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Consumers are seeking new ways to engage with one another using technology, with younger generations leading the charge on social commerce

Optimising fulfilment for social commerce – By Paul Soong

Freight, transportation and distribution businesses already struggling to keep up with the rapidly evolving ecommerce landscape face a new challenge – the boom in social commerce.

Social commerce is where social media meets ecommerce – and it is growing rapidly in New Zealand. According to New Zealand Post, 40% of shoppers use social media and are open (71%) to making purchases directly from Facebook, Instagram and other social channels.

Social media platforms are creating opportunities for businesses to convert consumers’ browsing behaviours into frictionless shopping experiences. Once destinations for interacting with family and friends, these platforms have added marketplaces and become another shopfront for brands. 

By integrating ‘buy’ and ‘checkout’ functions, consumers can browse items and make purchases directly through Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, creating new ways for consumers to take immediate action on purchase intents and interact directly with brands in real time.

However, as immediate communication and instant service become an expectation, freight, transportation and distribution businesses need to adapt to keep up. This means understanding the shift in consumer behaviour, being aware of advancements in ecommerce and service provision, and knowing how to leverage these changes to achieve a competitive advantage.

Social commerce on the rise

Consumer attitudes and preferences have changed dramatically over the past five years. Alongside advancements in mobile technology, particularly the smartphone, consumers have embraced immediate communication and come to expect instant customer service. According to New Zealand Post, online shopping grew eight times faster than shopping instore in 2018. Close to two million New Zealanders chose to shop online, spending a total of $4.2 billion. 

Consumers are seeking new ways to engage with one another using technology, with younger generations leading the charge on social commerce. According to the Global Web Index report, the adoption of social commerce is particularly high among Generation Z and millennials, with 60% more inclined to make a purchase on a social platform when given the opportunity. 

‘Buy now, pay later’ schemes are also having a growing impact in social media. On platforms like Facebook and Instagram, consumers are exposed to appealing products, with these schemes giving consumers easy ways to own them. 

Evolving the last mile

Social commerce is about offering a fast, easy and frictionless end-to-end experience. Unfortunately, one of the less thought-about components of this revolution is how supply chains need to evolve to meet the expectation for seamless, speedy service and delivery. 

The challenge for freight, transportation and distribution companies is fulfilling orders placed via social media efficiently, competitively and conveniently. This is imperative as it only takes one bad experience for a customer to look elsewhere. 

So, how can these businesses keep pace with socially minded consumers, given the speed at which purchases can now be made? Today, shoppers expect brands to be ‘always on’ and provide real-time product information, such as whether a product is available in a particular store and delivery timeframes. 

But to do this requires two things: visibility into inventory levels, and the ability to communicate real-time information to partners, suppliers and customers alike. Brands will be looking to freight, transportation and distribution companies to provide the visibility demanded by customers, meaning these companies need to have robust solutions in place to maintain control and visibility of shipments.

The support of networks

Furthermore, freight, transportation and distribution companies will struggle to meet customer expectations without the support of a wider network. Imagine a scenario where an influencer with millions of followers posts about a little-known New Zealand brand. The brand probably didn’t expect the post and it’s highly unlikely it’s set up optimally to fulfil the surge in orders that resulted. 

This is where businesses can benefit from having a network of freight, transportation and distribution companies to call on. Networks provide a base from which flexibility, scalability and operational creativity can be born. 

In the case of the brand that experienced the surge in sales as a result of an Instagram post, with a network it could have easily adjusted workflows to optimise the supply chain, or call on 3PLs combined with drop shipping to meet demand. It’s a balancing act to ensure the orders get fulfilled on time, yet if a delay was to occur, their transport counterparts can offer ad-hoc services, such as overnight delivery, to meet their requirements.

Technology solutions

As every aspect of society is becoming increasingly mobilised, mobile applications can also offer flexibility to manage the process from the dock to doorsteps with real-time track and trace and last-mile routing capabilities. 

Supply chain managers are wise to consider putting a mobile solution in the hands of carriers and drivers that is flexible, easy to deploy, and manages last-mile delivery experience with updates for all stakeholders. Mobile solutions often incorporate an interactive interface for end customers to check the status of their delivery and make changes, giving customers control and visibility of their shipments. The growing popularity of direct-to-consumer sales, including social commerce, is creating a market for such technology solutions, with consumers coming to expect this level of service and convenience.

We can expect the appetite for ecommerce and, more specifically, social commerce to only increase, especially as 5G is rolled out. Businesses from every corner of the retail and ecommerce industry, from brands to freight, distribution and transportation companies, must have a strategy to optimise processes and fulfilment for a generation of socially minded shoppers. 

Paul Soong is the regional director, Australia and New Zealand, at logistics and transportation software and services company BluJay Solutions www.blujaysolutions.com

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