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Industry viewpoint: taming the e-tail tiger


John HallidayJohn Halliday, Link 51 Managing Director, discusses Link 51’s latest whitepaper which explores the online retail revolution and its impact across the supply chain, spotlighting the challenges and opportunities thrown up by this unstoppable process.
There’s no turning back! E-tailing has irreversibly changed the paradigms of how the retail sector does business. This fundamental shake-up of the retail industry has far-reaching effects on industry and infrastructure the world over, affecting supply chain partners such as ports, haulage, warehouses and packaging; it is fast becoming the backbone of the ecommerce sector.

To capture the current status of the e-tail revolution and identify the winners and losers of e-commerce, Link 51 has produced a whitepaper, Taming the E-tail Tiger, which explores why there needs to be a “wake-up call” for the entire supply chain.

The landmark report warns that industry players who are slow to adopt new strategies will not just miss out on opportunities, but potentially become a casualty of this tidal wave of change. At Link 51, we have witnessed the direction retail has taken over the last decade and how the e-tail sector is developing at a rapid pace. Our perspective as a vital link in the supply chain has enabled us to quickly understand this fast developing sector, whilst also supporting partners and customers to keep ahead of the relentless changes sweeping the industry.

We describe e-tailing as a revolution, rather than evolution; its dramatic impact upon the skeletal structure of retail over the past decade has demonstrably been the driving force for the adoption of online strategies. These seismic shifts in the retail sector predominantly, although not exclusively, have encouraged greater innovation to enhance the customer experience at an ever quickening pace.

Such innovations are no longer exclusively accessed by larger corporations, much to the contrary. SMEs across the retail sector are investing in the online retail and taking their high street stores to new levels of customer engagement through the world wide web.

The technological revolution of the 1900s is still sending ripple effects through the 21st century. Our desire to live in the present, demanding immediacy from every aspect has now resulted in the birth of a whole new way of doing business and especially through the prism of retail. If you were to order from a catalogue 20 years ago, you would be looking at five to 10 working days for delivery; by 2014 next day delivery was a service most online retailers strive to provide in order to secure the customer order. Now with online retail giant Amazon offering same day delivery to inhabitants of the UK’s major cities on a wide selection of items, the demand for immediacy is slowly but surely being met.

The retail sector has developed from having competitors only located across the street to eBay bidding wars and price comparison sites introducing clientele to international sellers. The retail evolution has been spreading its wings steadily over recent years, helped along by the recession, driving bargain hunters in their masses to find the best deal online.

Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at online retail association IMRG, revealed that 47 per cent of consumers have used their mobiles to browse a competitor’s website whilst in a store: “Much of this activity is likely to be comparing prices in order to get the best deal.” Competitive pricing is a strong persuader for customers to leave behind their allegiance to a brand if they can purchase an item cheaper elsewhere.

Retailers now have 24/7 access to their consumers, tailoring offers and promotions to individual shoppers; the internet gave retailers the opportunity to cash in on this unlimited direct access. To date 28 per cent of online shoppers are choosing to subscribe to stores or product newsletters and updates to stay informed.

The e-tailing revolution is dynamic and we have witnessed change beyond recognition during the past few years as developments in technology and reliance on mobile devices have driven wide reaching changes into the retail sector and its supply chain, especially logistics.

E-commerce has unwittingly caused changes to the way that retailers work, which has ramifications on the supply chain. This runs from transhipment and port-centric logistics to warehouse property and real estate configuration through to transport hubs and delivery to the end user – and not forgetting the complicated returns process.

E-tailing doesn’t stand still and demands constant innovation, which has been the approach we have adopted at Link 51, in order to be a leader in storage logistics. Hopefully the strategies explored in this report will help those who are relatively new to benefit from this paradigm shift to apply the e-tailing concept and how it impacts on their business.

You can download the e-tailing whitepaper, here.

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