5 Consumer Trends That Will Impact Fulfillment Operations in 2018

fulfillment operations - packages on a conveyor belt

The evolution of consumer buying habits continues – as proven when Cyber Monday 2017 became the largest online shopping day in U.S. history. A record $6.59 billion in digital transactions were made; that’s nearly a 17% increase from 2016. And mobile sales also had a day for the history books – accounting for a record $2 billion of Cyber Monday sales.

Shifts in consumer purchasing patterns, along with other consumer behavior trends being driven by increased online sales, are creating big challenges for brands that are still trying to manage their fulfillment in-house. Their days of processing orders internally – and doing it well – are numbered. That’s why more brands are choosing to optimize their fulfillment operations by outsourcing to a 3PL (third-party logistics) provider.

Here are 5 of the biggest trends that more and more consumers are demanding when it comes to their online shopping experience, and how a third-party fulfillment partner can help meet those demands.

#1 – Ease of Sale

These days, having a multichannel strategy is a necessity for most brands. Consumers want the convenience of making purchases wherever and whenever they want, whether it be in-store, online, or a combination of both. The more options available to them, the more likely they’ll become a repeat customer. The challenge for brands is that many don’t have the internal systems necessary to serve multichannel customers; the various moving parts are just too much to manage on their own. That’s why many turn to a 3PL provider that can use their innovative technologies to seamlessly integrate the critical functions of a brand’s fulfillment process across all their sales channels – from orders and inventory management to shipping and returns.

#2 – Greater Transparency

More consumers now expect greater transparency at each touch point of their purchasing experience – from the time they place their order to the moment it lands on their doorstep. Delivering this level of visibility to consumers isn’t easy, but it can greatly enhance the shopping experience and increase customer loyalty. The technology that 3PL providers have at their fingertips can make real-time transparency possible. Order traceability can happen throughout the entire fulfillment process – beginning with email order confirmation, moving to order tracking, and ending with proof of delivery. And as GPS tracking and other technologies become more sophisticated, transparency will only get greater.

#3 – Fast & Affordable Delivery

Thanks to the ‘Amazon effect’, there’s growing expectation among consumers that their online orders should be delivered fast – and come with low-cost or free shipping. Shipping times that were once considered ‘express’, like 5-day shipping, has been outdone by 2-day or 3-day shipping, which is quickly being outdone by next-day or even same-day shipping. If a brand isn’t processing/shipping orders from a centralized location, fast and low-cost shipping becomes a big challenge. Most 3PL’s are strategically located so they can provide speedier delivery to much of the U.S. population. They can also leverage their partnerships with a variety of parcel carriers to ensure brands are getting the best shipping method at the best possible price.

#4 – Memorable Brand Experience

Brand experiences are no longer just happening in-store. As online sales increase, brands are looking for creative ways to bring a memorable brand experience to their online shopper’s doorstep. It’s what consumers now expect. One way they’re doing it is through creative packaging (both outside and inside the box), gift wrapping and personalized or handwritten notes. Hassle-free returns can also help create a good brand experience. Many 3PL’s offer value-added kitting and assembly services and many also offer returns processing services that help streamline and expedite the handling of returns.

#5 – Good Customer Service

Tech-savvy consumers have come to expect easy accessibility to a brand’s customer service support. They want the flexibility to speak with someone via email, live chat and social media channels. The more available and responsive a brand makes itself to consumers, the better. But service reps also need to be knowledgeable and able to efficiently resolve customer inquiries. Having a well-trained in-house customer service team can be a big expense for a brand. That’s why many brands outsource their call center services to a third party. 3PL’s have the technologies and bandwidth to handle contacts through a variety of channels and can provide in-depth training for agents, who become stewards of the brand.

As we kick of 2018, keep these 5 consumer trends in mind as you prepare to fulfill orders in the new year. And if you’re ready to enhance your brand experience through innovative third-party fulfillment solutions, PFC can help.

About Promotions Fulfillment Center

At PFC, our clients’ success is our number one priority. Since 1974, PFC has delivered outstanding quantifiable results, with turnkey solutions in fulfillment, rebates, sweepstakes, and contact center – all backed by leading technology. Brands that partner with PFC have historically achieved considerable cost savings in excess of 35% and have significantly improved their program ROI. Want to learn more? Email us at info@pfcfulfills.com or call us at 800-493-7063.



Category: Fulfillment Insights