Fulfillment in an Age of High Expectations


Your eCommerce business is being judged. This is natural – it’s just the price of operating in such a competitive marketplace. The types of delivery and fulfillment options offered by major eCommerce players, including Amazon, have begun to shape expectations of what businesses can do. This creates obvious challenges. Amazon is rolling out same-day delivery in some territories and testing a fleet of delivery drones. What wouldn’t look slow or disappointing compared to that?

Many brands and retailers are turning to third-party eCommerce partners in order to stay ahead of their competition. Gaining access to existing networks of connections, physical assets and services can catapult your business into the big leagues. In a world where outstanding speed and responsiveness are becoming the new norm, the drop-off in customer satisfaction between those proverbial big leagues and everything else could be significant.

Expectations Scrape the Sky

Technology’s power to increase communication speed around the world has transformed eCommerce – there was really no alternative. Instead of fighting the inevitable, your organization needs to find a way to swim with the current. After all, your customers aren’t going to accept excuses about why you can’t deliver goods accurately or at high speed.

Supply Chain Digital made a few important points about the current state of the market. The first is that it’s wrong to assume progress has halted on fulfillment and delivery, or that it ever will. Settling for a plateau and not improving past a certain point isn’t going to turn your company into an eCommerce contender, as technology and the resulting expectations will keep evolving around you. The rise of back-end processes like automation may actually speed up the changes, so if you can’t keep up, the market may pass you by.

Rising expectations are also tied to the ease of multi- and omnichannel operations. Buyers in stores are expecting consistency with what they’ve learned about your company online, and vice versa. If one arm of your organization falls short of the fulfillment mark, or the multiple parts of the structure can’t work together effectively, the disappointment felt by customers may drag the whole company’s reputation down.

Internal Processes are Key

If your behind-the-scenes operations are weak in key ways, the whole product will suffer. What clients can’t see can hurt their experience, and ensuring that you are on top of every element that leads to good service is the only real way to retain today’s demanding customers. If you suffer even a few backend issues, including inventory slip-ups in person or online, this can have a significant impact on how shoppers perceive your brand – and, ultimately, whether they stay or leave.

Dealing with shipping and delivery is only relevant if your items are in stock in the first place. When they’re not, due to insufficient inventory visibility or any other problem with your back-end processes, you can expect plenty of potential shoppers to defect to other retailers. After all, one of the other primary elements of retail today is the availability of variety. Shoppers know that if they can’t find something with you, someone else will have it.

Proficient in Everything

Your company’s reputation is tied to the way you handle customer transactions at all times, in every territory you serve. This encompasses everything you do, which means that you must be prepared to handle special circumstances.

The rush around the holidays is a tough time for shipping, but that doesn’t change buyers’ desire to get their packages in a hurry. You need to be able to scale up. When you move into a new region, customers there will likely base expectations on the retailers they have been dealing with for a long time – and they won’t cut you slack just because you’re new. These are just a few pertinent examples of circumstances that are difficult to deal with, but where excuses won’t help you guard your business’ reputation.

The challenges of cobbling together a world-class eCommerce or omnichannel fulfillment operation in-house are clear. Working with a qualified eCommerce partner can help you more easily get from point A, as a business hoping to please its customers in a challenging environment, to point B, where you’re a trusted industry voice with a loyal fan base.

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