2022 has been keeping online retailers on their toes. The year began with online sales booming as a result of continued Covid restrictions.
Now online retailers are faced with record-breaking inflation and delivery delays due to staff shortages and Royal Mail strikes. Fears of bottlenecks during peak season have caused consumers to lose confidence in ordering online for Christmas delivery.
Although ecommerce is not growing as fast as last year, online shopping is definitely here to stay. Rob van den Heuvel, CEO at Sendcloud, predicts how ecommerce shipping will change in 2023.
Omnichannel shopping = omnichannel shipping
After two years of predominantly shopping online, consumers are ready for in-store experiences. While ecommerce makes up a greater portion of retail sales than it did prior to the pandemic, the growth of online shopping is slowing down and offline shopping is back in fashion. 2023 will be a defining year for many consumers to find a new balance in online and offline shopping.
With this in mind, omnichannel shopping options will be key in serving consumers’ needs. Businesses with both an online and offline presence should make it their number one priority to ensure a seamless shopping experience. Parcel lockers and pick-up points will play an important role in bridging the gap between online and offline shopping, as one in four online shoppers expect retailers to offer pick-up in store.
Data will be key in the battle against inflation
The impact of inflation on revenue and expenses will likely last in 2023. Budgets are tight and shoppers are mindful of their purchases. Not only consumers are facing rising costs, retailers are also struggling to control expenses including increased cost of delivery. Data will play a key role in the battle against inflation, as rising shipping costs ask for cost optimisation.
Each shipping option has its own price tag, speed and benefits. A thorough analysis of shipping data can help to optimise shipping costs to a maximum. Implementing a multi-carrier strategy will not only help to save costs, but is also a great way to meet diverse customer needs and spread risks amongst multiple carriers.
Uncertain times ask for transparent communication
2022 was a turbulent year with strikes and staff shortages resulting in extreme shipping delays, especially during the year end. While delays may be inevitable in 2023, consumers are quite understanding as long as expectations are carefully managed. The days of packing a product and sending it on its way, trusting that it’ll arrive on time are long gone. Tracking is a prerequisite for success.
Customers expect clarity around delivery times and when online retailers are unable to fulfil their delivery promise, a customer’s trust can deteriorate quickly. Our most recent study even indicated that 1 in 5 consumers would not reorder from an online store when tracking is limited. Therefore, clear and transparent delivery updates via tracking notifications will be key in 2023 to build long-term customer relationships.
Paid returns to become the norm rather than the exception
For a long time retailers took the costs of returns on their own account, but 2022 seems to have marked the turning point for free returns. This year retailers like Zara, H&M and Boohoo announced to start charging customers for returns in order to decrease their logistic costs. Although consumers might need some time to get used to this, a domino effect is likely to take place in 2023.
Although free returns might be a nice teaser for consumers, doing the math quickly shows that it is impossible for retailers to cover these costs in the long term. With parcel volumes and return flows increasing year on year, return costs are skyrocketing. It is time for consumers to become aware of the price tag and environmental impact associated with each return order. Implementing a small return fee can already encourage consumers to rethink their return behaviour.
Sustainable vs fast commerce
In 2023, sustainable commerce is finally going to beat fast commerce! Attitudes towards more sustainable living have changed dramatically in the past years, but it is still not considered a top priority for consumers. Luckily, the signing of the European Green Deal has forced companies to take action and amongst others invest in green shipping options and sustainable packaging.
Next year, I expect both carriers and merchants to play a key role in sustainable behavioural change amongst consumers. Parcel deliveries are one way customers can reduce their emissions and make more environmentally conscious decisions. By increasingly pointing out sustainable shipping options on product pages and in the checkout, we can encourage consumers to make green rather than fast decisions.
Rob van den Heuvel, CEO at Sendcloud