Welcome to the era of the empowered online shopper. COVID-19, the shuttering of brick-and-mortar stores and the explosion of online shopping have teamed up to irrevocably alter consumer behavior, which in turn has propelled even greater eCommerce purchasing. This notable shift has had a profound impact on the warehouse sector, which required much greater productivity in eCommerce fulfillment to meet surging online shopping demand.
Innovations in warehouse automation and robotics have been instrumental in improving order fulfillment operations, as described in our recent white paper, The New Way to Warehouse: 4 Innovations in Automation & Robotics to Boost eCommerce Fulfillment Productivity
These key developments have helped create a new way to shop, shaped by three major trends: the rise and permanence of online shopping; a new understanding of peak season; and an unwavering expectation of expedited delivery.
1. Online Shopping is Here to StayWith the shuttering of brick-and-mortar stores as consumers steered clear of in-person shopping during COVID-19, some experts believe the pandemic accelerated what was already a shift to online shopping by as much as five years. A McKinsey study found that nearly half of consumers who tried e-shopping during the pandemic will buy online again.
Despite their declining numbers, retail storefronts are still an important touchpoint for consumers who desire a traditional retail experience. Many still want to touch and feel merchandise, along with exploring options and gaining insights from store employees. However, consumers who were introduced to the convenience of online shopping are unlikely to revert completely to old shopping behaviors.
Online shopping gives consumers options. It can be faster and more convenient than traditional shopping with desirable features like curbside pickup and same-day if not even faster delivery. Online shopping also gives consumers a community of sorts to gather information, share opinions and gain inspiration for new ideas.
2. Redefining Peak Season
Most of us think as peak retail season as the holiday buying season, October through December. The ease and convenience of online shopping has created mini-peak seasons around lots of other holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and back-to-school. Supply chain shortages and greater online spending have encouraged consumers to shop earlier, which extends the holiday shopping season.
With purchase periods elongated, naturally the timeframe for returning purchases has also been extended. Instead of a seasonal peak season, we’re now seeing a year-round peak season, which is forcing warehouses to explore productivity solutions to avoid logistical delays, ease burdens on employees and address labor shortages.
3. Prompt Delivery Expected
Near the very top of most consumers’ priority lists when buying online is convenience and speed. Many not only have little patience for businesses that fall short, they’ll also quickly pivot to competitor offerings to meet their needs.
Thanks to Amazon, consumers are accustomed to faster delivery times for online purchases. One survey found that nearly two-thirds of consumers base their buying decisions on how fast their purchases can be delivered. Most consumers see 2-3 day shipping as a baseline timeframe; anything longer is deemed a failure. Excessive shipping fees or slow projected delivery times will cause many eCommerce shoppers to abandon their online shopping cart.
There’s not much loyalty in the online shopping space: one survey found that 93% of consumers turn to other retailers to complete their purchases if they can save on shipping. 85% search for faster delivery providers when their delivery expectations fall short.
This preferred way to shop with eCommerce essentially underscores the renewed power of the consumer to buy when they want to shop, expand the parameters of holiday shopping periods and dictate the terms by which their purchase deliveries are executed. Welcome to an even more robust era of the empowered shopper.
For more on this phenomenon and the role that technology and automation are fulfilling the needs of eCommerce shoppers, please see our latest white paper.