Adapting to the changing landscape of borderless e-commerce and consumer demands

Consumer expectations and shopping habits are changing and impacting retail businesses large and small, particularly with the rise in e-commerce.

The 2019 Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index showed that parcel volume in Australia grew ten per cent in 2018 to 864 million parcels, up from 781 million in 2017. This means Australians send 2.36M parcels every day. On average, Australians receive 34 parcels each year. These stats are not surprising given online shopping now makes up 9 per cent of retail spend in Australia.

The rise of online retailers like Amazon and eBay has also brought a change in consumer expectations. The Parcel Shipping Index also revealed that optimising the “last mile” delivery is now a key concern and motivation for innovation for almost all shipping businesses, especially as consumer expectations shift from two-day delivery to one-day and now even two hours.

There are four steps to help smaller retailers succeed in a challenging and changing environment.

  1. Shipping is the key to a happy customer experience
    Shipping is an important touchpoint for retailers. It is the point at which lasting impressions are formed. The rise in parcel volumes provides the perfect opportunity to improve interactions with customers. Customers like choice so it’s key to give them a variety of delivery options, costs and timings and end-to-end parcel visibility. Product and packaging is one of the simplest brand-driven experiences to control. The box, the tape or ribbon used, the care that’s given to packaging and presentation, this all matters to build a relationship with the customer and to create a positive brand experience. Integrating shipping as part of the customer journey can extend the brand experience. It can provide a strong competitive edge and a customer experience that is memorable – for the right reasons.
  2. Real-time tracking offers opportunities to engage with customers
    Consumers crave a lot of information while they are waiting for their packages. In fact, we see eight tracking requests on average for every parcel shipped. Assuming most parcels arrive within three days or less, that means consumers are checking multiple times per day. And, that doesn’t even count all the information they receive from the merchant via email or SMS.
    Tracking should be an opportunity to engage and cross-sell. With eight tracking request per parcel, that’s a captive audience. Instead, most companies leave it to the carrier to share information, sending messages with their own branding, often asking customers to sign up for an account so they can market to them directly.
  3. Returns should be hassle-free for the customer and for the business
    Businesses need to be clear about their returns policy; it shouldn’t be hidden in the Terms and Conditions. Successful online retailers are upfront about returns, knowing that offering easy returns and managing them well gives them a standout differentiator. According to the 2018 Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study, 92 per cent of consumers will buy again from a brand if returns are easy.
  4. Embrace disruptive technologies for a streamlined shipping and shopping experience
    Shipping is complex. Disruptive technologies have transformed, simplified and accelerated the sending process. Automated all-in-one shipping and mailing platforms are built on innovative SaaS engines and connected through the IoT. Integrating apps and APIs and accessible through tablets, desktops and mobiles, these Wi-Fi-enabled technologies simplify sending. These next-generation shipping technologies have opened the benefits of automation to small businesses, making it accessible, affordable and scalable.

When retailers consider these four key things, they can create a seamless experience for the customer and it positions them well for the exponential rise in parcel shipping volume.

Ben Seal, Head of Shipping, Pitney Bowes ANZ

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