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How to overcome e-commerce challenges with apprenticeships

8 mins read time

With the huge boost to e-commerce, particularly in recent months, the online shopping landscape has never been more competitive. According to Forbes, Covid-19 accelerated e-commerce growth by 77% year on year, increasing levels in one year to what may have been seen normally over a period of between four to six years. This means there are also many opportunities within the e-commerce industry if you’re doing it right and know what your priorities are.

In order to capitalise in this boom time, it’s critical that all areas of your business supply chain are working well together. This includes warehouse and logistics and facilities management. You should also invest heavily in the face of your brand. This means upskilling your customer service teams and the leadership and management who nurture these core teams that deal directly with customers. Apprenticeships are part of the solution.

The importance of apprenticeships in e-commerce

At Lifetime, we have many years of experience working with large retail brands to maximise the potential of e-commerce apprenticeships. We help companies to invest in apprenticeships, to upskill their employees, expand their workforce and in turn to grow their businesses.

We understand that each area of an e-commerce business is vital to creating a well-oiled, high-performing online shopping environment. We take a look at some of the more challenging areas of e-commerce and explore how investing in your team at each level is key to future-proofing your business during the pandemic and beyond.

Boosting distribution centre efficiency with apprenticeships

In a highly competitive industry, with large established players dominating the sector, you need to be able to measure up and meet your customers’ expectations.

Most customers now expect fast delivery, so should be considering how you can ship to the customer in the least amount of time (and expense for you). Through the pandemic people were willing to wait up to 6 days, but as this becomes the new normal, people may go back to the previously accepted 3 days (consumer report from SendCloud).

This all starts from the distribution centre or warehouse at the centre of your supply chain. Improving inventory control eliminates warehouse back-orders and ensures that products are easy to find. An organised warehouse is an efficient one. With good warehouse and stock control you can assess which products are costing you money by sitting on the shelves the longest, after all 80% of your sales will most likely come from just 20% of your products.

The happier and more motivated your warehouse team, the higher their efficiency. You’ll be able to increase the number of picked orders per day. Instead of hiring temporary warehouse employees at peak times and seeing them as disposable, it makes sense to invest in this core part of your workforce.

With a warehouse apprenticeship or even trade supplier apprenticeship you can make sure your distribution and customer team works well together and are empowered with the right skills. There are many employees out there that currently see their roles as restricted or temporary, whereas 84% of our apprentices said their training has directly helped their career. By upskilling and offering a structured training programme to your warehouse team, you boost your processes and efficiencies and offer greater job satisfaction and the chance of career progression.

Improving customer service in e-commerce

Where you have closed or even no brick-and-mortar stores, face to face contact with your customers will be extremely limited. Therefore, you have to offer excellent online communication and an omnichannel customer experience.

In such a competitive market, it’s increasingly important that you are training your customer service team on more than just acting as a conduit for returns and complaints. You should aim to instil trust in your brand with your customers, 75% of customers will supply their data for communications to a site they trust and the experience they receive goes a long way to building this.

With an enhanced customer experience team being the future of a successful e-commerce upskilling your team is vital. We have supported many employer partners bridge this gap - developing team members that are confident, flexible and skilled at navigating the changing retail landscape.

Offer a personal shopping experience

There is also a shift towards a customer service frontline that is more like a ‘customer enrichment team’. The customer experience is key to maintaining customer loyalty and not losing them to your competitors. In fact, figures from Deloitte’s consumer review on mass personalisation shows that 22% of consumers are happy to receive a more personalised service in return for sharing some of their data.

Importantly, your customer service team shouldn’t be limited to solving problems, fielding complaints, or dealing with returns.

Handling returns in the best way

Your returns process joins your customer service team with your logistics and warehouse teams. At least 47% of consumers expect delivery services to be flexible which means great logistics and a fluid supply chain is key. A streamlined e-commerce supply chain is vital to this.

An apprenticeship in retail or customer service can develop many areas of these core teams, improving brand understanding, customer handling techniques, boosting team knowledge and collaboration overall.

smiling man at desk

Accelerate your e-commerce leadership and management teams

In a complex e-commerce business, investing in your leaders is vital to streamlining and driving the business forward. By doing this you unlock your talent pipeline and instil a culture of learning and development from the top down.

Investing in your leaders and managers means you drive efficiencies, and tangible improvements for people and processes business wide. 84% of our leadership apprentices feel they are developing essential career skills due to the apprenticeship programme.

The apprenticeship can support leaders to strategically link all areas together and work to introduce clear processes across all, so the business is fine tuned.

At Lifetime, all our level 3 and 5 management courses are also CMI certified meaning delegates also receive a chartered management institute certificate.

Lifetime's e-commerce apprenticeship services

Make sure your e-commerce business thrives in a hugely competitive market means being at the top of your game. There’s no better way to do this than by improving your teams' skills and performance.

73%
of apprentices we’ve trained are still in the same company
77%
retention rate from apprentices recruited specifically for an apprenticeship role 
19%
projected growth for direct-to-consumer retail in 2021

Apprenticeships have a big part to play in this skills improvement. They increase employee retention and current employees can also be upskilled through an apprenticeship programme, so you can train them alongside any additional recruitment drives. 73% of apprentices we’ve trained are still in the same company, with some companies reporting over 85% retention of apprentices.

Support throughout your e-commerce business

Direct to consumer retail is projected to grow more than 19% in 2021. We can support in every area of your retail business, from the (virtual) shop floor to business support to team leaders through to warehouse and logistics staff.

Our apprenticeships develop industry-leading skills and behaviours in team members, supervisors, retail managers and warehouse operatives.

Recruiting to retain

With many of our current Employer Partners seeing a retention rate of 77% from those apprentices they have recruited specifically for an apprenticeship role, the opportunity to attract, train and retain an effective team can be achieved with apprenticeships.

Lifetime offers a free apprenticeship recruitment service that saves your time sifting and screening, meaning you can focus your energy on the end goal - hiring the right people for your team.

Develop the right skills in your workforce

Lifetime apprenticeships are designed to develop the right behaviours needed to create a motivated, productive team: integrity, honesty and reliability. Each learner receives industry-leading virtual and personal support from a Lifetime coach.

Lifetime apprenticeships that will support your e-commerce supply chain include our supply chain and operations apprenticeships, warehouse management apprenticeships, trade apprenticeships, team leader, retail, customer service apprenticeships and leadership and management apprenticeships.