U.S. e-commerce sales are projected to continue rising 17.9% in 2021 to $933.30 billion[1] and   worldwide e-commerce sales are projected to grow to $4.2 trillion[2]. Clearly, millions of us are shopping online and many of us fell in love with online shopping during the pandemic when many non-essential stores closed, and we need safe and convenient ways to buy goods.

However, while online orders continue to grow, order accuracy and fulfillment accuracy leave much to be desired. While customers expect the online shopping and order fulfillment process to be efficient and accurate, they often experience out of stocks, flakey delivery dates, shipping delays, and early arrivals resulting in poor customer experiences.

We have all experienced the following scenarios. We search for a few products online, find the items and add them to our cart. After a few minutes or even longer, we go to the checkout and make the purchase. Unfortunately, when the confirmation comes through, one of the coveted items isn’t there. You get an out-of-stock message. Nothing kills the customer experience more than this. 

In fact, I ran into this scenario last fall while trying to buy dumbbells like most Americans trying to stay fit while gyms were shut down. I searched the website of a local big box retailer and found a store within 10 miles that had what I was looking for. I was so excited to finally get my weights and more than willing to drive two towns over. Utilizing buy online pick up in store, I thought I was buying my weights along with a few other things. Unfortunately, instead of driving out of my way to pick up the coveted dumbbells, I was picking up items that I could have easily found at a store closer to my home.

Another scenario that’s become quite common in the last year is shipping delays or early arrival of packages. Order by/get by reliability has gone down. With customers starting to get out more often, going back to the office, and with package theft becoming a huge issue in many areas, knowing exactly what day an item will be delivered has become even more important.  Unreliable fulfillment times plague not just small retailers but even the household names that we’ve come to rely on. That Monday delivery speeds up to become a Sunday delivery when we’re not home, or that expected Tuesday delivery turns into a Thursday delivery. 

In most cases, the clothes or shoes I recently bought online were nice to have items and not urgently needed, but unreliable delivery dates meant I really didn’t know when items were going to arrive until the last minute. Shifting fulfillment dates creates bad customer experiences. When customers buy items online, they are buying items based on where they are located if they choose BOPIS or curbside, or when they will be available. Customers have come to expect 3-day shipping or BOPIS in 2-4 hours to mean just that. Even in scenarios where items aren’t needed immediately, reliable fulfillment is a must have.

While it may seem daunting to address these issues, nothing could be further from the truth. Implementing the right e-commerce technologies can improve the order and fulfillment process that inevitably enhances customer experiences. Let’s start with our out-of-stock scenario.  Implementing Blue Yonder’s Inventory Availability solution can help retailers and other businesses get a real-time view of all available inventory across their stores and warehouses to make real-time sourcing and order promising decisions. The solution enables businesses to expose store inventory to online shoppers in order to utilize inventory. Based on geolocation, retailers can show customers what’s in-stock/out of stock, present urgency messaging such as “2 items left,” and show items available for pick-up and/or available for shipping. 

And equally important, the microservice supports product reservations enabling consumers to reserve products during the shopping journey and then purchase those items either immediately or within a period set by the retailer. In my example, once I placed the dumbbells in my cart, the product should have been “reserved” for me and instead of showing 9 items left, the system should have showed 8 items left to other customers.

Let’s talk about accurate and reliable order by/get by dates. When we shop online, we have come to expect our favorite online retailer to tell us when we will receive our shipment. We expect almost frictionless online shipping experiences with near immediate results (delivery).  You can call it the Amazon effect or just a heightened change in expectations. But the reality is that retailers are competing based on their online experiences now. One late delivery or a package with missing items, and the customer can with a click of their mouse find alternative stores. 

Blue Yonder’s Commits microservice enables retailers to provide the speed and convenience options that customers expect along with accurate order by/get by dates and optimized order fulfillment. Consumers today expect definite delivery dates and it’s no longer acceptable to offer a 3 to 5 business day delivery window. With Blue Yonder, retailers can tell customers from the beginning of the shopping journey when products will be delivered or available for pickup.

Offering accurate commitments and multiple fulfillment options from the beginning of the shopping journey presents businesses with an opportunity to gain new repeat customers, minimize cart abandonment, and increase conversion rates.

To bring this all together and really understand what’s happening with orders at every stage of their lifecycle, you need a nimble order management/order services solution that tracks and executes orders from click to collect. Blue Yonder’s Order Services microservice along with visibility from Customer Order Visibility works in concert with Inventory, Omni-Channel Fulfillment, and Order Fulfillment to give you a full picture of orders and fulfillment. It provides a central service to manage and orchestrate orders seamlessly across internal and external services, which ensures a single source of truth for all order transactions and provides visibility at each step of the order lifecycle to ensure order and fulfillment accuracy.

The Order Services microservice enables organizations to execute required order validations and coordinates required interactions with required systems. No matter where an order sits in its fulfillment lifecycle, businesses and their end customers have real-time visibility.

Delivering on the promise to customers has never been easier. It simply requires organizations to support digital transformation through the implementation of nimble e-commerce microservices. Blue Yonder Luminate Commerce microservices can offer organizations just that.  Through our e-commerce microservices leading retailers have exposed store inventory to online shoppers, provided accurate fulfillment dates, optimized orders to maximize margins and reduce costs, and gained visibility of orders from click to collect. 

To learn more about these solutions, click here.  

[1] https://www.emarketer.com/content/how-will-pandemic-affect-us-ecommerce-sales-2021

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanverdon/2021/04/27/global-ecommerce-sales-to-hit-42-trillion-as-online-surge-continues-adobe-reports/?sh=1c64795650fd