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How technology is leveling the e-commerce fulfillment playing field for retailers and brands

(Image credit: Image Credit: Snowing / Freepik)

E-commerce offers incredible opportunities for all retailers, including medium-sized operations and emerging brands, as many have come to realize over the past year. According to Statistica, revenue in the UK e-commerce market is projected to exceed £91 billion in 2021 and is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR 2021-2025) of 3.46 percent, resulting in a projected market volume of over £104 billion by 2025. The shift to online purchasing driven by the pandemic has removed the stigma with distant shopping. Recognizing this, many retailers have taken the opportunity to optimize their online sales by honing their offers to better match customers’ desires. Online retailers are embracing new technologies, offering UK customers more choice and flexibility than ever before, leading to an increase in sales.

Retailers of all sizes are overhauling their approach to e-commerce. New niche brands, in beauty and wellbeing in particular, have done extremely well, engaging with new customers online and building their brand trust. fulfillment technology is playing a central role in this new e-commerce revolution. Third-party logistics (3PL) and B2B partnerships have advanced the ability of 24-hour delivery services, resulting in faster deliveries. The ability to purchase through social media apps with virtual shops is easier than ever, and brands are starting to be more front and center, reaching broader audiences and gaining loyal followers.

E-commerce fulfillment is crucial – the role of tech within  

Understanding supply chain management is key to any business’s longevity - even those who may not have considered third-party logistics in the past. e-commerce fulfillment is more than just a convenient solution for businesses – it has become an essential service for the global retail marketplace. After all, when the market shifts, your business needs to shift with it.  

The pandemic has created a surge in demand for logistics and faster dispatch speeds as consumers expected those “essential” products delivered very quickly. That changed the tone for final-mile fulfillment, customers came to expect this heightened service level with all online shopping. Now, we’re seeing the swing back to service what the customer really needs - which is certainly not speed. People need to know with confidence that organized delivery days/times will be held. As the shift to e-commerce continues to evolve, retailers are grappling to find the best online platform to serve their markets with certainty. 

3PL logistics and warehousing are some of the most critical components of the future for online shopping. Retailers that need to store items, offer faster delivery, ship worldwide, need a trusted partner - a reputable 3PL company that can handle inventory, streamline the shipping process, manage paperwork, and work efficiently. 

An end-to-end e-commerce platform can revolutionize the order fulfillment process, by providing smart, scalable and effective global fulfillment operations helping businesses to thrive. UK retailers and UK e-commerce online stores can benefit from outsourced fulfillment because it frees up time to focus on other priorities of the business. When you don’t have to spend valuable company time on custom packaging, sending, or dealing with returns, you can focus more on the marketing and sales operations, for example. 

e-commerce fulfillment is about 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. fulfillment services must make the experience easy, transparent, and rapid. Not being efficient in processes will slow down orders, ruin your customer retention rates, brand trust, and the ability to grow your business. Also, consideration needs to be given to the management of returns. When a customer needs to return an order, it needs to be simple, or chances are they will be lost as a repeat customer. According to a study by TrueShip  “over 60 percent of customers review a Returns Policy before they make a purchasing decision.” 

Leveraging an intelligent platform allows optimization of picking routes, packing processes and courier automation. A single portal allows customers to simply update, control and track their fulfillment process from the moment an order is placed all the way to their customer’s door. Furthermore, it facilitates rapid scale-up when adding new product lines, penetrating new markets or capitalizing on market share. 

Pick and pack e-commerce fulfillment: 3PL inventory management  

What 3PL logistics providers do is assist with the entire order fulfillment process. Whereas a standard courier may only deal with one part of the order fulfillment journey, 3PL fulfillment center providers provide inventory storage, picking & packing, shipping - all while having a high-tech platform for managing your orders. 

Efficient picking and packing, including custom packaging, can save significant time and money. Managing inventory for e-commerce fulfillment is an integral part of the pick pack process. Even before an order is received by the warehouse, there are logistical shelving and storage organization considerations. For example, if the pickers are taking routes that interfere with the flow of machine operators storing inventory, this will cause hiccups. If there is too much pallet stacking happening, making it harder to reach items, this will slow down operations. In the 3PL business, it’s all about rapid turnaround; therefore, proper inventory management is essential. 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.  

Pick and pack accuracy can make or break an e-commerce business. It is such an essential process because it’s key to keeping your customer base happy, and therefore loyal. When 3PL is rapid and more streamlined, customers receive their parcels faster. The pick and pack fulfillment process leverages technology so that customers can get orders within 24 – 48 hours, advocating a better online delivery experience. In fact, on average, 43 percent of profits for e-commerce stores comes from returning customers. Therefore, having a tech-first approach towards fulfillment with a digitally mapped warehouse is vital.

Optimizing e-commerce fulfillment through cloud-based technologies  

Most companies in the fulfillment sector focus on single aspects over total service. However, those at the leading-edge and who are tech-first companies utilize a cloud-based stack that enables rapid scalability. A cloud-based stack allows sellers to cut out the middle-man, giving them complete control over the entire fulfillment process. By managing operations from the cloud, updates can be made from anywhere at any time and are made live from the next order placed. That’s a huge speed boost in comparison to traditional fulfillment which can take weeks to update. 

Times are a-changing 

Traditional retail has changed dramatically over the past 18 months, and it will continue to rapidly evolve. Retailers looking to keep pace, adapt and grow their businesses are looking to next-generation e-commerce fulfillment technologies as part of the solution to the challenges they face. When looking for fulfillment technology solutions, e-commerce retailers should look to robust and expandable, cloud-based platforms as they offer the right mix of leading-edge technology and flexibility that can optimize deliveries and returns and drive end-customer satisfaction.

Jack Williams, CEO and co-founder, Selazar

Jack Williams is the CEO and co-founder at Selazar - a cloud-first company that has developed a highly innovative proprietary e-commerce fulfillment platform that services retailers throughout the UK.