometer survey revealed that 38% of UK consumers would be looking to squirrel more money away into savings, and an additional 28% said they’re planning on being stricter with their budgeting.

Though consumers have disposable income as a result of forgoing holidays, and despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, it’s clear they remain cautious with their cash. Therefore, now more than ever, it’s important to communicate your ‘why?’ and reasons to buy.

Of course, your product and/or range is fantastic, but what about the overall shopping experience you’re offering? With ViewPort, offered by James and James Fulfilment, your customers can keep a close eye on their order status, from picking to delivery, and should they need to return their item, they can do this through the same portal. Convenience will forever be the customer’s friend.

A photo of a pink piggy bank on a pink background

3. Christmas is coming early 

Perhaps it’s more of the same spirit-lifting spending or savvy planning, but many consumers will be getting ahead of the game with their Christmas shopping this year. If there is to be another lockdown and people miss out on seeing family for the festivities, we’ll likely see proactive gift buying and more sending of parcels.

Three-quarters of global consumers aren’t planning to reduce their gift purchase expenditure, in fact – more than half (57%) still expect to make a purchase on big shopping days like Black Friday. With cost-efficiency being front-of-mind for this year’s Christmas celebrations, it’s likely that sales and discounts will be a key driving factor behind purchases.

Q4 2020 is set to be a time of opportunity for online retailers. A seasonal peak of all peaks. So the question is, are you prepared for these extremes? You can realise further cost savings by outsourcing your Black Friday, Christmas (and everything in between and after) order fulfilment. Why? Because you won’t be investing in space, staff or software that will then sit idle for the rest of the year.

A selection of Christmas gifts in front of a lit Christmas tree

4. In-store shopping’s a farce

Despite the reopening of doors, UK retail footfall is down 39% year-on-year. 40% of those who have visited UK stores apparently don’t find the experience as enjoyable as it once was, queuing and following a one-way system is an inconvenience – so too is not being able to try on clothing. Further insights from the ChannelAdvisor study discovered that over a third claimed they had to wait longer to check out at the end of their in-store experiences. (Did we mention convenience is the customer’s friend?)

Staying in has cemented itself as the new going out for many, and this combined with those in-store inconveniences means there’s opportunity for online retailers to capitalise on. Make sure you’re in a confident position to fulfil that demand though.

A woman shopping in a clothing store wearing a mask to protect herself from covid-19

5. Delight must be delivered

Like many brands right now, you may be cutting back on marketing spend, so it’s important your service delivery and customer experience is surpassing expectation. Customers will do the talking if their experience is a positive one (or a negative one for that matter).

Firstly, communicating on your website that you offer same-day dispatch with next-day delivery will convert visitors into buyers. The price of that service matters too. When you outsource your fulfilment to a partner, such as James and James, you can offer up a variety of courier options to give customers even more choice. Their clients tell them this has boosted their conversions and positions them with larger retailers.

Secondly, with online shopping (particularly fashion), returns are likely. There’s no physical trying on aspect and consumers have more time with the item to assess whether they actually need it. Processing those returns in-house can be costly, not just in monetary terms, but time too. A third-party logistics partner will manage the whole returns service for you; inspecting damaged items, initiating refunds, sending out replacements – all of it.

A consumer uses ViewPort to track their online order and create a return

Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.

Richard Cushing

Merchandise, fulfilment, and shipping have been major concerns of all brands of all sizes over the past few months – but they don’t have to be moving forward. Now is a good time to set up your outsourced fulfilment if you haven’t already.

Statistics correct at time of publishing, August 2020.

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