20th of Nov 2020, Mats&Axel trendspotting:
What does “Peak Season” mean to e-retailers, carriers and consumers?
After eight months of Covid in Sweden, e-commerce has seen a dramatic upturn. Everyone between the ages of 3 and 90 is shopping online. Many e-retailers are on board and moving full steam ahead, while others are still waiting at the station. We buy huge quantities of groceries, pharmaceuticals and imported foods online. We stockpile our homes with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, while governmental regulations leave restaurants without diners and artists without audiences. We spend our money on necessities and home furnishings instead of on trips to amusement parks and mall shopping sprees. Shops and other physical trading venues are suffering. And as if that all wasn’t enough, Amazon has finally decided after many years of speculation to jump in and set up shop in Sweden, with warehouses in Eskilstuna.
Now, at the end of November, the holiday shopping countdown begins with Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the official kick-off for all of us eager consumers. Figures are indicating that sales this year will break all records. The carriers are doing everything they can to estimate volumes, find extra capacity and temporary staff in the terminals to keep their delivery promises to their customers – the e-retailers – and to us consumers, who are waiting and tracking our shipments. And even though there has already been a high demand on online sales since the spring, it doesn’t look like it’s going to go down in the foreseeable future. Many e-commerce reports have already assured us all that there will be more sales this year than in 2019.
You e-retailers, think about this!
It has never been more important to have the right interface with consumers. Is it easy to shop? Do you have relevant delivery options? Can your customers track their shipments easily without needing to call your customer service? Do you have a good solution for your returns, exchanges, and refunds? These sound like obvious questions, but it is surprising how many companies today don’t have structured methods for addressing these issues.
A decade ago, all of the big e-commerce companies only offered one delivery option. This wasn’t because there was only one carrier back then, but because we consumers didn’t demand any better alternatives. Shipments were sold on a volume basis, and e-retailers got worse/higher prices if they spread out their volumes over multiple carriers. Delivery to a pick-up point within 2–5 days was standard and totally acceptable for us then. And today, totally unimaginable! The e-retailers who currently offer their customers only one delivery option find it difficult to keep their customers satisfied and loyal.
“Your customer is only loyal until they find a better offer!”, to quote Jeff Bezos.
You carriers, think about this!
What values do you convey to e-retailers and to us consumers? Do you know that we consumers are starting to feel the same loyalty to you carriers that we have to e-retailers and other brands, such as those in fashion, home electronics, furniture, etc.?
It’s not enough today to transport a package from A to B. It can’t only be about tyres and diesel any longer. Climate-smart solutions, speed, precision and easy delivery with personal identification solutions like BankID are more important in these times than ever before. When fossil-free deliveries and green shipping will soon be the standard, how can carriers stand out and win the hearts of consumers? Will it be through extra offers later in the delivery chain, such as switching carrier, home delivery by an agent, same-day delivery, etc.?
Us consumers, think about this!
What should we shoppers think about? What responsibility do we have in all of this? Expect long delivery times. That’s just the way things are. The carriers’ terminals will be chock-full of packages that have to be sorted and sent on to their final destination. E-retailers will be drowning in orders that need to be dealt with. And no matter how much extra capacity they plan to bring in, it will sometimes take a little more time than usual. There isn’t an endless number of vehicles that can be driven or extra staff who can sort or pack packages, after all. It is what it is, and it’s not the end of the world if a delivery takes a few extra days, as long as the consumer knows about that possibility beforehand.
Although home deliveries have increased by 50% during the pandemic, the majority of deliveries still go to agent pick-up points. It’s going to get crowded when we all have to pick up our packages at the same time. With that in mind, try to get in the habit of sneaking into your local pick-up point at non-peak hours. Another alternative, of course, is to choose home delivery or delivery to a package locker, thus helping both your e-retailer and your carrier. And above all, your own blood pressure since you won’t have to needlessly call their customer service. Keep calm! Your package is on its way. Download good tracking apps and follow your packages there instead of phoning.
It’s fun to shop online, isn’t it? It’s amazing when you find a good deal! Buy that thing you’ve always wanted and get it to your house that same evening. Find that amazing gadget at the best price! But remember to shop smart, because when you click that button one last time, when you may have just overdrawn your account and be living on the edge for yet another thing “you just had to have”, you may just discover that the toilet paper you’ve stockpiled is on its last roll. Think about that!
In their next trendspotting, Mats&Axel will dive deep into the holiday shopping hangover and sort out how e-retailers, carriers and we consumers can best cope with the rough month of January!
Mats Fischerström and Axel Lindgren work at Unifaun, which is behind, among other accomplishments, the Unifaun Delivery Checkout and one of Sweden’s most popular apps, Mina Paket, where you can track all your deliveries and online purchases.
Mats&Axel bring together their different experiences and points of view into an exciting and innovative perspective on the opportunities and challenges of e-commerce. Mats&Axel are popular speakers at trade fairs, conferences and other e-commerce events.