My name is Jérémie Serout, and I have been lucky enough to work in retail and e-commerce for the last four years. First, I was at Yoobic, but I have been working for the last year and a half at parcelLab, an Operation Experience solution.
Since the pandemic started, I have noticed two big trends.
First of all, there is a big shift underway for premium and luxury brands. E-commerce is playing an increasingly important role for these businesses. They typically do not offer an experience that is very compatible with online shopping.
Secondly, there is the increase in sales volumes that we have seen since March 2020. The existing logistics infrastructure was not ready to absorb such demand and the warehouses were not designed for it either. As a result, these businesses have had to either increase their capacity or adopt a “ship from store” approach. The principle is quite simple: products are shipped directly from the store, and therefore, all stores are treated as warehouses.
This is an immense logistical challenge! How can you possibly offer a consistent level of service when one shop sends one part of an order, another shop sends another part, and the rest is sent from a central warehouse?
We are currently seeing a number of different initiatives on the market. Certain prestigious French brands are offering phone calls or video calls to provide a premium online shopping experience. Despite an enriched experience, this is not really e-commerce.
Other initiatives include solutions like ours, which opt for an end-to-end brand experience. It is consistent, creates a unique environment, and accompanies the user throughout the entire process.
And then there are other brands who have simply accepted that their brand will suffer, despite the choice of a premium courier. This results in a lower-quality experience as the link between brand and customer is non-existent. Also, by leaving things to the courier, there is a loss of transparency that can have a glaring impact on their NPS.
If we look at “ship from store”, this is a solution that is very easy to implement. At the end of the day, asking the courier to collect from a store is no different than asking them to collect from a warehouse.
The most important thing is to have the needs of the customer front and center. For example, it is important for the customer to know that their order will be sent in multiple packages. Once they have been informed about this and the packages arrive at the right destination, there really is no harm done whatsoever to the overall experience or customer satisfaction.
There are many retailers who are already well established in France, so it is important to take advantage of the current network to face these new challenges!
That is the big question! Will e-commerce become a thing of the past? In particular, what will happen to luxury brands or those aimed at a less digital audience?
What are seeing is that sales traffic and volume in certain sectors have returned to normal, particularly in cosmetics and jewelry. But overall, e-commerce is definitely growing.
E-commerce in 2021 is definitely stronger than it was in 2019, and the amount of investment and progress made during the various confinement measures will leave some lasting changes. This is definitely going to get better in 2022.
The thing that really leaps out at me is the difference in effort between e-commerce and traditional retail with regard to the customer experience.
When people go to a store, we normally go somewhere because they provide good advice, and this gives them an opportunity to upsell. Online, on the other hand, the consumer is not really accompanied very much through the process.
However, when selling online, simply sending a beauty tutorial or assembly instructions after a purchase makes complete sense. If the customer receives instructions by e-mail even before their furniture has arrived, this can make all the difference.
After all, we should not forget that this is the number one reason that people contact furniture and DIY stores!