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e-Commerce Industry News

June 4, 2017
Flexible fulfillment can please today's customers
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June 4, 2017
High consumer expectations are an unavoidable part of the modern retail landscape. The giants of eCommerce and omnichannel sales are pulling out all the stops to bring the customer experience to new levels, and your organization will have to find ways to respond. Effective retail today means finding a niche and pleasing your shoppers by mastering every part of the order process, even - or especially - the elements that are hardest to get right.

When your fulfillment solutions don't live up to what buyers expect or hope for, you may find that these buyers don't come back. The rise of online retail has ushered in an era of choice, and if your business falls short, consumers may find it easy to replace you. Your goal as a retailer is to ensure that this doesn't happen.

Getting fulfillment just right is an ongoing eCommerce challenge. Getting fulfillment just right is an ongoing eCommerce challenge.
The stakes are high
According to law firm Goulston & Storrs LLP, in a recent Lexology article, the "last mile" of deliveries is the most costly part of getting a shipment into a customer's hands. The source pointed out that the current era of expanded eCommerce and home delivery has strained logistics to the breaking point, with trucks having trouble navigating cities to get items to their intended destinations.

Of course, there's no option to simply give up on delivery excellence and give your customers a substandard experience. Goulston & Storrs noted that omnichannel businesses - or even online-first companies making their first forays into physical stores - are setting up fulfillment centers. The future may bring technologically advanced solutions such as automated drop-off points, but until then, more traditional solutions such as improved pick-up options at existing physical stores are likely the best option.

How did we get here?
Multichannel Merchant recently published a look at the state of retail today, pointing out that a case could be made for the market's weakness - or its strength. The source pointed to some of the factors that have led last-mile excellence to become so important, and have raised expectations so high. For instance, Amazon has expanded its fulfillment center network so far that 44 percent of U.S. residents are within 20 miles of one of these buildings. That's a lot of power for one company to wield.

Of course omnichannel retailers aren't going down without a fight. Multichannel Merchant pointed out that turning stores to source eCommerce inventory is one potential tactic to be competitive against the giants of the world. The source also added that stores aren't just last-ditch fulfillment options - they can be bastions of positive consumer experience. People still want to interact with merchandise, and omnichannel organizations are better positioned to offer this experience than online-first giants are.

Getting modern
Business 2 Community contributor Mark Berry indicated several of the potential steps that companies can take to ensure their eCommerce fulfillment operations are on par with the major players - or at least developed enough to catch and keep customer interest. He noted, for instance, that data analytics will be an increasingly valuable tool in years ahead. It's important that even subtle changes - from either customers or suppliers - are immediately recognizable.
"The current era of expanded eCommerce has strained logistics to the breaking point."

Berry added that companies taking early steps in modernizing their fulfillment networks should be ready to improve steadily in the years ahead. Whether alone or with a third party, eCommerce companies should ensure they don't consider any upgrades to be one-off procedures. Continuous improvement is the watchword for organizations today, as tech and expectations will keep changing.

The whole supply chain is a critical area for development today, but that last mile between the merchant and the consumer should probably be the center of focus. Berry made similar points to the aforementioned articles, noting that demand has risen to perilous heights in the era of two-day delivery readily available from Amazon and its fellow eCommerce titans. Responses to this pressure may separate leading and trailing commerce contenders.
"ECommerce companies should ensure they don't consider any upgrades to be one-off procedures.""

Dealing with pressure
While the fact that the eCommerce market is speeding up, with demand rising to perilous heights, can represent a lot of pressure for companies, there is also a great deal of opportunity today. Impressing customers isn't impossible, however difficult it may seem, and organizations that set up effective fulfillment networks and eCommerce platforms have the chance to become fixtures in the wide-open online commerce market, setting them up for years of success.