Retail has always been about people buying products from other people.
However, how that’s happening is changing.
With more than 8,700 brick-and-mortar stores closing in 2017, retailers are not sitting around debating how quickly e-commerce has taken over consumers’ preferences.
Instead, they are discussing where e-commerce is headed.
Toys ‘R’ Us, once the mecca of kids’ toys, filed for bankruptcy this month, after being overtaken by retail giants, Amazon.com and Walmart. And the toy retailer recently debuted a revamped website geared toward jump-starting an e-commerce experience that would match its competitors.
But no matter how far technology is taking e-commerce, the consensus is that the human element is still key to a business’s success. After all, the back-end of any e-commerce operation (processing orders, accepting payments, order fulfillment and customer service) plays an integral role, and you need people to do these jobs. This is because getting a customer to purchase something from your website is only the beginning of the e-commerce transactional process.
For an e-commerce business to be successful, retailers need to be able to verify different types of payments including voiding fraudulent transactions, route the order to the right distribution center and get the merchandise ready for delivery rather quickly. Then comes the last mile — either delivering it straight to the customer’s door, or providing a way for the customer to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS).
Retailers must be responsive because customers continue demanding convenience and ease of use while shopping online. Additionally, they want instant gratification of purchasing items in the store, and increasingly, a combination of the two. To this end, the click-and-collect experience has become a key component of programs to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue growth.
Retailers like Amazon have set the bar high for customer expectations thanks to the company’s brilliant operational efficiency and distribution.
But there are competitors.
Walmart, for example, has something Amazon doesn’t — physical stores for customers to pick up items for free via its pickup towers. This 16-foot automated vending machine allows customers, who order items on the retailer’s website, to pick up their items without having to wait in line, in a matter of seconds.
While there is no doubt that technology is key in revolutionizing retail operations, the human element still plays an important role in delivering the best customer experience.