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Ecommerce fulfillment: Strategies for a competitive edge.

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Shipping & Fulfillment
Men pushing boxes with the FedEx logo in the lower right corner of the image



Fulfillment is a fundamental part of an ecommerce business. It represents everything that happens between your customers making their purchase online and getting their orders out for delivery. And although your customers don’t have visibility on this part of the business, those that get it right are likely to be a preferred choice.

Ecommerce is growing its share of total retail sales – up from 14% globally in 2019 to 18% in 2020 and projected to reach 20.4% in 2022. Consumers are used to making more purchases online, so offering a quality delivery experience is a key differentiator. And getting fulfillment operations in order is a key first step. 

Increasing expectations of ecommerce

Customers want the full package of delivery options 

Customers’ expectations around ecommerce delivery are growing and becoming more complex. Some prioritize speed, while others want free delivery, still value good communication, or environmental sustainability. Linnworks own research into The Effortless Economy found that 76% of US and UK consumers cite convenience as their number one priority for ecommerce purchases. 

To give themselves an edge in today’s market, it’s no longer enough to be the fastest or cheapest; customers want to be able to change their delivery slot, track their orders in real time, and return goods seamlessly. 

Here are some of the features that today’s customers expect when it comes to ecommerce delivery. 

Fast and free 

Speed and price still rank high on the list of consumer demands when it comes to ecommerce delivery. Linnworks research revealed that 61% of consumers expect free delivery, for which they are willing to wait longer to get their goods. 

With FedEx® International Connect Plus, a dedicated ecommerce shipping service, you can offer customers fast and free or low-cost shipping options and benefit from international, day-definite deliveries from 24 countries. 

Convenience  

Customers want deliveries that fit around their schedules. In April 2021, Linnworks found that 76% of consumers agreed that convenience was a priority, with a similar proportion saying they valued it more than they did a year previously. And more than two thirds (69%) of customers in one global survey said that the ability to track an order is among their top three considerations when shopping online. 

Flexibility

The most convenient delivery option could change if something unforeseen crops up – making flexibility another priority for customers. For example, 57% of respondents to a 2021 survey said they want the flexibility to change their delivery timeslot, while 51% want the flexibility to change the delivery address.

With FedEx Delivery Manager®, businesses can give customers the chance to customize deliveries, such as by changing the location or date.* With more than 280,000 locations now in the global FedEx parcel point network, customers have even more choice over where to ship or return packages to.  

Sustainability

As awareness grows about the environmental impact of our consumption habits, more customers are thinking about the eco credentials of how their purchases travel. Around 54% of consumers said they are concerned that the rise of ecommerce is a problem for the environment. Some also indicated they would be willing to pay for sustainable delivery. 

Avoiding second delivery attempts can reduce carbon emissions, so consider delivering to retail locations instead. FedEx now has more than 16,000 parcel points across Europe, plus more than 63,000 in the U.S., so more customers are closer to convenient and sustainable deliveries. 

Packaging is also a key consideration when it comes to sustainability. With FedEx Reusable Paks, you can offer your ecommerce customers a more sustainable choice for their packages. 

Seamless returns

With more than half (52%) of European consumers typically returning products purchased online if they’re not satisfied, an easy returns process could be a key differentiator for ecommerce businesses. Interestingly, almost three quarters agree that they wouldn’t shop at an online store that did not offer free returns. 

FedEx Global Returns® allow you to easily manage and customize returns, so you can offer customers all over the world a simple and seamless experience.*

How to improve fulfillment to boost business 

All these expectations from customers present a big challenge for ecommerce businesses. To meet them and remain profitable, fulfillment operations must be time-efficient, cost-effective and accurate. 

What’s more, this needs to be done accurately. Fulfillment errors such as sending incorrect products or incomplete orders could mean more returns as well as a poor experience for the customer. According to PwC, a third of consumers would leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, so every mistake could prove costly. 

Plus, with so many customers expecting low- or no-cost deliveries, businesses should be able to handle these processes within their operating budget. 

So how can ecommerce businesses set up their fulfillment operations to make sure their customers are consistently getting the full experience they want? 

Invest in technology to automate ecommerce fulfillment processes

Tech systems to digitize and automate order fulfillment processes could make significant time savings, which will ultimately reduce operating costs, too. The right system for your business will depend on factors such as the size of your business and how complex your fulfillment needs are. 

Ideally, aim for a system like Linnworks that offers full oversight of your inventory – especially if you are working from multiple fulfillment centers. This could help avoid mistakes that come with manually monitoring stock levels. 

Arrange your fulfillment center for maximum efficiency 

A well organized warehouse that allows staff to work quickly and efficiently is a crucial part of good fulfillment, so consider the placement of products as well as how processes such as returns or storing new stock occur. 

There are a number of different methods to follow. You could store best-selling products in the most accessible spaces to reduce the time spent looking for them, for instance. 

And don’t overlook your packaging. Pay as much attention to the storage and accessibility of boxes, wraps and other packaging materials, as these are just as important to order fulfillment. 

Work with reliable partners and providers  

Many small ecommerce businesses prefer to outsource their fulfillment operations to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider instead. Linnworks research into The Great Ecommerce Acceleration found that 41% of ecommerce retailers have chosen this operating model. 

Working with a knowledgeable 3PL partner can help lower costs by offering greater economies of scale. Plus, it can make selling cross-border or entering international markets more straightforward. 

Likewise, working with a well-established logistics provider that has an extensive network allows you to offer customers added flexibility, convenience and transparency. 

FedEx offers a range of fast, flexible solutions, allowing you to send door-to-door deliveries to customers in 47 key markets with speed and convenience. And with FedEx® Compatible Solutions,* you can find support for everything from managing inventory to transporting goods with multiple carriers. 

Reduce the number of employee touchpoints 

Products are handled as many as 20 times before they reach the customer in the ecommerce fulfillment journey – around four times as much as in traditional retail. This is labor-intensive and increases the chance of human error. 

To see where you can streamline warehouse operations, it can help to visualize the processes. To do so, you could draw a flowchart of the steps involved in receiving and storing stock, picking, packing, shipping and returns. Are there any steps that can be easily eliminated?

Review your approach to fulfillment 

Over time, the demands on your business’s fulfillment operations are likely to change, for example if it has grown significantly or you have introduced lots of new stock keeping units (SKUs). These changes could mean that your approach to fulfillment is no longer the most time- and cost-efficient method. 

It’s possible to streamline your fulfillment operations to offer a competitive range of delivery options without hurting your business’s bottom line. Be sure to carefully monitor your customers’ expectations and partner with knowledgeable service providers such as FedEx and Linnworks, to implement the right tools and provide a next-level customer experience. 

Take your ecommerce business to the next level with FedEx. To offer your customers an exceptional delivery experience, open a FedEx account now and start shipping.


*DISCLAIMER

Availability may vary depending on origin and destination.

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