WCA 2018: 5 things retailers want from e-commerce logistics

SINGAPORE – To kick off the second day of the 10th Annual WCA Worldwide Conference here on Monday morning, which has been dedicated almost entirely to the improvement of the e-commerce supply chain, attendees heard from keynote speaker Chris Folayan, CEO of Mall for the World and Mall for Africa, about the needs of the not-always-listened-to end-customers – retailers.

In the standing-room-only session, Folayan described the results of an exclusive survey he conducted of more than 250 of his retail customers at Mall for the World, an app that enables consumers who live in emerging markets in over 100 countries to purchase items via U.S.- and U.K.-based retailers, even if the stores don’t ship to the consumers’ countries.

“E-commerce is growing faster than most people thought – six times faster, or 23 percent year over year,” he said. “More companies are coming on line but they’re not going global.” Instead, they are content to stay in the domestic market and let companies like Mall for the World, and other platforms, handle their international business.

From this group of retailers, Folayan was able to share some valuable insights about what his customers want from shipping companies and forwarders – some of which may seem a bit surprising:

1) They want personality in their delivery. Rather than speed or lower rates, the retailers he works with valued a “personal touch” and “consumer centricity” above all else. “They don’t want you to just drop the package on the front doorstep. They actually want some interactivity, if possible,” he said. “They want to take that smiling face the customers get in the store – the thank-you-please-come-again personal interaction – and try to see if that can that be transplanted into the logistics space.”

2) Speed. The reason being, Folayan said, was the faster an item gets into a customer’s hand, the faster that customer will make another purchase. Preferably the time to ship within the same country should be two days and for destinations to the rest of the world, about three to five days. Also, they want a system with fast returns of merchandise, in the range of about two to three days.

3) Inexpensive-to-free reliable shipping. While Amazon has made “free shipping” a new religion in e-commerce, Folayan said the price of shipping is still within the forwarders’ control, as long as various options are given, such as next-day, express and standard. While next-day air is very hard to do for cross-border shipments, the option should still be given, he said. “We shouldn’t decide for them. Let the customers decide – even if it’s a ridiculous price, put the ridiculous price online. Because we never know the scenario.” Retailers shared numerous stories, he said, about people in weddings willing to pay anything to get a particular watch or pair of shoes delivered overnight.

4) Tracking. Whether it’s QR codes or barcode or some other method, “retailers have seen what the DHLs an the FedExes can provide, from point A to point B to point C and so on,” he said. The ability to trace a product though the supply chain has an important psychological effect on the customer, so tracking has become extremely important to e-tailers.

5) Localized customer service, with multilingual support. “For e-tailers, when the product leaves their warehouse, they pretty much want to be done with it,” Folayan added.  “They want forwarders to help handle customer service.” They don’t want to deal with international numbers or foreign accents, he said, so anytime forwarders can provide localized support in the local language of the destination, it’s a bonus.

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