Even though things are looking up in Australia at the moment, it’s expected that consumer confidence is going to take a bit of a hit early next year when the COVID-19 government subsidies are set to end.

The pandemic has brought change to Australia's retail and eCommerce industries on a scale never before seen. Social distancing, quarantining and temporary store closures limited the ability for buyers to regularly shop in person, and caused a record number of Australians to turn to the virtual world to purchase items. Online sales hit record highs. April 2020 saw online purchases grow 6.8%, when compared to the 30 days leading up to 18 Dec 2019, which included Black Friday and the Christmas shopping rush. To put this further into perspective, November 2020 up until then had been Australia’s largest ever online shopping month with a 42% YOY growth. Trends like these are expected to continue along the same trajectory with Australian shoppers embracing the choice, convenience and safety that comes with shopping online.

This sudden popularity is likely to have put many growing retailers into a spin though. Brick and mortar stores have had to move sharply to adopt technologies to support these crucial new online sales channels. Those who were already operating online were under increased pressure to meet growing demand with crashing servers and disrupted online fulfilment processes not uncommon. 

Yet, amongst all that 2020 has taught us, one thing is startlingly clear - investing in eCommerce or optimising your eCommerce technology stack should be a top priority. 

If you’re an Aussie retailer struggling to jump on the eCommerce train or grappling with issues stemming from your existing technologies, we’re here for you. This blog explores the three most common challenges faced by retailers in 2020 and how you can leverage the learning and insights from this period to set your business up for growth in 2021. 

 

1. Making the right digital investments

Throughout 2020, many retailers have been busy getting their digital infrastructure in place to keep up with fast-paced changes. They know that successful eCommerce channels require next-generation technology. So, rather than try to compete in this new environment using siloed legacy technologies, they are decommissioning their isolated eCommerce, marketing and CRM systems in favour of a centralised and integrated ERP system. This step allows them to manage all of their business and commerce functions – back office, logistics and warehousing, supply chain, sales, POS, website and more - from the one secure cloud platform.

And for those who implemented a quick-fix eCommerce solution to get them through the online sales rush of 2020, now is the time to take a step back to review their systems and ensure they able to keep up with the many complexities that come with selling online today. In most cases, a more robust solution may well be in order.

 

2. Overcoming complex supply chain challenges

When sales are surging, no retailer wants to run out of stock. But it happens. The much-discussed toilet paper shortages that kicked off 2020 were perhaps the most visible case of demand outstripping supply. For large retailers through to smaller B2C retailers, managing back office operations to optimise for fulfilment presents many challenges, particularly for those who are new to online selling. Retail supply chain management - the processes you use to get your products to your buyers – provides retailers with a pathway to optimise those processes to maximise speed, efficiency and affordability.

To effectively balance demand and supply, many retailers implement integrated eCommerce and ERP solutions for better visibility and control over their supply chains. Adopting more sophisticated systems, better position retailers to quickly evaluate inventory demand and supply, oversee network and transport logistics, manage fulfilment operations and create the optimal supply plan. For example, when Australian textile homewares business Linen House deployed cloud ERP solution NetSuite, they  gained a single source of truth across supply chain, warehousing, eCommerce and in-store POS. With the help of NetSuite they were able to expand from two retail stores to 16 in two short years, while effectively managing demand fluctuations.

To dive deeper into this topic, catch the replay of Annexa’s Distribution Webinar: Part 2 Mastering Inventory Management With ERP.

 

3. Avoiding poor online customer experiences

Just because people are spending less time buying in stores, doesn’t mean they don’t expect the same level of customer service they have previously received in-store. In fact, a study by PwC found that 32% of customers would stop interacting with a brand they loved after one bad experience. Increasingly connected and informed consumers have come to expect to be guided across each touchpoint of their buyer’s journey - from inspiration to purchase validation. And the retailers that get this trend  and implement the technology to support this will come out ahead.

Investing in an engaging website that makes it easy to browse and purchase is the barest baseline. As is the ability to notify customers of fulfilment and delivery timelines and ensure customer queries are responded to in a friendly and timely manner. 

Personalising the experience across channels for each individual shopper provides the type of experiences today’s consumers demand. In order to create customised and memorable experiences, retailers need to be looking at technologies that centralise data and offer deep analytics and reporting.  When powered by a single, unified data source, retailers will be able to gain a clearer picture of their customers and supercharge their customer relationship management capabilities.

 

Accelerating commerce with Annexa and NetSuite

NetSuite has long been guiding companies to success as the platform helps them grow and evolve alongside changing market conditions. For retailers, NetSuite not only offers SuiteCommerce Advanced to seamlessly integrate buying and selling with core operational business, it also offers the ability to manage their supply chains and core business operations from a single cloud platform. 

Speak to an ERP expert at Annexa to find out how we can help your retail business thrive amidst change.

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Annexa is a leading NetSuite partner providing Australian B2B and B2C retailers with customised omni-channel business solutions that support and grow their companies, from point-of-sale and ecommerce solutions to marketing automation systems.