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GUEST COMMENT The ecommerce fulfilment David vs Goliath ‘battle’: can technology help smaller retailers and brands win?

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Many sectors have undergone massive change over the past 18 months and arguably, traditional retail is chief amongst those. This evolution is set to continue, driven by the growing shift to online purchasing, accelerated by the pandemic. As a result, retailers, including medium-sized and emerging brands, have had to hone their offers to better match customers’ needs.

This shift has created a wealth of opportunities for retailers to optimise their online sales – but also bought with it new challenges. The pandemic has created a surge in demand for ever-faster dispatch speeds as consumers expect those “essential” products delivered very quickly. Retailers of all sizes are overhauling their approach to ecommerce as they look to keep pace with the new ‘normal’, while continuing to adapt and grow their businesses.

Fulfilment technology is playing a pivotal role in this new ecommerce revolution, as third-party logistics (3PL) and B2B partnerships rely on it to enable 24-hour delivery services, and faster deliveries. Ecommerce fulfilment is essentially a company’s ability to not only meet the needs of both the business and the customer but exceed them. This can only be achieved through adequately leveraging technology, using intuitive systems, strategic partnerships, and developing the best processes.

Ecommerce fulfilment as a core part of an ever-changing industry landscape

Retailers are now looking to next-generation ecommerce fulfilment technologies to offer customers more choice and flexibility than ever before, solidifying their loyalty and trust.

Understanding supply chain management is key to any business’ survival, and longevity. Even those who may not have considered third-party logistics before, need to understand that ecommerce fulfilment is more than just a logistics function. It has become an essential service for the global retail marketplace that allows your business to shift when the market shifts.

Fulfilment services must make processes easy, quick and transparent. Not being efficient in processes will slow down orders, ruin customer retention rates, brand trust, and the ability to grow your business. During peak fulfilment times for instance, like holiday seasons and Black Friday, warehouse distribution naturally increases. If retailers get their stock into a distribution warehouse ahead of time, they can ensure that the inbound stock processing procedure will be complete, and that the inventory will be available right away. Companies that wait until the last minute to do this, put pressure on the entire supply chain while possibly sabotaging their own success.

A 3PL logistics provider can assist with the entire order fulfilment process. Whereas a standard courier may only deal with one part of the order fulfilment journey, 3PL fulfilment centre providers offer inventory storage, picking & packing and shipping. All of this can be delivered through a high-tech platform that allows flexible, transparent order management.

Choosing the right ecommerce platform to future-proof your business

An end-to-end ecommerce platform can revolutionise the order fulfilment process, by providing smart, scalable and effective global fulfilment operations that help businesses to thrive. Outsourced fulfilment can help retailers and ecommerce online stores free up time to focus on other priorities of the business – especially in the UK, as it’s the fourth largest market for eCommerce with a revenue of US$105 billion in 2020 alone. By outsourcing custom packaging, shipping, or return management, retailers and brands can stop micro-managing all operations and focus more on the marketing and sales.

When looking for fulfilment technology solutions, ecommerce retailers should look for cloud-based platforms as they offer the right mix of leading-edge technology, speed and flexibility to optimise deliveries and returns, driving end-customer satisfaction. Such a platform can give them complete control over the entire fulfilment process – furthermore, by managing operations from the cloud, updates can be made from anywhere, at any time, and are made live from the next order placed. This is a huge speed boost as traditional fulfilment can take weeks to update.

3PL inventory management: pick and pack ecommerce fulfilment

The pick and pack fulfilment process leverages technology that enables customer delivery within 24 – 48 hours, advocating a better online experience. To achieve this, it is vital to have a tech-first approach towards fulfilment with a digitally mapped warehouse.

An intelligent platform allows optimisation of picking routes, packing processes and courier automation. A single portal allows customers to simply update, control and track their fulfilment process from the moment an order is placed all the way to their customer’s door. It also facilitates rapid scale-up when adding new product lines, expanding to new markets or capitalising on market share.

The right tech partner can help you digitally map the warehouse, allowing for the most optimal routes to be taken, saving time and money for the business. And, managing inventory for ecommerce fulfilment is an integral part of the pick pack process. Even before an order is received by the warehouse, there are logistical shelving and storage organisation considerations. For example, if the pickers are taking routes that interfere with the flow of machine operators storing inventory, this will impact operations. On a final note, 3PL logistics technology can help you build on customer loyalty further by managing inventory correctly and efficiently from end to end with two-way stock sync: a technological process that happens between the warehouse data centre and an ecommerce website. Two-way stock helps avoid any potential errors in selling inventory when there is no inventory available for purchase, while knowing precisely how much stock you have available at all times.

In the 3PL business, it’s all about rapid turnaround. The pandemic has led customers to expect a heightened service level across all online shopping as standard, changing the face of last mile fulfilment. This makes effective inventory management all the more essential. Consequently, 3PL logistics and warehousing are now critical components for the future for online shopping. Retailers that need to store items, offer faster delivery and ship worldwide, need a trusted partner – a reputable 3PL company that can handle inventory, streamline the shipping process, manage paperwork, and work efficiently.


Jack Williams, CEO and co-founder, Selazar

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