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Fulfillment: the nuts and bolts of e-commerce

Think buying fashion online is easy? When it comes to shoes, one size does not fit all. The devil is in the detail: ensuring the right color, size, style and quantity, availability and locality – to ensure the style is still in fashion when it’s actually delivered – is an incredibly complex business. I’m talking about e-commerce fulfillment, and if you ask me, it’s something we don’t talk about enough.

When we think of e-commerce we tend to think of booming sales, products zooming from the screen to the doorstep, science fiction-like delivery methods and big-data making everything more efficient. We tend to forget the behind-the-scenes logistics involved in physically storing the products, picking them from the shelves, packing them, shipping them around the world and then delivering them to a customer’s front door. All this falls under the term fulfillment and it can make or break any e-commerce merchant.

Another challenge for retailers is the increasingly omni-channel approach to shopping which allows people to connect with businesses through their preferred platform, whether online, in-store or via mobile devices. This blurring of boundaries between online and bricks-and-mortar requires a new approach to logistics.

Using fulfillment centers gives merchants fast, flexible shipping that integrates inbound freight, inventory, and last-mile delivery in a single consolidated service. It allows retailers to focus on expanding their business while the nuts and bolts are handled by the experts.

What exactly does it entail? Firstly, warehousing. A B2C e-commerce warehouse deals with individual loose items in varying quantities. The warehouse handles all incoming shipments, such as new stock and returned items. It also deals with quality checks, labeling, and bar-coding. On top of that, the warehouse handles inventory and can match supply with demand to ensure there’s always enough in stock.

Secondly, order processing. This entails managing all orders received from multiple channels. It picks products according to the order and packs them for shipment. Depending on the fulfillment center this is either manual, fully automated or uses a mixture of both, with collaborative robots working safely side-by-side with humans.

The third part of fulfillment is delivery. The fulfillment center works with a variety of different services to distribute large volumes of shipments to individual customers around the world. Courier services are chosen based on service level and cost efficiency, and they also provide shipping and tracking information.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that DHL can offer customers all of this and more. We have fulfillment centers around the world that can take care of all your fulfillment needs with ease. What you might not know, however, is that we’ve just opened two new fulfillment centers, one in Australia and the other in Hong Kong. Their arrival will allow retailers to go global, providing peace of mind that the accuracy and timeliness of deliveries will live up to their promise to their customers.

A global fulfillment footprint allows you to connect globally

The next time you place an order online, know that your click will put in motion a complex process that works seamlessly to provide your product, to your customers, at the right place, on the right day and at the right time.

What should e-commerce retailers look out for in 2017?
DHL eCommerce launches Fulfillment Center in Sydney to enable international brands to reach the Australian consumer

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