E-commerce sales on the rise, impacting customer fulfillment practices


lightwell_ecommerce_solutions-6As more people use their computers and smartphones as their primary shopping tools, online commerce is on the rise. Including holiday sales that are expected to represent a solid increase over last year's, e-commerce sales are forecasted to rise by more than $60 billion in 2014, according to a report by eMarketer.

According to PYMNTS, eMarketer predicted that e-commerce sales will hit $305.7 billion in 2014. This presents a 15.7 percent rise from 2013's $264.3 billion. A driving force behind the leap in e-commerce sales is the significant ascent of mobile shopping. Increasing use of smartphones to browse, research and make purchases will lead to a projected 37.3 percent growth in mobile retail sales, a rise from $42.38 billion in 2013 and just $2.2 billion in 2010 to $58.07 billion. The 1,875 percent growth (yes, you read that right) is fairly staggering, and is illustrative of a dramatic shift in the commerce landscape. 

Rising sales, of course, mean more opportunities for companies to expand their reach, or carve out a niche, in the e-commerce sphere. A viable omni-channel commerce platform can help organizations improve their sales, marketing and customer fulfillment approaches. That, of course, is easier said than done. 

How e-commerce is reshaping buying and selling

E-commerce is having widespread effects on how supply chains operate as well as on how shoppers make purchases. One significant development receiving attention recently is the phenomenon of price differentials. While disparate prices have always existed, it's never been easier for customers to do research that yields exactly to what extent e-commerce pricing can be a fuzzy thing. It's not just between one company and another, either - in many cases, according to Forbes contributor Kate Ashford, customers are finding that they can get different prices on the same website. This may be due to determinations on the company's side, such as time-specific pricing, or things on the consumer's end, such as enrollment in a rewards program.

Speaking with Ashford, travel expert Kim Mance touched on the increasing awareness of the practice, and compared it to brick-and-mortar retail strategies of old.

"I don't think it's a huge surprise for people who are in the industry, but maybe consumers will be surprised," Mance told Forbes. "We've seen a huge trend for personalization from the travel search engines, trying to function a little bit like a travel agent. I think it's coming from a good-intentioned place."

Mance's point is an interesting one. By functioning more like a travel agent, the company brings an element of personalized interaction that would ordinarily come from a brick-and-mortar location, instead of offering blanket services as has become common on many online platforms. By developing an approach that draws from successful parts of both traditional physical shopping and e-commerce, organizations can create more effective omni-channel solutions.

An investment into e-commerce is ultimately a win for both company and consumer, as they can forge more personalized connections that don't come at a higher investment from the organization. It's important, however, to ensure that supply chains and customer service practices are up to the task of handling the rising tide of omni-channel commerce. 

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