Predicting the future is usually no mean feat, but when it comes to consumers, their habits can reveal a few key clues. Taking a moment to observe and analyse the behaviour of your consumers and the functionality of your workforce can help uncover what systems need reshaping.
What we do know is that we’re in the zeitgeist for digital transformation, and taking note of the leading tech trends could make all the difference for the future of your business. Luckily for you, we have a guest article by Derek O’Carroll (pictured right), CEO at Brightpearl on eCommerce tech trends for a Digital Transformation Month special:
Consumers – they’ve changed
A new era is upon us. It was always coming, but the impact of Covid has accelerated changes to buying habits and retailers have struggled to keep pace with the evolving demands being placed before them.
Until very recently, we were in the Cloud Era which brought with it the ability to navigate complex systems while delivering a single source of truth. Today, a traditional commerce platform comes equipped with a set of pre-existing functionality, bundled together as an “all-in-one” solution, from a single ERP-style vendor. The platform approach has been largely positive, as businesses ventured down the path of doing business online for the first time and consumer expectations drove the requirement for mostly simple, standardized commerce experiences.
But, today, things are changing – rapidly. Consumers now want more flexibility in how, where, and when they make purchases. In addition, expectations for modern, engaging experiences have skyrocketed over the past several years, mostly as a result of the leading giants raising the bar in terms of what consumers expect.
We are more hyper-connected than ever before, and customers expect to be able to buy goods and services whenever and wherever they are.
In order to meet demand Post-Covid, there will continue to be an abundance of emerging technologies that support the development of newer channels – social and voice commerce, text messaging, live streaming and augmented reality, new social media outlets (e.g. Reels, TikTok) and even in-app purchasing in mediums like WhatsApp.
The abundance of new channels that eCommerce firms will need to utilise Post-Covid to remain competitive is going to cause much greater system complexity. In this environment, no “One Vendor” can provide the best functionality for all the applications needed for running a modern eCommerce experience.
Increasingly, reliance on legacy ERPs is preventing retailers from quickly upgrading and evolving their tech stacks, and from having best-in-breed software for each area of the business, from sales, payments, to accounting and HR. In future, this is going to cause major issues.
For example, if your eCommerce business can’t connect to the latest hot sales channel, using TikTok as an example, then consumers will simply go elsewhere. The same can be said if you aren’t using the latest payment option, whether that’s Clearpay, Klarna or a new competitor to the market.
Post Covid: Rise of API
The changing nature of how we shop will force commerce businesses to rethink the tech stack used to power their online businesses so they can keep pace, let alone innovate and differentiate, in a saturated B2C market.
Furthermore, the challenges facing modern brands is leading to the rise of a new era – the API era – where retailers can curate dynamic and interconnected tech stacks with systems that enable them to quickly integrate a changing roster of best in class tools and applications. We are now in the API Era.
API adoption, in my view, will be the leading eCommerce tech trend coming out of Covid. It’s the way forward for eCommerce brands to develop and nurture their customer experience investment with an approach that embraces uniqueness, differentiation and understands that “functionality fit for everyone” will not be enough.
We will see more brands looking for an agile tech stack that can be easily built through API to keep up with consumers’ demand. Companies will require – probably demand – the flexibility to rapidly select, integrate and assemble best in class functionality for specific business requirements, and switch out technologies when they no longer are fit for purpose. In this new era, brands will utilize various vendors to support consumer expectations, rather than relying on one vendor to produce standard functionality fit for everyone.
Increasingly, automation will become the second major tech trend for eCommerce businesses – and with good reason. Since Covid-19 hit, some eCommerce businesses are finding themselves overwhelmed by an inability to process increases in demand from shoppers that are moving online. As a result, orders are being missed, wrongly placed, or being oversold – resulting in disappointed customers.
In fact, 1 in 3 consumers have been let down by an online order since the Covid crisis and four out of ten buyers say online deliveries are taking longer to arrive since social distancing restrictions were introduced. Furthermore, 25 percent of shoppers experienced items being listed out of stock after purchase.
Operational problems like stockouts and delivery delays have been a major theme since Covid, and it has significantly damaged shoppers’ relationship with online brands.
In order to operate viable and successful online businesses long-term, vendors will need to process online orders more quickly, more accurately, and in a manner which safeguards both their employees and the end user. From order to delivery, brands must get their house in order, and as a result we’ll see technology investments focussed around creating highly efficient ecosystems that support speed and hyper convenience.
Central to this trend will be greater adoption of retail workflow automation, which means automating repeatable processes, from order processing to inventory and shipping. The benefits of this include removing the risk of human error from repetitive manual tasks, while at the same time ensuring that orders can be picked, packed and shipped quickly – ensuring customers get their items on time, and as expected.
Covid has shone a spotlight on existing retail models – as well as the technologies that brands might not have considered before its impact. As we now emerge from the pandemic, technologies that support dynamic and interconnected systems, sync sales channels and automate retail workflows will prove to be vital building blocks in aiding recovery and competitive edge.
Those eCommerce brands that have these solid foundations underpinning their business will find themselves well placed to exceed expectations, maximize customer lifetime value and emerge as the big winners over the longer term.
Brightpearl is a retail operations platform for retailers and wholesalers with a clear mission to automate the back office so merchants can spend their time and money growing the business. Brightpearl’s complete back office solution includes financial management, inventory and sales order management, purchasing and supplier management, CRM, fulfillment, warehouse management and logistics. You can find them on LinkedIn here or give them a follow on Twitter here: @BrightpearlHQ.