Retailers in South Africa which have yet to implement an e-commerce offering, will find themselves playing catch-up very soon.
“E-tail is no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘maybe one day’ concept,” says Leoni Volschenk, Head of KNUP, a logistics and distribution fulfilment partner for the e-tail market. “Leading retail groups have invested heavily in IT platforms to create a secure and easy to use online shopping environment.
“The transformation from traditional to online purchasing is very much happening and the early adopter retailers are already reaping the benefits.”
The same brand-building principles regarding the way that a consumer experiences a service apply equally in a physical and online shopping environment. For example, if your brand features are “easy, cost effective and friendly,” your website and online shopping platform must create that same experience. By implication, you cannot then have a platform with a next-level, futuristic design and a complicated buying system. This kind of brand dissonance will damage your brand in the spontaneous and unforgiving world of e-tailing.
The distribution arm of e-tail plays a defining role in online shopping. Your fulfilment partner must be on top of their game and extend the exact same brand values and service level expectation which your in-store offering has established.
“If your brand has offered a high quality, luxury and attention to detail experience in-store, the distributor must replicate that expectation and create the same experience,” says Leoni. “That includes the whole fulfilment cycle – from the way the product is picked from the shelves (in
-store or warehouse), packaged, shipped, providing tracking details to the actual delivery by the courier.”
Leoni adds, “When the customer opens that package, he or she must feel exactly the same way that they feel when they’ve supported your shopping centre store.”
Ryno Bekker, General Manager of On the Dot Contract Logistics of which KNUP is a division of, agrees that e-tailers need to partner with suppliers which understand what brands are made of.
“Soon customers are going to become so comfortable in the online shopping environment, the physical store as we know it, may well disappear,” he predicts. “Without changing the essence of the retailer’s brand, there could be a smaller and altered ‘physical’ front shop offering, while your customers will still have easy access to buying your products.”