'E-commerce is a game about the customer'

Prof. Dr. C.N.A. Molenaar

E-commerce is no longer just a web shop on the Internet. Not only are the technical possibilities already far greater, but customers also demand much more than distance selling and waiting for delivery. Customers want quality, reliability and speed. Large suppliers, such as Dutch companies Bol.com and Wehkamp, understand this and have automated the fulfilment process. Only the final checks are still done by 'people'. Impressive processes, which lead to efficiency, but also to quality assurance and speed. Human errors are reduced to a minimum and the speed of delivery is increased. "Next day delivery" and "same day delivery" have become commonplace.

Speed of delivery becomes a basic requirement

In addition, new entrants to the market are capitalising on this very speed. Gorilla's is perhaps the best known. Now ordering within 30 minutes at home (within a certain area). Customers no longer accept mistakes and promises must be kept. In doing so, customers are setting the bar higher and higher for suppliers. This is certainly a challenge, but there is more.

Technology is indispensable

Technology is increasingly used to know customers, know who they are, preferences, needs and future buying behaviour. This knowledge gives the internet provider an undeniable advantage. Customer wishes and needs can be anticipated better. Both in terms of products and services, but also wishes regarding deliveries and services. Technology is the basis for interaction via computer or smartphone and is the basis for all kinds of cooperation forms between manufacturers and web shops.

Cooperation between suppliers to provide a "one stop" experience for customers is the basis for all kinds of "platforms". The only thing is that the handling must also be integral. Not several packages, but just one delivery according to customer requirements.

Imploding supply chains

The supply chain is under pressure. Manufacturers and importers want to have customer data to know buyers better. These suppliers are considering direct contact with potential buyers, eliminating or reducing the role of intermediaries. Direct delivery (via a platform, for example) leads to an implosion of supply chains. The importer/manufacturer can get in touch with the end customer directly. But there is a price to pay for this. What is still the role of the retail trade (online or offline), how can deliveries be made efficiently, quickly and well? The fulfilment partner offers the solution.

What to do next?

All these developments will lead to a certain form of disruption in the near future. The focus shifts from a sales focus to a customer focus, where all aspects of the delivery process are important. Customers are more critical than ever, more demanding than ever and expect speed and quality. The suppliers can be retailers, but also manufacturers or importers. These parties will outsource logistics services including e-fulfilment. However, the entire process must be automated, fast, efficient and error-free. All developments point to an integration of technology and data in buying processes. Now, more than ever, it comes down to details and meeting customer expectations. Selling is changing into responding to buying preferences.

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