There are always obstacles and opportunities in eCommerce. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought about historically significant changes. eCommerce sales forecasting and demand planning, in particular, face fascinating new terrain. The share for eCommerce of global retail trade jumped from 14% in 2019 to around 17% just a year later. Travel bans, lockdowns, and physical store closures pushed new customers online, where many loved it enough to stay, and where they changed the purchasing trends drastically.
So eCommerce has seen exponential growth, and it will continue to: as much as 95% of customer spend will be placed online by 2040. But customer profiles and behaviours, and therefore purchase predictions, have also changed dramatically. If those responsible for demand planning and forecasting don’t evolve eCommerce in tune with the times, customers will click out and businesses may not survive. Being aware of trends—and upgrading data analysis accordingly—can help you not only survive, but thrive.
These developments might make or break a business in the near future. Knowing them now means you can adjust your sails and take full advantage of the trade winds, rather than being blown off-course by them. Are you ready to face the future?
But it’s not enough anymore to employ hyper-personalization just to make a sale, or increase the value of future sales. The best methods form a genuine bond, one a customer welcomes and trusts. Customer retention is the new priority, and trust is the key word to that end. At least 86% of companies nurtured customer trust via personalization. Using AI-driven strategies and methods, like a recommendation system for eCommerce, puts this into hyper-drive.
Take GDPR. Some eCommerce businesses assumed customers would be put off by requests to capture and use their data. However, purchasers are pleased to be asked for permission, knowing their right to privacy is respected, and their data will be used to meet their particular needs and improve experiences and value received. This is not just communication, but an AI-powered conversation. 81% of customers want a brand to understand and relate to them more deeply. A recommendation system for eCommerce based on sound data is a win-win.
Products previously not purchased online now provide a huge opportunity for eCommerce sellers. Foods and beverages, health and hygiene items, and essentials for the home have experienced a huge boom. There may be other markets which didn’t see the boom during the pandemic but which, with the right demand planning and forecasting, married with hyper-personalization and savvy marketing, could also catch the wave. Customers now buy more everyday items than previously, which means they may shop everyday.
However, both new and experienced eCommerce customers have also quickly come to expect speed, convenience, immediacy, and ease. You literally have just a few micromoments to win your clients over. Customers can close a tab within seconds and click to competitors instead. So how will your business not only retain them, but grow their loyalty and keep them returning? You want them to retain their lockdown purchase behaviours post-pandemic, but to retain them in this way you must ensure their current experience is flawless, and continue to explore new ways to guarantee customer satisfaction.
Another form of emerging markets is geographical. The pandemic pushed eCommerce firmly outside more established, wealthier markets, seeing growth in Brazil, China, India, and Russia, for example. With the help of customer-focussed AI, you can meet the individual needs and desires within such emerging markets and see expansion yourself. To twist an old phrase, think globally, act globally. Domestic eCommerce shoppers can go cross-border shopping any time they like, due to the revolution brought about by mobile shopping: seven out of ten using the ‘micro-moments’ between other activities to ‘go shopping’, 35% of those doing so weekly or even more often.
B2B is another market that is rapidly ballooning with eCommerce transactions predicted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023 in the USA alone. Younger purchasers, in particular, would actually prefer to be provided with a digitised experience rather than in-person sales representatives. Smart eCommerce marketers and managers will factor this into their forecasts and plans.
While customers want it their way, now, they are increasingly conscious of the environmental impacts of shopping. Logistics, packaging, reusability and repurposing, carbon savings, packaging, and paper-free purchase are all elements of eCommerce which can be made more sustainable. Stress such improvements to customers as a built-in part of, for example, a recommendation system for eCommerce, and watch sales bloom while environmental impacts plummet: another win-win.
There’s an old saying in the design industry that you can have things cheap, fast, and good, but you can only choose two of those things. However, eCommerce customers increasingly want all three. There is a constant balance to be reached between cost and speed, but younger customers in particular will pay more for swift shipping.
This makes accurate eCommerce sales forecasting more important than ever before. It’s not just about delivery logistics, but also demand planning. With the assistance of ML software, you can predict how much of what will be needed when, and make sure it’s safely stored and ready to go. This also reduces the length and costs of storage and the risks of product damage, redundancy, and expiration. If a customer wants something but finds you in stockout, they’re likely to churn and never return. The ROI of acquiring that customer will forever be zero.
The last years’ use of eCommerce reached predicted 2025 levels an incredible five years early due to the pandemic. With increased demand comes increased pressure to meet it, but humans only have so much time each day, and limited bandwidth. The companies which best met the pandemic surge in eCommerce demand already had AI on their side, helping them carry the load and reap the benefits. And they trust it.
AI helps eCommerce at every stage from enhancing and improving customer satisfaction, to informing demand planning and forecasting. It can analyze data and apply it to improve customer journeys immeasurably faster and more accurately than humans can. That AI takes this on leaves people free to apply their uniquely human talents of creativity, vision, and teamwork to other elements of business, as well as being able to make best use of the insights the AI provides.
To meet the surge of demand for eCommerce we need help. Thankfully, AI never gets tired, never rests and makes fewer mistakes. The clever tailoring of AI into ML software developed especially for eCommerce users makes such help always available, always working, always learning, always bolstering eCommerce sales forecasting and demand planning.
Shimoku’s Retention Suite analyzes data to predict what customers will do and need in a hyper-personalized way and offers an exceptional recommendation system for eCommerce. Marry this with the Demand Planning Suite to predict what stock is trending or underselling, and you will have happy customers, and a healthy stock portfolio with no outages and lost sales, less ensuing damage to your brand and abandoned carts.
Despite the opportunities offered by the eCommerce boom, only 60% of consumer packaged goods companies felt moderately ready to catch those winds. Don’t let your business be one of them!