By Nate Gilmore
With 2015 looming, it’s time once again to sift through the e-commerce stained tea leaves and make some predictions for what the New Year will bring to small businesses and e-commerce. Among other things, 2015 promises to boom after a heady 2014, with U.S.-based e-commerce business predicted to reach $350 billion in sales by year’s end. When they finish tabulating the numbers, global sales are expected to reach $1.5 trillion. Even the holidays promise to be bigger than ever, with an estimated $617 billion in sales.
I’d like to call this the year of the consumer. The customer’s always been right, but these days, they have more power than ever. Let’s unpack why I think so.
No longer is global breadth just another notch in the business strategy concocted in a corporate boardroom. Hungry consumers are actually pulling brands into new territories, and 2015 will see the consumers leverage greater control. Not convinced? Just look at how Kickstarter and indiegogo have changed the landscape: Now, a product can go global before it is even built thanks to crowdsourcing. And once you give consumers that power, it’s not easily taken away.
This trend toward global cuts two ways…Broader market diversity can help companies that might have traditionally been hurt by declines in local economies. But with any luck, in this case diversity means sustainability (which of course ultimately means profitability). Those worldwide sales figures are pretty tempting, after all
But it won’t be that easy, right? Remember: In 2015, everything is on the customer’s terms. They will expect a familiar user experience and local pricing. For you, that means you’re really staring down questions about local delivery and supply chains. How do you balance global v local with buyers sending strong demand signals? Supply chain flexibility!
Without flexibility globally integrated supply chains can punish in the same way they reward. A problem in one part of the world can impact other areas. Narrow focus on one part of the world, misses the opportunity visible in your buyer demand in another part of the world. Having multiple options to enter a market such as in-country fulfillment, int’l shipping and landed cost visibility will help your supply chain stay limber.
2015 is all about adaptation and transformation
Transformation will be the keyword of 2015, with flexibility not far behind. Ultimately, you need to be flexible enough to be able to adjust to your newly hyper-empowered customers—and have the foresight (and dare we say courage) to know what trends to bet on, and which ones to sit back on. Understanding consumer demand requires tools and processes like social monitoring, customer feedback channels, and so on. Retailers and brands that do this well will gain market share quickly where their consumers are telling them they need to be. The new era of pull commerce has a lot of implications: As we mentioned, ideas are being pulled into reality on Kickstarter and Indiegogo each day. Consumers are pulling brands into markets and products onto shelves. To truly transform, then, you have to not only understand consumer demand, but also respond with end-to-end logistics flexibility—from an adaptable supply chain, on-demand global fulfillment, payment options, even the ability to transition from B2B to B2C or cross border. That’s where the real opportunities are made.
Big buying days are getting bigger – and more volatile
You used to know all the big days in your local market, which made it easy to plan accordingly. Black Friday, Super Saturday, Small Business Saturday and so on. And then, with the web, along came Cyber Monday. Last year, U.S. Cyber Monday sales were $2.3 billion—up 29 percent from the year before. Nothing to sniff at, but China’s big buyer day, November 11, dwarfs it: This year, Alibaba only took two hours to reach $2 billion in sales on Singles Day, and by day’s end reported sales surpassed $9 billion. Global B2C e-commerce spikes mean you need to have scale on demand and operate an ultra-tight supply chain as you enter these markets.