E-commerce forms the foundation not only for a great customer experience, but also reliable logistics, and therefore expanded growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought plenty of shoppers online out of necessity, some for the first time. As restrictions around the pandemic lift amidst the world’s gradual reopening, it is important that an e-commerce strategy remains top-of-mind for businesses seeking to elevate and accelerate their business strategies moving forward.

In 2020, 32% of shoppers in Australia and 33% of shoppers in New Zealand reported a shift to online shopping. Likewise, shops during the pandemic that relied on traditional brick-and-mortar stores had to rethink their business strategies. Last year, that change continued to shape the retail market. The uptick in online customers saw online retail sales turnover take over a 15% share of the retail market in Australia by September 2021, while the share of online shoppers in New Zealand is poised to surge to 83% by 2026. Even as physical stores open up again, e-commerce is here to stay.

It is more important than ever that small and medium businesses (SMB) keep the customer e-commerce experience in view when discerning their retail strategies. As customers flocked to the online space for their purchases, competition there increased as did consumer expectations, suggesting a shift in values but also an affinity for more local SMBs.

In Australia, for example, 46% of online shoppers are turning to online retailers based locally, and 54% of direct brand shoppers prefer to buy from brands that they know to be sustainable. Customers are seeking brands that can speak about value for money, while proving their innovation and ability to personalise the customer experience. Meanwhile, 57% of New Zealanders have stopped buying from a brand altogether – online or offline – over an incident that led to reduced trust, and 44% have told their friends and family to follow suit. Examples of incidents that eroded trust include inconsistent customer service, a poor refund or return experience, and brands that are difficult to contact.

To maintain trust, customer loyalty and a business’ reputation, retail stores need strong growth strategies and a reliable logistics network within their target markets. Grounded within a robust suite of e-commerce solutions, businesses can plan today for tomorrow’s success.

Unboxing a stellar e-commerce experience

When a customer enters an e-commerce website, there are plenty of points that can make or break their experience. Issues like site navigation, having someone on hand to answer their questions about products and shopping cart design may encourage customers to check out—or send them to another website. Meanwhile, issues with payment, shipping, tracking and other last-mile delivery issues may turn a customer off the site and toward their peers—to report a difficult experience.

To stay relevant and keep up with these changes amidst a vast playing field, SMBs need specialised e-commerce solutions that enhance their customers’ shopping experiences. These solutions need to cater to their needs, improve order visibility, make for smooth payment processing and enable seamless inventory management. To help ease the process for stores and customers, it helps to have a single set of consolidated solutions that all run on the same system, increasing functionality and productivity.

Today, these solutions can come packaged into a set of developer APIs like the UPS Developer Kit, which can integrate into the existing website of a retail store with the help of a business’ programmer team. These APIs can give a business’ website essential e-commerce capabilities such as shipping and tracking abilities. When customers check out, they can choose a suitable delivery service, validate their addresses for errors, schedule their shipments, coordinate drop-off locations, streamline their shipping and customs processes, and receive a timeline for their shipments and deliveries. Retailers also have access to these insights, along with synchonisation mechanisms for front-office and back-office systems.

For businesses looking to consolidate other qualitative aspects of the customer experience, such as website design, customer relationship management, and enterprise resource planning, UPS Ready leverages our network of partner providers to provide software applications that further support SMBs.

It’s an exciting time for SMBs in Australia and New Zealand right now, as multitudes of online shoppers continue to embrace e-commerce as a part of their everyday lifestyles. These are consumers who are looking for brands that are conscientious and personable. To keep from getting lost in the crowd of retailers, online stores should turn to technology to ensure they are delivering their customers the best e-commerce experience—from site entry to package delivery.

Stephen Stroner is managing director of Australia and New Zealand at UPS.