Amid back-to-school and holiday shopping supply chain concerns, consumers want improved transparency

By | 4 minute read | August 26, 2021

mother daughter shopping

Consumers weary from ongoing supply chain strains are demanding greater transparency and certainty from retailers and e-commerce sites as they undertake back-to-school and holiday shopping. With record spending anticipated for back-to-school season this year amid expected shortages and reduced inventories, just under half of parents are concerned about back-to-school supplies (42 percent) and availability of holiday gifts (46 percent) – according to a new survey of consumers conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM.

The survey also found that millennials are most concerned about their ability to purchase back-to-school supplies (36 percent) and holiday gifts (42 percent) compared to other generations. Further, nearly half of all consumers stated they are more likely to purchase from a business using advanced technologies such as AI to help reduce shipping delays. To address a growing shift in consumer expectations, IBM recently launched Sterling Intelligent Promising to help retailers and e-commerce businesses make more accurate and reliable order delivery promising earlier in the process.

The recent “Intelligent Promising Survey” of 2,200 U.S. adults conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM Sterling, respondents indicated that information at-a-glance and fast delivery speeds when shopping online were critical to their shopping decisions. Two thirds said they expect to have delivery (67 percent) and inventory (65 percent) options at a immediately available when shopping online, while 64 percent will go somewhere else to purchase an item if it is not available for delivery within one to two weeks. Parents of school-aged children are more likely to expect delivery and inventory options at-a-glance and will switch retailers if necessary to reduce delivery time, and are generally more critical of retailers — 71 percent indicated they will stop shopping at places that do not meet their needs compared to consumers generally.

Looking more closely at generational trends, the survey found that GenZers and Millennials care more about fast, convenient delivery options. GenXers and Baby Boomers are more likely to expect delivery and inventory options at-a-glance. Among men and women, 40 percent of consumers surveyed think two-day delivery is important while 38 percent responded getting an item shipped from a local store for faster delivery is important.

Helping retailers and e-commerce businesses increase their agility to meet these evolving shopper preferences, the new Sterling Intelligent Promising software helps provide greater transaction trust and transparency for shoppers. It also gives consumers more direct influence in tailoring their unique customer experience. By offering greater certainty of product availability and delivery estimates, choice of where and how to fulfill an order, and transparency about order status across the order journey, retailers can build greater brand affinity with shoppers.

The study also revealed a new trend, a preference among shoppers for more sustainable and environmentally-friendly shipping options. 56 percent of consumers under 35 years said they are more likely to purchase from a retailer using AI-based tools to minimize the carbon footprint of their order. Among GenZ respondents, 45 percent said that delivery options that reduce environmental impact are most important to them while 34 percent of women are more likely to care about sustainable shipping options.  However same-day delivery and curbside pick-up are more important to 30 percent of male respondents.

Supporting this shift to AI-enabled omnichannel fulfillment innovations empowering next-generation shoppers, the AI-powered Sterling Intelligent Promising helps retailers and e-commerce companies give shoppers increased control over their customer experience and the environmental impact of their purchasing preferences. Sterling Intelligent Promising is built on a modern, cloud native microservices-based architecture to easily integrate and scale with any order management system. The new offering helps improve order transparency with more accurate estimated delivery dates, while sourcing merchandise from the closest, fastest fulfillment point. This helps retail and e-commerce businesses keep costs down and reduce their carbon footprint with optimized shipping decisions with a new carbon accounting engine.

Sterling Intelligent Promising fulfillment software helps retailers and e-commerce businesses make more accurate and reliable delivery promising and optimization earlier in the ordering process. This helps develop greater transaction trust and transparency with shoppers to help increase in-store and digital conversion rates at scale. It also gives consumers more direct influence in tailoring their unique customer experience. As fulfillment operations complexity continues to increase with more purchases coming through multiple channels, doing so without purpose-built intelligent fulfillment can lead to sub-optimal experiences, missed sales opportunities and margin erosion. By offering shoppers greater certainty of product availability and delivery estimates, choice of where and how to fulfill an order, and transparency about order status across the order journey, retailers can build greater brand affinity with shoppers.

Sterling Intelligent Promising helps retailers and e-commerce businesses:

  • Maximize inventory productivity by making enterprise-wide inventory available to shoppers based on business priorities such as reducing time or cost to deliver merchandise, or increasing profitability of orders. The solution enables inventory from across the enterprise, including stores, to be visible to shoppers across the entire online shopper journey including product list and product detail pages within milliseconds. This gives retailers granular control over online inventory availability at each fulfillment location and the ability to make better available-to-promise decisions.
  • Make and manage accurate order promises to shoppers including any combination of deliver-by, deliver-on, deliver-during and deliver-at across their order journey. The solution influences promising from cart, to checkout and post order experience, supporting a wide range of fulfillment experiences such as BOPIS, ship-from-store (SFS) and curbside pick-up.
  • Optimize fulfillment for improved profitability and sustainability by minimizing fulfillment costs such as distance, labor, capacity, carrier cost as well as profit impacts including markdown or stockout data. It includes AI-driven detailed optimization decision explanations.