By the end of 2019, global sales had reached 3.5 trillion dollars, representing a 14% share of the total volume of retail sales. 2020 figures are expected to show an increase of some 20% to more than 4.2 trillion dollars. To cope with high return volumes, retailers are leaning more and more towards warehouse automation.
Has the way people shop changed for good? We believe so.
It's convenient to shop from the comfort of your home, and the shopping experience has become more enjoyable. Some retailers provide virtual assistance or chat bots so shoppers can get advice on sizes, combinations, accessories, availability etc. Historical data means AI can make suggestions based on previous purchases.
Some online shops enable an interactive experience. Augmented reality means clothing can be tried on, new chairs can be matched to an existing dining table etc.
Generous return policies encourage shoppers to purchase an item in multiple colours/sizes, returning the ones that are not required. Spontaneous shopping, prevalent via social media will also give rise to an increased volume of returns.
Once a decision to purchase has been made, online shoppers want to get their purchases right away, which means increasingly faster delivery cycles. Warehouses are becoming distribution centres and micro-fulfillment centres are appearing, as the distance to consumers becomes critical. Accuracy and automation are key to success.
Returns can be difficult to handle, particularly if the conveyor system is not reversible. Paperwork may be missing. The item may be soiled or damaged.
Online shoppers can be from anywhere, which may mean cross border transport with custom documents.
Shoppers are not as loyal. There are thousands of retailers world-wide to choose from, so customer satisfaction has become a prime objective. The right item must reach the right address — within the agreed timeframe.