By Danny Hudson – Director of Retail & CPG at FarEye
The future of consumer behavior is difficult to determine. It’s an area of commerce which many retailers are constantly trying to predict and understand. If these past few years have taught us anything, it’s that this unpredictability can drastically change the way we function as a society. While eCommerce has been gaining traction in the past decade, physical stores were still a big drawing card to provide us with sensory experiences. Translating this to an online platform has strengthened some platforms and challenged others. Within the past few years, consumer behaviour has changed so rapidly that it’s been hard for some to keep up. Choice of products has changed, delivery periods have shortened, and regulations have adapted to this shift in culture. Quick commerce (q-commerce) is now also a growing trend, with many suppliers adapting new software and technologies to keep up with the rapidly developing industry. These factors have all been in response to changes in consumer behaviour, and we expect to see more growth in the next few years.
Market shifts over the last few years
Shifts in the market have been exacerbated by changes in shopping habits and consumer mentality. Research has shown that choice of products have changed, as well as process when purchasing products. Many stores have swapped to an omnichannel focus, combining both in store pick-ups with online purchases. Lots of consumers have responded positively to this, as they prefer to research these stores before physically shopping there. This mentality has allowed for some shop owners to keep their stores open during a very difficult period of time.
Lifestyle changes have resulted in the need for different products. At the beginning of the pandemic, many people were buying essentials, such as toilet paper, canned foods, and medical supplies. At this period in the pandemics lifecycle, we’ve noticed huge growth in athleisure wear, at-home gym supplies, new gaming devices, and at-home art projects. The first phases of the pandemic were defined by huge disruptions in supply chains, and now new softwares and procedures have been put in place to provide things to combat this, like same day delivery. These changes have allowed for eCommerce to grow exponentially to adapt with consumer behavior.
Supply chain management
Consumer behaviour drastically impacted eCommerce supply chains. Many companies, particularly the small ones, have found it difficult to coordinate all of these different channels, from producers to end-buyers. Visibility of supply chains has been something which end consumers have been wanting more of. Tracking an item has held the equivalent rush of buying something in store. Delays have been the bane of many purchasers’ lives, and for some of these delays have marked months with no answer as to where said parcels are.
Some of these changes in the supply chain have been mandatory. There have been many more regulations introduced throughout the industry. A large part of this was due to physical workers who needed to adhere to regulations. While important for safety, these regulations have resulted in thousands not receiving any mail or parcels. An outbreak at the Royal Mail Delivery Office in June of 2020 meant the whole office needed to be deep cleaned and staff were required to isolate. This narrative has not been an unusual one during this time, however it did provide insight into weaknesses of our current systems.
Things like logistics optimisation, time management, and capacity, have been addressed, mostly by the introduction of new supply chain softwares. New smart technologies have been introduced, including things like blockchain item tracking for real time updates. Having an all inclusive software has been a lifesaver for many of these companies. Platforms, such as ours at Fareye, have provided full transparency from the first mile, to the final mile. All of which is visible by all stakeholders. This, in turn, has reduced the need for direct interaction with customers, thus resulting in more efficient use of time. Consumer behavior has allowed us to create better software, which in turn gives both companies and consumers what they want.
eCommerce Best Practices
Due to the changes in customer behaviour, the industry as a whole has also changed. The focus has shifted to encourage more sustainable practices. Not only do customers now expect fast and transparent shipping, they now also want to reduce their impact on the environment. AI has been introduced by many platforms to incorporate this. It has been used to optimise routes, minimise fuel consumption, and limit travel time. All of these things are automated and require little to no input from staff. Making sustainable choices, whether this be through technology usage, or through management decisions, has been influenced by consumer behaviour and their needs. By making these choices customers have allowed for a shift in our processing, thus resulting in development.
Consumer expectations post-pandemic
While many things have changed, it’s difficult to determine what will stick. Choice in products has varied greatly, however delivery solutions have adapted for the better. According to FarEye, a logistics and supply chain software specialist, next-day and same-day delivery will be a continued practice. This is particularly relevant in the grocery industry, with many suppliers now offering delivery within the hour. Emphasis will continue to be placed on quick ecommerce and new tracking technologies will also continue to be implemented. Enhanced speed, visibility, and traceability will be prioritised amongst customers. Many consumers now choose to shop with certain suppliers due to these features.
Customer service is also something which continues to adapt. With the increase of eCommerce, many of these suppliers started implementing the use of AI in their processes. For example, blockchain tracking started updating customers and other stakeholders as products moved through the supply chain. These small introductions have allowed for much more consistent communication between stakeholders.
What’s to come in consumer experience?
While eCommerce has already grown exponentially, we expect even more growth in the next few years. Many companies and warehouses are implementing more smart technologies which enable them to seamlessly prepare and distribute any orders. While many consumers aren’t aware, a lot of them have already experienced this kind of service. Speed and convenience will continue to be prioritised amongst all stakeholders.
Expected market opportunities for q-commerce are expected to grow by 2030 to approximately 448 Billion euros globally. These estimations tell us that companies will need to advance to keep up, as many places do not have the infrastructure to support this type of growth. Logistics and supply chain software has been rapidly developing to provide innovative solutions. New features will continue to be adapted and introduced to assist in the eCommerce industry, and many investors have been seeing the opportunity in this industry. eCommerce will be a huge part of our future as a society, and with consumer behavior constantly developing, the eCommerce industry has been doing an incredible job of adapting alongside it.