In the UK, retail has re-opened. In other places, it's been open all along, or hopefully it's on its way. In any case, unless you are a true believer and a high street evangelist, most likely you're now in the e-commerce game for good. You've probably started to develop unique 'online' shopping habits that have roughly translated across from your high-street behaviours. Did you go and see what you could see? Do you look at every single price tag? How impulsive are you? How much did you value the experience of being instore?
These traits match up in the online world. Shopping around with 10 different tabs open, adding the same items to multiple baskets, looking at who has the best discount codes? Taking your time and only purchasing the perfect item at the time you absolutely need it? Looking for a unique, personalised digital shopping experience?
Brands are becoming more aware of these behaviours and are consequently implementing tactics on their sites to cater for the differing shopper personalities. Roughly speaking, we're talking about:
Cool. Great! What tribe are you in? More importantly though - let's get into some fulfilment chat. How, as a brand, can you make sure it's not just your website that is tailored to be as effective as possible for this mish-mash variety of visitors. If each shopper gets the thing they're looking for from you (not just the product, but that extra special value add they're really after), they're certainly more likely to come back for more.
For us, of course, it's what the warehouse can do to back up the good work of the marketing campaigns and website experience. Fulfilment, as we like to say, is at the heart of customer experience, and the activity in your warehouse or fulfilment centre becomes the heartbeat itself. So let's look at our four categories of shopper again and think about how a slick warehouse operation can make their experience stand out.
Cheap doesn't have to mean lower quality
For the Bargain Hunter, you can be sure they are only shopping with you because the product they are after is cheapest on your site. They probably don't have much brand affiliation or concern for reviews/social proof. Nor do they really care how well laid out and smooth your site is, and not even how many steps you have to take for purchase. It's value and that price tag that is getting their business this time.
So - there's a few things you can do from a warehouse and fulfilment perspective, to enable you to keep the end retail cost of your products as low as you'd like them to be. How many staff are you paying full time to pick, pack and ship orders? And, would some better-thought out processes and a nice bit of clever software take that headcount down? There's no substitute for manpower, but if you've got 10 people doing work 3 people could do with better tech and better structure, there's an immediate saving to be made. Equally, is it taking those 10 people twice as long to pick the orders as it could, because the way they walk around the warehouse isnt' as efficient as it could be? Can they pick more than one order at once? How long are they waiting for shipping labels to be printed? Going faster = saving money = ability to lower end-cost. Or, have the same cost of the items but offer 'free shipping' (absorbing the cost of shipping yourself), which is a sure-fire way to get those cost conscious customers over the line at checkout.
Give them something truly memorable
So what about the other end of the spectrum, the experiential shopper? They are looking for a great time, and price doesn't really come into the picture. They want to feel special, and are seeking a brand that provides a truly remarkable, valuable and exciting experience. So alongside a great website, awesome pictures, personalised features and so on, you need to be able to offer the ultimate fulfilment experience. Confirm the order immediately after it has been placed with an email or text. Update the customer when the item has been allocated for picking, tell them which member of your team is currently handling their order! Heck, you've got to let them know when the items are packed and dispatched, with the tracking details etc all remaining on brand and in the same portal. People hate having to go across to DHL, FedEx or whatever carrier is being used to see their parcel status, when they could have it all in one place. Naturally, the final piece of the puzzle for the customer is to receive their items exactly right, perfectly on time, and to have another special experience during the unboxing or unwrapping. If your warehouse team are invested in the customer experience, and feel good job satisfaction aligned with the brand, it's much more likely the items are packed perfectly too.
Every detail matters
Research analysts are planners. They could have been thinking about this one purchase for weeks, months even! You can be damn sure they've looked into the product options, considered their list of requirements, the features/style/colourway/fit/functionality, and want everything to be exactly as it seems - they've built this up in their head and it better well go to plan. So how do you delight the customer who already has it all figured out and knows everything about you already? Let's be honest, there will be customers out there who already know about your discount code scheme for members, and your 'unique' unboxing experience they've already watched 5 separate reviews of. The role of the warehouse in these cases is pretty simple: provide transparent, detailed options and clear expectations, then deliver them to the absolute T. This is about doing exactly what you say you will do. If you offer next day delivery with a late cut-off time on your website, your warehouse team need to be enabled to make that a reality, every time it is requested. Much harder if they've worked an absolute gruelling 12 hour shift chasing around orders without labels and inefficient walking routes. These customers are almost certainly planning their day around the delivery slot, so you better get ahead and process the order promptly, get it over to the carrier, and, well, work with carriers who deliver time and again just as smoothly as you.
Just don't get in the way
The final tribe of is our beloved impulse buyers. Like a magpie to a shiny thing… This lot could be browsing Facebook or Instagram, or just flicking through their emails. When they see something they like the look of, and when the feeling is right, the shopping magic kicks in and that item is sold. No second thoughts, no hesitation, I want it? I got it. This group are a really cool one to track for the marketing analytics teams, as they're the ones that are being targeted by SMS campaigns, well timed compelling emails, social influencers etc. When this customer comes by, just don't get in the way. The compulsion to spend comes and goes in a flash, and anything that interrupts the magic is a bad idea. So when it comes to checkout, brands should make sure the process is as smooth as possible. Buy now, pay later, remember my details, 1 click purchase, even shoppable ads can be used to great effect here, keeping the customer on Instagram to make the purchase rather than redirecting.
From a fulfilment perspective, there's a few similar ideas. That impulse to buy now probably carries over into an impulse to actually have the item right now. Next day delivery with late cut-offs is a huge winner for these types of shoppers. So again, the faster your warehouse can pick and ship orders, the later these cut-offs can be and the more next dayers you can capture. Another reason impulse shoppers might be with you on this occasion is the offer you've made them. Thinking about huge sale periods and new product launches, you might have more new customers on your site spending with you than ever before. You need a warehouse that can flex up to handle this incredible surge in demand. This means adding new staff onto the system, having an easy way to get them to learn the layout, and have them effective, picking orders in minutes, not days. Fashion brands in particular love building up hype, attracting impulse shoppers in with huge, extremely time-limited discounts. But you can only do this if you're confident your fulfilment can back it up and get every order out on time and accurately. Otherwise all those new customers you managed to acquire once are going to turn into a hoard of angry comments and bad reviews.
Final thoughts - where do you stand?
So - brand owners and operators. Which type of customer do you think you have the most of? How are you tailoring your offering to make sure you can capture them not just as one off customers, but long term supporters? For fulfilment tech, get us involved!