More than 20 years ago, I remember intently watching a futuristic family, The Jetsons, on our family’s old-time television, with cathode-ray tubes and knobs – you know the one. If I hear the theme song today, I immediately picture George Jetson zooming to work in his pneumonic tube. It all seemed so far away… Rosie, the robot maid, aerocars. But now as I reflect on the show, it all seems closer than ever.
Google, Amazon and Apple have all made significant investments into robotic companies in the last year; just check out “Baxter” from Rethink Robotics. He’s not your typical robot that needs programming or safety cages. He can be “used in a variety of ways and places where industrial robots are historically impractical.” Robotics are going to bring manufacturing back to North America by increasing efficiencies and lowering costs of labour through automation. A human-less workforce won’t happen overnight, but automation is the future. Similar to how the Internet changed how we do business, robotics will revolutionize our supply chains, way of life and ultimately how consumers select and receive the goods and services they desire.
Looking into the near future, I doubt Rosie or Baxter will be joining us in our warehouse, but 2014 will see the growth of automation in business and textiles industries. What can we expect in the year to come?
E-commerce sites will increase as will their offerings. This creates a very competitive marketplace and a higher demand for better products and better prices, all in the name of earning the elusive consumer vote. With search engine enhancements and marketing affiliate sites dedicated to increase traffic, vendors are required to well-stock high quality products at competitive pricing.
How will they ensure inventory is at its best? Forward thinking manufacturers have to consider bettering technology, freight logistics, supplying power and of course, strong e-commerce initiatives. This lowers the risk and heightens the experience for buyers.
Companies also feel less risk when taking on new products that replace best sellers or lucrative shelf space. They can be sold online for a trial basis and removed quickly if they don’t perform well. How is this beneficial for the customer? Better selection of products, increased value and excellent return policies.
E-commerce today for tomorrow
Offering quality goods at very competitive pricing starts with variety, fluidity and open ears. Listening and being active in the online space is key: reviews continue to grow in the e-commerce world and influence consumers’ final buying behaviour. We have to remember: the customer is always right, but they aren’t always nice. Use reviews to create better products, engage with customers and see what they are saying. Don’t just apologize but do something about it. No longer is the apology good enough – customers want action. The successful supplier to the ever expanding online retail world needs to be agile, flexible and adaptable, much like the technology that is driving business.
Technology within the products
Online shoppers are savvy and they do their research by shopping around and reading reviews. They see value in understanding where a product is made and the thought that goes into the design. Hand craftsmanship, made in Canada/USA, bespoke bedding and eco-products still reign strong among consumers. Specifically in the textile industry, look for continued interest in Natural Latex products, more thought into towel fabric and style and the material, weaves and thread count of sheets. This means consumers are looking for selection not just in colour but in quality of material and design, including grams per square meter (GSM), content and feel.
Hypoallergenic and health related products will also remain hot sellers. Ten million Baby Boomers reached retirement age in 2011 and a majority of them want to age gracefully and comfortably at home. Home-care products and services that help them achieve this are in high demand and will grow as a product category.
Major retailers that choose to merge their online and in-store logistics will create a stronger omni-channel distribution strategy and gain market share. How? Communicate with customers, where ever they are.
Companies that embrace customer engagement across channels such as social media, brick and mortar storefront, e-commerce site and mobile are outperforming and retaining over twice as many customers as companies that don’t. They are also using customer behaviour to their advantage: turning previously considered transaction-halting behaviour, such as showrooming, into opportunities to leverage their existing strengths.
Rather than stressing whether a walk-in is going to buy, they encourage customers to experience a product in store and embrace the choice to purchase in store or online. These new approaches partnered with traditional incentives like a strong return policy (where customers can bring product back to retail locations versus dealing with shipping documents and charges) can vastly improve the customer’s overall experience.
How will you embrace technology in your business this year? Share your stories with me in the comments below or on Novo Textiles’ LinkedIn page.