2019 certainly came with its challenges – from ongoing political turbulence to the evolving demands of today’s customer. But, the outlook for retailers is not entirely bleak. In fact, eCommerce sales continue to drive retail forward, with recent reports suggesting sectors such as Health & Beauty continuing to see growth despite challenges in the marketplace.
Here, we look back at four challenges the retail industry has faced this year, the effect these have had on the sector and what we can learn from them for a successful 2020.
1. Brexit uncertainties
Challenge: Last year the nation sat on tenterhooks as the Brexit deadline was delayed, not once but twice, leaving many retailers fearing how the UK’s departure would impact cross border trading. With the second delay falling just ahead of peak season trading, many online retailers chose to stockpile goods putting increased pressure on warehouses that were already likely to be full to the brim ahead of Christmas.
Learning: In order to overcome potential Brexit disruption in 2020, without the need for permanent investment, temporary distribution solutions will be a crucial and cost-effective tool for reaching customers across seas. Having flexibility when it comes to online order fulfilment will be essential not only to ensure consumer demand is met, but also to help brands remain profitable amongst further economic uncertainty.
2. Concern for sustainability
Challenge: Thanks to the increase of readily available information, consumers are more educated than ever before when it comes to the impact of the entire retail supply chain on the environment. This sense of urgency around preserving the environment will only continue to grow, putting increased pressure on retailers to ensure all fulfilment processes are as sustainable and efficient as possible.
Learning: To boost sustainability in 2020, online retailers must be constantly re-evaluating the distribution chain. From sustainable packaging solutions such as air-tight flexible packaging – to distributed packaging models that eliminate a number of packaging steps in the supply chain. Opting for automated technology such as cloud-based order picking solutions can also help to boost distribution efficiency by increasing accuracy, and minimising waste.
3. The rise of social commerce
Challenge: Last year social commerce became even more popular, with social platforms such Instagram unveiling its new feature making it possible for consumer to shop without leaving the app. Whilst social commerce brings new opportunities for brands to engage with customers, the real test will be ensuring the fulfilment of the order matches the speed and convenience in which they are bought.
Learning: For emerging brands, partnering with distribution providers is often a cost-efficient way of keeping up with the latest customer delivery expectations. E-tailers who provide the optimum customer experience from the initial tap of the ‘Buy now’ button, to delivery and beyond, can expect to see a retention of customers, a reduction of end-to-end service costs, and overall customer satisfaction.
4. The demand for omnichannel fulfilment
Challenge: The Europe TOP500 Report 2019 revealed that fast, free and convenient collection, delivery and returns are becoming the new standard for shoppers. In fact, department stores offered more flexible delivery, collection and returns promises in 2019, with 88% offering click and collect services and more than half (54%) enabling shoppers to name their delivery day.
Learning: Retailers that help shoppers to buy in the way that is most convenient for them, will be those that stand out in today’s highly saturated eCommerce market. This means putting in the processes and facilities that enable customers to shop, collect and return via a range of platforms including, in-store, online, on their phone or via an app.
In order to thrive in years ahead, it is important for online brands to take the time to reflect, ensuring lessons are learnt from the previous year, taking these learnings forward and adapting to market change.
 EUROPE TOP500 REPORT 2019 – 2019 retailx.net, distributed by InternetRetailing.net