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The eCommerce landscape has grown astronomically in the past few years. In fact, in 2023, eCommerce sales are set to reach over $1.1 trillion in the U.S. alone. Your eCommerce supply chain must be as streamlined as possible to stay competitive in this cut-throat environment.

Consumers have a wealth of choices at their fingertips. If you can’t deliver what they need, when they need it, they’ll find a business that can–in just a couple of clicks. Anything that delays a shopping experience hinders your bottom line and has long-term consequences for your business. One or two poor experiences and a customer may never shop with you again.

In this guide, we dive into minimizing friction in your eCommerce supply chain. We’ll also share strategies to accomplish this and outline the benefits for your business, customers, and bottom line.

business person handling her ecommerce supply chain

Understanding Friction in the eCommerce Supply Chain

Basically, friction is any step within the purchase journey that slows the customer experience. It prevents them from making a purchase and curbs the value they get from your product or service. For example, this includes:

  • Complicated and lengthy checkouts
  • A confusing interface
  • Gaps between order placement and order fulfillment
  • Delivery delays
  • Poor inventory management

Friction at your eCommerce platform level has far-reaching effects on your business. These issues can be easy to identify. However, they can also be very subtle and go unnoticed if you aren’t on top of every touchpoint during the customer purchase cycle. Take these steps to identify bottlenecks:

  • Try out the purchase journey as if you were your own customer.
  • Follow the lifecycle of your products and inventory tracking across the supply chain.
  • Map out every purchase and supply chain process step, then identify areas you can simplify and streamline.
  • Check for any communication gaps throughout the purchase lifecycle.

How Reduced Friction in Your Platform Streamlines Processes

The substantial shift to eCommerce led to an era of disruption and supply chain instability, delays, and shortages. For instance, most companies were built to accommodate mass shipping to distribution centers or stores–not rapid order fulfillment and continual pricing fluctuations. Moreover, with legacy IT systems, many companies lack real-time visibility into patchwork logistics networks and capacity constraints.

The eCommerce transformation requires companies to restructure their entire supply chain model and all the processes involved. And while many have made noteworthy adjustments, users still experience high levels of friction in the purchase journey.

Businesses should create processes that are transparent, resilient, agile, and customer-centric. By implementing eCommerce supply chain technology to manage processes and reduce friction, companies can:

  • Enable end-to-end supply chain visibility, orchestration, and control
  • Use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to increase responsiveness, scalability, and resilience and improve the buying experience
  • Reduce the number of people and guesswork involved in transactions
  • Improve shipment logistics and delivery speed
  • Reduce administration and labor costs
  • Improve search and order accuracy to offer customers the products they want, when and how they want them
  • Minimize returns

Minimizing Friction for Seamless Interactions

In our culture of instant gratification, customers expect immediate communication, fast results, and seamless cross-channel experiences. So, reducing friction in your eCommerce supply chain is critical to remain competitive.

business owner managing his supply chain touch points

However, the customer experience is defined by multiple touch points with your brand, team, and product. And while this means there are many areas where the customer experience can get derailed, it also offers countless opportunities to win users over.

Users may experience different types of friction on your eCommerce website, such as:

  • Navigational Friction: This can stem from poor website design. It includes aspects such as difficulty finding and navigating product listings or a confusing checkout page.
  • Technical Friction: Technical friction includes error messages, display issues, and slow loading time.
  • Content-Related Friction: This includes vague web copy, misleading information, distracting links, or a lack of information regarding fees, taxes, and shipping costs.
  • Payment-Related Friction: Whether it’s due to limited payment options or authentication requirements that are overly complex, users often abandon their purchase at the last stage for a competitor that offers a better checkout experience.

All these aspects contribute to user frustration and decreased brand trustworthiness, which can easily cost you a sale. Not only will users opt for a competitor who eliminates these complexities, but they’ll most likely never come back.

Instead, make it easy for customers to contact you. Reduce communication obstacles and ensure efficient response times. In doing so, you’ll increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Even better, customers will share their positive experiences in reviews, establishing brand trust on your behalf.

Better communication also streamlines your internal operations and improves both accuracy and resource allocation.

The Impact of Friction Reduction on Inventory Management and Fulfillment

A frictionless eCommerce supply chain aims to improve order execution and inventory visibility and provide analytics across the entire purchase journey.

With better visibility into customer demand, businesses can optimize their inventory levels and avoid stockouts or excess inventory. This can lead to cost savings and an improved cash flow.

Specifically, a robust inventory management tool will:

  • Automate product availability across channels in real time. This prevents users from purchasing orders that aren’t in stock.
  • Send low-stock notifications to inventory managers.
  • Provide integrated multi-channel catalog management.
  • Provide analytics to identify best-selling products and sales trends.
  • Generate real-time reports to enable strategic decision-making regarding inventory optimization, pricing, and purchasing strategies.

What’s more, optimized inventory levels and tracking enhance the fulfillment process. Customers who have a smooth and hassle-free experience are more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend the business to others.

Less Friction in Your eCommerce Supply Chain Equals More Sales

Reducing eCommerce friction has become an increasingly important way to improve supply chain management, cut expenses, and boost sales. Through streamlined online purchasing processes, businesses can enhance their overall efficiency and customer satisfaction. Less friction also helps minimize errors and delays in order processing, shipping, and delivery.

Implement user-friendly interfaces, optimize inventory management systems, and enhance communication between stakeholders to achieve this goal. What’s more, leveraging technologies like AI and machine learning can provide valuable insights to help you predict demand and optimize inventory levels.

We know these integrations and adjustments might sound overwhelming. But with Smart Merchandiser’s visual merchandising software, you can incorporate AI automation into your platform to ensure your merchandising is fast, accurate, and reliable. Our eCommerce store management tool optimizes inventory analysis and fosters a better user experience by identifying customer needs.

Contact us today to reduce friction in your platform and boost your bottom line.