Ecommerce Order Fulfillment
One of the greatest benefits of ecommerce businesses is the ability to maintain the necessary elements that will allow a customer to purchase merchandise from your business without maintaining the typical physical elements that have traditionally been part of the sales process. As competition has necessitated the ability for businesses to reduce prices to the lowest point possible, we have found that consumers seeking these low prices are wiling to accept more and more “inconveniences” that they were not willing to accept in the past. The main hurdle that ecommerce businesses faced in the past was the fact that a customer could not touch, hold or try on the items that they were considering purchasing. Due to the fact that there was no physical store where the merchandise could be handled, ecommerce stores faced stiff competition from physical locations that sold these same products. Things began to change as merchants realized that people were going to physical locations to see the products, demonstrate them and try them on, only to then take the information they had researched and purchased the item online from the ecommerce merchant offering it for the lowest price. Few cared about who they bought it from, as long as it was received in good condition and in a timely fashion, and as long as it was the same item offered at a lower price. This process led to ecommerce merchants making the process even easier and more palatable for consumers, offering free exchanges and returns if items were not as were expected. These aspects of the shopping experience have created a situation where physical locations now struggle to compete due to the online spaces being able to offer goods at a cheaper price because they are not paying the added expenses of retail spaces, utilities and employee costs.
The one way that ecommerce merchants have not been able to unplug from the traditional system is in the area of fulfillment. Even though the customer has the ability to effectively shop and purchase items sold through the business without any involvement of employees or need to see the merchandise displayed in a physical location, the purchase itself still must be pulled from inventory in a warehouse location and packed by employees into a shipment container by employees, then transported to the customer location from that warehouse. Many ecommerce merchants are interested in fully automating the process so that they do not need to expend time and resources on these physical elements, and as a result the ecommerce order fulfillment industry has offered the solution. Through creating a software bridge that connects to the shopping cart on the merchant’s website, orders that are placed by customers are routed to the fulfillment center, a third party business that holds the inventory of the merchant within a designated area of their warehouse space. The employees of that business then fulfill the order by pulling the necessary items from inventory, packing the order under the specifications of the merchant, and arrange for the order to be transported to the customer’s door. This is accomplished in exchange for a small fee per order and a warehousing fee.
The ecommerce order fulfillment system allows ecommerce merchants to be fully virtual, selling their merchandise to the public without any management of employees or physical spaces. This allows ecommerce merchants to concentrate on the aspects of growing their business while maintaining lower costs that msut be passed off to consumers in order to maintain profitability.