Looking Ahead to the Future of Ship-From-Home
Ship-from-home is here to stay.
The Internet—and increasingly, social media—is transforming the retail landscape, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to make a part- or even full-time income from selling merchandise of all kinds via their own websites or sites like Ebay, Etsy, and Amazon. One of the most critical elements of this burgeoning business is the shipping.
As shipping from home becomes increasingly prevalent, it’s also growing increasingly trendy—and competitive.
A few advancements in the ship-to-home arena are already on-track to trend this year. Read on to level up and get your ship-from-home business in ship shape!
Technological Advancements and Going Global
Technology is at the heart of e-commerce and the rise in global retail sales. In 2019, continued advances promise to make the task of moving goods across borders easier and faster, according to shipping company Gooder.
For example, one day soon blockchain technology could help streamline how Customs information is communicated throughout every stage of the shipping process. Companies like DHL are already working with Customs authorities to develop a pilot program in 2020 that will utilize blockchain to move shipment information from customers to border security seamlessly and securely.
The result? Faster processing and fewer delays for international shipments, which means faster delivery to your global customers. If cost or time-sensitivity has been preventing you from getting into the global game, it could only be a matter of time before those barriers come down and you can expand your ship-from-home business worldwide.
Gooder notes another technology that will continue to make a difference in the shipping industry: 3D printing. In a Logistics Trend Radar report, DHL has identified 3D printing as a major disruptive force in the logistics world, altering distribution channels and methods so that parts or entire products can be printed on demand anywhere. This will also open up a new cottage industry for raw material used in 3D printing, as such materials will be in increasingly high demand.
If the last mile of your product’s delivery journey is the last thing on your mind, it’s time to rethink your ship-from-home strategy. The last mile of delivery promises to be one of the most analyzed and debated ship-from-home issues of 2019, according to Gooder. As e-commerce continues to expand in markets around the globe, and as urbanization grows, the challenges involved in the final phase of delivery become more pronounced—and require new solutions. According to research from DHL and Euromonitor, more than 600 million people are forecasted to live in urban environments by 2030.
To achieve a competitive advantage, companies of all sizes will need to adapt their supply chains to the changing market environment. This includes taking a closer look at localized delivery options, introducing or exploring flexible delivery networks, and implementing seasonal-specific logistics.
The International Chamber of Commerce has posed a challenge for companies to tackle within the next year: coming up with last mile policies that take into account the larger issues of market access and differences in urban and rural delivery models. Strengthening infrastructure, addressing environmental concerns and improving access to remote areas will all play a part in reshaping last mile policies, so ship-from-home businesses will do well to stay informed and looking ahead.
Another ever-present logistical improvement? Speed. E-commerce shipping is getting faster and faster: A recent study found that the amount of time people are willing to wait for free shipping dropped from 5.5 days in 2012 to 4.5 days on average. Programs like Amazon Prime have made two-day shipping the standard, so cutting down on shipping time is vital for any e-commerce business looking to stay afloat. Importantly, this trend is set to continue well into 2019 as brands evaluate new ways to differentiate themselves from an increasingly saturated crowd, writes Forbes contributor Jia Wertz.
Boosting Your Business
Lastly, of course, is the need for your ship-from-home business to stay relevant by integrating trends in the larger e-commerce industry—keeping your ship-from-home business profitable and productive. Retailers, ship-from-home businesses included, must adapt to new shifts in demographics, attitudes and consumer preferences.
In 2019, the market will be defined by emerging technologies that change the way consumers interact with their favorite brands, a shift in preferences, and the emergence of new battle lines for e-commerce, writes Wertz.
More and more, consumers are shopping with their emotions instead of their wallets. The trend has resulted in brands having to equate their internal culture with their exterior identity, increasingly engaging consumers outside of traditional shopping parameters and becoming cultural figures. Get in on this trend by using the products you sell in your own life and sharing those experiences on your social media channels. Being transparent and accessible on social media allows your customers to feel like they’re purchasing from a human being—not an impersonal company.
A major trend in e-commerce that we’ll continue to see is combining both physical and online retail into one “best of both worlds” experience. Physical retail stores continue to be risky, with nearly 3,800 stores are expected to close their doors by the end of 2019 in the U.S. alone.
In an unexpected reversal, online retail companies are now adding brick-and-mortar locations to drive sales. E-commerce brands plan to open 850 stores across the country over the next five years even as traditional mall brands continue to shutter their stores.
The mattress retailer Casper, for example, will open 200 stores within three years. Adore Me, the women’s intimates company, announced up to 300 additional stores in five years. Allbirds, the wool sneaker company, opened a 4,800-square-foot New York flagship in SoHo, with plans for more stores in four cities in the next year, according to ShipStation.
Ship-from-home businesses can replicate these big ideas on a smaller scale, like a pop-up shop inside a brick-and-mortar business similar to yours, or setting up your wares at a local farmers’ or art market. You can find plenty of partnership ideas here to get you started working with other businesses to showcase your products in-person.
An enduring trend in e-commerce continues to be subscription services: businesses that curate products and ship them to customers on a regular basis. This is a natural fit for ship-from-home businesses, as it maintains the drumbeat of orders coming in and going out—keeping your business secure and stable.
According to a report by McKinsey & Company, 15 percent of online consumers signed up for subscription services in 2017 and that percentage is only expected to grow.
Expect this trend to continue building momentum in 2019 and beyond.
Finally, accept that multichannel is the new normal. Instead of a single touchpoint for consumers, the trend in retail over the past few years has been to widen the net that brands use to catch leads and convert them. Consumers are shopping differently and in different places, and this varies by age. BigCommerce’s 2018 report found that while only 11.8 percent of Gen-Z shops on Facebook, a whopping 25 percent of Baby Boomers make purchases on the social platform. Meanwhile, Millennials are more likely to buy products advertised to them on Instagram.
How can your ship-from-home business stay on top of the multichannel trend? Make sure your business is integrated across all the channels that make sense for you, including websites, social media, and online marketplaces. Focusing on providing excellent service across sales channels will pay big dividends in 2019 and beyond, writes Wertz.
Clearly, 2019 spells big growth in the ship-from-home e-commerce industry. By staying alert of upcoming trends, remaining agile, and being open to new ideas and possibilities, your business can grow along with it.