By Hamish Grant, VP Marketing Neopost Shipping
Digital Commerce forced payments into hiding years ago and shipping followed closely behind it - the world just hasn’t figured it out yet.
When was the last time you entered your full payment details when buying online from your favorite merchant? Exactly. The friction associated with paying online has disappeared and merchants are now able to rapidly push consumers through the checkout without even thinking about payment. The same trends are leading to the disappearance of shipping and the net impact is better customer experiences for the consumer and more revenue for the merchant.
Amazon figured it out early and quickly went about removing all the shipping friction it could find with 'Free' and 'Fast' being the prevailing narrative. Amazon Prime has since gone from strength to strength, but even for the average customer who isn’t a Prime member, shipping preferences are pre-selected, alternative shipping options are provided, and the checkout process can be completed in mere seconds. Like payments, the friction of shipping - both for consumers and merchants, must disappear if merchants are to benefit from a merry band of satisfied, repeat purchasing consumers.
Mobility of Commerce
It wasn’t just Amazon that "killed" shipping. The humble mobile phone rapidly facilitated shipping’s precipitous decline. Small screen sizes, page load speeds and the sheer impracticality of adding in your address information every time you made a purchase turned consumers off. It's no wonder that when you add high shipping costs and inconvenient shipping options, consumers were and still are abandoning their carts in droves (2017 cart abandonment rate: 77% according to Statistica).
According to eMarketer, 2017 worldwide eCommerce sales reached $2.304 trillion with mcommerce sales totaling $1.357 trillion or 58.9% of all digital sales. Merchants who are winning the mobile race are winning retail and they're in various stages of making shipping "disappear". The checkout process is now increasingly smooth, fast and coordinated into easy steps, customer details are automatically recalled, shipping preferences are auto-filled and buttons are large enough for even the most erratic of thumbs. If the holy grail of mcommerce is simplicity and speed, then shipping must be no exception.
The Customer Lifecycle is Circular
For a consumer to transform into a brand advocate, they must be immersed in positive experiences at every stage of the journey. Shipping, fulfillment, and delivery play critical roles in securing each ‘moment-of-truth’ through the journey. Any friction in the process decreases the probability of advocacy and can be experienced at multiple touchpoints: from the cost of shipping, available shipping options, delivery locations, poor parcel tracking, to even wasteful, broken packaging. Each negative experience signals to the consumer that this brand is not worthy of their association.
Shipping and delivery should no longer be viewed as the end result of a purchase, it’s the start of a long-term, reciprocal relationship between merchant and consumer. This reciprocity is more than economic, it's now experiential. With Generation Z and millennials purchasing power increasing by the day, expectations will only increase in the coming years. There is simply no more room for bad consumer experiences and shipping, long a cause of discontent, must disappear now if merchants are to benefit from eCommerce's growth to decades end.
When Commerce Comes to You
What happens when digital commerce orders are predicted and initiated by artificial intelligence? Answer: Commerce comes to you and everything changes.
Merchants will know, based on consumers purchase data, product integrity and the intelligence they have about them, that they are about to walk through the soles of their shoes. They will get home from work to a knock at the door at 8pm (their desired delivery time on weekdays) and there will be a brand-new pair of shoes in their size and style.
According to Gartner, a friendly customer experience is no longer a differentiator – its mandatory. The future of digital commerce is “anticipatory and pervasive, when and where customers need it”. To enable the ‘commerce to you’ industry vision requires a vast collaboration between technology providers and merchants but in any scenario, it is very hard to see the successful application of the concept without the disappearance of shipping from the transaction.
Leading merchants have recognized that for revenue to increase, the frictions of shipping both internally and externally must disappear. In many ways shipping's many processes have disappeared just like payments a while ago, but it's still an incredibly complex topic to solve for technology providers and merchants alike - often times at the expense of the customer experience. Intelligent shipping software that connects to each phase in the cart-to-customer journey solves the problem, enabling merchants to curate the experiences their consumers demand and meet those expectations by automating the shipping and fulfillment process from end-to-end.
A new era of digital commerce is dawning, and the future belongs to those who anticipate demand and remove any and all friction from the customer journey.