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Fine-Tune Your eCommerce Fulfillment for 2021

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Everyone is trying to predict where eCommerce fulfillment is headed in 2021. We all know the only way is up, though questions remain around how to carve out a greater share of the spoils and what kind of post-pandemic recovery physical retail will make.

What's clear is that setting best practices and fine-tuning your eCommerce fulfillment for 2021 will set the stage for any broader changes your business wants to make to its online presence.

eCommerce Fulfillment: Best Practices for 2021

In November, Capacity CSO Thom Campbell participated in a webinar hosted by the EDI software experts at DiCentral. This trusted vendor has a deep vault of informative supply chain webinars, including another discussion with our experts last year on the subject of rapid fulfillment.

Our latest session focused on the acceleration of online shopping and best practices that brands can adopt to better position themselves for what's coming in 2021.

You can watch the full recording above, including deep dives into ways your company can expand revenue, shorten delivery times, and optimize inventory management for online ordering.

For the purposes of this post, we'll provide a few key trends and stats, as well as insights to summarize the session and offer ideas to streamline your eCommerce activities heading into 2021.

eCommerce Fulfillment Statistics

Some key stats from 2020 that set the stage for this session:

  • 53% of manufacturers have experienced increased profit as a result of eCommerce/dropship growth.
  • 32,200 jobs were added to the warehouse/storage sector this year.
  • Holiday spending is set to surpass $189 billion online (up 33% over 2019).
  • Even with a majority of participants (71%) experiencing an uptick from growing eCommerce, almost one-third (29%) of participants still said that their experiences had not been positive.

What we are seeing is that despite the clear opportunity presented by accelerated eCommerce in 2020, some brands were unprepared for this rapid change. Many companies are still looking for ways to fine-tune their eCommerce fulfillment for 2021 and deliver an improved experience for their customers online.



Assessing eCommerce Challenges

With those stats in mind, what are some of the main challenges we're seeing with eCommerce? Participants shared their opinions as follows:

Joint 1st = Scalability over time/order spikes - 50%
Joint 1st = Inventory planning/management - 50%
Joint 2nd = Retailer dropship compliance - 44%
Joint 2nd = Shipping price/service - 44%
Last = Customer Experience - 31%

Of these observations, Thom Campbell and host Ivy Davis of DiCentral expressed surprise that customer experience didn't place higher. With eCommerce growing, Campbell explains that many established brands are trying to keep pace with younger brands who are laser-focused on customer experience.

Inventory planning and scalability placing top was considered less surprising, emphasizing the challenges that unexpected order spikes earlier in 2020 and the expectations of an elongated peak season will raise.

Of these challenges, the webinar poses some core questions to ask if your business faces challenges with eCommerce fulfillment for 2021:

1. Are you controlling your brand and customer experience?
2. What are your tech needs and integration points (website, social, etc.)?
3. When is the right time to consider outsourcing?

On that third question, Campbell's recommendation is simple: "when it's driving you crazy!"

Nonetheless, some brands hang on to this piece of eCommerce fulfillment longer than they perhaps should, due to costs, continuity, or simply too many competing tasks to organize the outsourcing process.

The latter, of course, speaks to the primary reason for outsourcing in the first place: to focus on the core of your business and delivering the kind of brand experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

How a Fulfillment Partner Can Help

When the time arrives that fulfillment is driving you crazy - or even if that time has long since passed! - there are numerous areas of eCommerce that a fulfillment partner can help you develop. These include:

  1. Driving shipping economies of scale.
  2. Improving brand presence and your "muscle in the market".
  3. API/FTP/EDI/XML integrations.
  4. Data-driven service and enhanced CRM platforms.
  5. Inventory control and data capture.
  6. EDI retailer and dropship compliance.
  7. Management of returns and exchanges.

If this difficult peak season - or indeed 2020 as a whole - has presented fulfillment challenges that you can't handle alone, there are service providers of all shapes and sizes to help.

The key is finding a true partner who wants to understand your business and integrate in ways that will help you scale eCommerce fulfillment for 2021 and the rapid development the year ahead is likely to demand. Are you ready?