Ecommerce – the future, one year on

To mark the pandemic's anniversary in March 2021, we thought it would be wise to revisit some of the key takeaways from our Access All Areas webinar with some major partners and experts in the areas of E-commerce, logistics and retail, looking at the impact of 2020.

We value our wide range of partnerships and integrations and wanted to cherry-pick some of the key insights that could drive your business as a 3PL or retailer as we move further into 'the new normal’.

The speakers on the panel were:

  • Cas Paton - Founder and CEO of OnBuy
  • Paul Brown – Founder and CEO of MHI
  • Dave Pickburn – Founder and Director of Stream
  • Hamilton Butcher – Co-owner of Haul and Store

You can watch the webinar in full here.

Adapt early – reap the rewards

Our panel noted that at the start of the pandemic, products diversified. Paul shipped more vinyl in 2020 than ever before, Dave notes that garden centres wanted to sell heavy and awkward items, food wholesalers unable to reach restaurants had to become E-commerce businesses and sell B2C. Cas agreed that for OnBuy, health became a big category, vitamins and supplements, and trying to get the optics on where to focus was very fast.

It is clear now, one year on, that online retailers can never truly predict what is coming, but that pandemic and lockdown favoured those who had already laid plans to be flexible and technological adaptive. Hamilton believes this is inclusive of many areas saying that “There is a demand for an ecosystem.”

Dave adds that this tech stack should be diverse. “Warehouse management, different routing, multi-channel E-commerce for data…Many have had to quickly build this ecosystem of applications to manage this growth. They could have a WMS or a delivery management system or a single channel of sales, but this combined with the extra volume became impossible to manage.”

The speed of change was a shock for many. As Paul notes "On top of that, the market change was so quick, a lot of people were behind the curve. Some platforms were agile, such as Mintsoft, and that helped SMEs. If you owned your infrastructure, you were restrained. This was challenging for bigger companies."

The takeaway is to deliver now with your technical capabilities, well in advance of the next big change, whatever it may be.

Deliveries – can we do better for the planet?

Paul noted that when postal authorities locked down at the start of the lockdown, people were prepared to pay for tracked to access the items they wanted, which became “the new norm.” He believes this will continue to roll out.

There have also been changes like international items being geolocated by the driver, which have become the norm in a noncontact world. It is clear that consumer expectations had to adapt, but this represents a step-change.

When discussing international again, the issue of expectation of deliveries led to a great quote from Paul that “we could work better for price and planet”.

It raised an excellent point that often, delivery times are made as a promise from a head office instead of the local country. Could this be an area where we demonstrate more sustainability? If the relationship with the vendor is right, this could reflect on price and have benefits for the earth.

“There is a huge UK drive to become international…The planet is becoming an interconnected commerce space.” - Cas Paton

The advice from Cas was that global was the way forward for retailers, but that you need to leverage a network of support to get assistance with tax and legal and the advice that you need. This also means getting the right couriers, ones you can rely on for an excellent customer experience.

Moving to E-commerce a few years ago brought hesitance from high street stores, and the coronavirus was a catalyst for change. As Cas says - “Internationalisation is the next step of the journey." He noted the similarities between the failure to execute E-commerce as a high street retailer and the new move to a network that works globally.

But you need to avoid brand damage if you're thinking global.

The pandemic and Brexit are tightly woven with their complications, but despite the challenges, the panel's advice is to forge ahead. As Paul suggests – "Look at the whole world as your market” – but do so with caution.

At Haul + Store, they are the conduit to deliveries. Before Brexit, they had a healthy relationship with EU sales and deliveries; this has become trickier, with challenges at customs borders and charges which many are struggling with.

The panel has seen more clients who traditionally were selling online in one or two countries expand to more,  but they warned that advances in this area involve complexities. This includes the tax laws, that you are on local country platforms (perhaps with Amazon and eBay), and understanding duties paid vs unpaid – having a whole export mindset.

To ensure the consumer doesn’t get an admin charge from the courier or other brand damaging activity, it is key that you partner with the right people and you need to think through fiscal obligations, but to do it sooner rather than later.

These are just a few insights from the webinar which we encourage you to watch.

To join our growing network of partnerships, please get in touch today.

E-commerce and fulfilment: now and the future

This infographic brings together statistics from the past year giving you insight into how the market currently looks and what changes you can expect in the next year and beyond.

Find out more

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