By Sian Hopwood, EVP, Local Business Units at BluJay Solutions
E-commerce may have made waves across the supply chain over the last few years, but freight forwarders, shippers and those delivering on the last mile have seen nothing yet: a social commerce boom is upon us. Consumers are increasingly making purchases on social media, helped by the one in four British businesses which had enabled this by the end of last year. According to PayPal, this number will have doubled by time of publication. Britain is still playing catchup, however: this is nowhere near the global average of 45 per cent of sales volume which is purchased through social media.
Social media platforms are creating opportunities for businesses to convert consumers’ browsing behaviours into frictionless shopping experiences. Once destinations for interacting with family and friends, these platforms have added marketplaces and become another shop-front for brands. By integrating ‘buy’ and ‘checkout’ functions, social platforms have given consumers the ability to browse items and make purchases directly through Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, creating new ways for them to take immediate action on purchase intents and interact directly with brands, in real-time.
However, as immediate communication and instant service becomes the norm across all industries as digital transformation takes hold, freight, transportation and distribution businesses need to adapt to keep up. BluJay research indicates that 61% of supply chain professionals believe that delivering an enhanced customer experience is now the main driver for supply chain innovation, over reducing costs. This means understanding the shift in consumer behaviour, being aware of advancements in ecommerce and service provision and knowing how to leverage these changes to achieve a competitive advantage.
New ways to shop
Consumer attitudes and preferences have changed dramatically over the past five years. Alongside advancements in mobile technology, consumers have embraced immediate communication and now expect instant customer service. UK businesses have a huge opportunity to capitalise upon the impending boom, with 8.4m British consumers already shopping via social media. With a fifth of those already taking part in social commerce weekly, this proportion looks set to rise, along with the average monthly spend of £71.
Consumers are seeking new ways to engage with brands using technology, with younger generations leading the social commerce charge. According to the Global Web Index report, the adoption of social commerce is particularly high among Generation Z and Millennials, with 60 per cent more inclined to make a purchase on a social platform when given the opportunity. Buy now, pay later schemes like Klarna also give customers even easier ways to purchase products at a time of their choosing.
Transforming delivery on the last mile
Social commerce is about offering a fast, easy and frictionless end-to-end experience. Unfortunately, one of the less considered components of this revolution is how supply chains need to evolve to meet the expectation for seamless, speedy delivery.
The challenge for freight, transportation and distribution companies is fulfilling orders placed via social media efficiently, competitively and conveniently. This is imperative as it only takes one bad experience for a customer to look elsewhere.
So, how can these businesses keep pace with socially minded consumers, given the speed at which purchases can now be made?
Today, shoppers expect brands to be ‘always on’ and provide real-time product information, such as whether a product is available in a particular store and delivery time frames. But to do this requires two things: visibility into inventory levels and the ability to communicate real-time information to partners, suppliers and customers alike. Brands will be looking to freight, transportation and distribution companies to provide the visibility demanded by customers, making visibility solutions vital for shippers.
How BluJay networks helped AO.com to deliver
Freight, transportation and distribution companies will also struggle to meet customer expectations in the age of social commerce without the support of a wider network. For retailer AO.com, the expansion of its supply chain operations and delivery support for its vast and growing product range meant disruptive change. A focus on improving last-mile delivery would benefit both its business model and foster good customer relationships.
In order to capitalise upon the market and take the business to the next stage of growth, AO.com chose to join logistics specialist BluJay Solutions’ DropShip network. Streamlining AO.com’s transactional processes, the drop shipping solution helped maintain a reputation for delivering on time, highly valued by customers. At the same time, AO.com was able to join BluJay’s Commerce suite, join a Global Trade Network of logistics firms and the hundreds of suppliers also in the DropShip networks to expand.
Networks provide a base from which flexibility, scalability and operational creativity can be born. In the case of brands experiencing surges in sales as a result of social media posts, with a network, workflows can easily be adjusted to optimise the supply chain, or 3PLs combined with drop shipping called on to meet demand. It’s a balancing act to ensure the orders get fulfilled on time, yet if a delay was to occur, their transport counterparts can offer ad-hoc services, such as overnight delivery, to meet their requirements.
Into a new retail landscape
Social commerce and its parent e-commerce are only going to increase in the coming years as 5G is rolled out across the planet and mobile shopping becomes not only possible for more people in more places, but a higher-quality and more pleasing customer experience. Processes must be streamlined and optimised if businesses are to satisfy changing customer expectations and fulfil their promises. Across retail and ecommerce, from freight to delivery, businesses must have a strategy if they are to survive in a new retail landscape populated by socially-minded shoppers.