We live in an era of “click and expect” – anticipating the product we ordered will be in stock, dispatched immediately, received within 24 hours, and that the whole online shopping experience will be seamless, instantaneous and run like clockwork. The fact is most British consumers now demand commerce without compromise.
“Today’s shoppers, especially millennials, have great expectations. They want instant gratification and have an ‘everything is now’ mentality, yet many retailers cannot get their heads around this,” explains Paul Lynch, area vice president at PFS, a global e-commerce solutions provider.
However, behind the well-curated retail web pages and glossy pixelated images aimed at drawing in those 20 to 30-something digital natives, there’s a patchwork of dated technology platforms, unreliable data, as well as a mishmash of systems struggling to cope and fulfil people’s orders.
“The biggest issue in e-commerce today is that it’s highly fragmented. There’s a lack of integrated technologies and not much of a joined-up approach to clicking, picking and packing orders,” says Mr Lynch, whose company works with some of the biggest names in retail including Asics, The White Company, The Entertainer and L’Oréal.
The reason for this is that many bricks-and-mortar retailers that moved online up to a decade ago have a series of legacy systems involving multiple partners and suppliers. The data they have may not be clean. Their stock isn’t managed as intelligently as it could be and their fulfilment doesn’t function seamlessly due to the many gaps in the systems they operate.
“Many retailers who have an e-commerce platform would rather rip up their whole creaking digital offering and start again. They look on enviously at pure players, who started a few years back, that are able to create seamless and contextual shopping experiences effortlessly across all channels,” says Mr Lynch. “Some companies are ten years behind when it comes to their back-end systems.”
Now the biggest challenge for most retailers is to create a well-oiled, end-to-end e-commerce offering with no gaps, one that elevates the brand, controls and monitors customer journeys, while managing data at every point in the buying process – in fact a digital retail ecosystem that accurately mirrors the analogue retail world and also goes that step further.
Data is the single most critical factor in driving this, as well as any seamless customer experience. If it is fragmented, then it becomes the root cause of any broken or poor consumer journey.
“Data is crucial for e-commerce. At the end of the day, it’s all about engaging customers, and you can only do that when there’s accurate data and your systems are fully integrated,” says Mr Lynch.
“Get this right and it allows marketers to take back control. When there are few internal constraints, marketers can then innovate to engage customers better, as well as create customised and personalised campaigns, using fewer resources and time.”
PFS serves more than 160 of the world’s leading brands operating in a range of national and international markets, including apparel, luxury goods, home improvement, sporting goods, home decor, food and beverage, health and beauty, and consumer electronics.
The company has years of experience offering full end-to-end e-commerce solutions, including those in the fields of strategic consulting, digital marketing and technology. The biggest challenge PFS is tackling right now involves integrating organisations’ systems so they are able to offer an experience that meets and exceeds their customers’ ever-evolving expectations.
“We take a holistic approach and ask the question ‘How can we grow your e-commerce business from £10 to £100 million in the next few years?’ Those that see it as an investment rather than a cost are the ones that get it, especially if it’s driven from the boardroom,” says Mr Lynch. “We really are in the age of click and expect. Retailers beware.”