Get Ready for Holiday Now: Make It Boring (From A Supply Chain Perspective)!

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The Holiday season finished recently.  And the next Holiday season may seem far away.  But in the area of E-Commerce Fulfillment it will be here before you know it.  Now is the time to begin implementing the improvements and strategies you need to make this coming Holiday season more successful than last year.

Having gone through the ups and downs and stresses of several Retail Holiday seasons myself, one January I gave this direction to my team.  For the upcoming Holiday our theme was that we were going to have a BORING Holiday season … from a Supply Chain perspective.

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Competing against Amazon? You Need A Blue Ocean Strategy!

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Amazon is far and away the leader in the E-C0mmerce space.  Their growth continues at an exceptional pace.  And they continue to expand their products, services, and capabilities.  In short they continue to press their advantage and make it difficult for anyone else to compete with them.  You need a Blue Ocean strategy!

But if you are in the E-Commerce space that is your reality.  Amazon is the biggest shark in the room.  So how do you compete in the face of such an overwhelming adversary?

One technique is to consider creating your own Blue Ocean Strategy!  If you can define dramatically different space in which to do business you may be able to keep this shark, and others, at bay (at least for a period of time).

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Which is Better? Amazon FBA or 3PL?

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Amazon FBA article by Dona Dimaculangan of 3P Logistics at https://www.3p-logistics.co.uk/.

E-commerce is defined as the buying and selling of products or services exclusively through electronic channels. If you’ve made an online purchase through eBay, Shopify, Amazon, and other platforms, then you have made your purchase via an e-commerce site.  More and more people spend their time browsing on the internet and the more likely they are to buy stuff online.

Admittedly, the e-commerce industry is booming. Retail e-commerce sales in the United States are projected to grow at a fast pace in the coming years, going from 322.17 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to just over 485 billion US dollars in 2021.

Why You Need Order Fulfillment Services

 If you’re looking for a business that will eventually get you out of your 9-5 job, or looking to expand your existing business, having an online presence and web-based store could fulfill this goal. For beginners in the e-commerce trade, what do you need to do to get more sales, with a lot of online businesses competing for customers’ attention?

Amazon

Customers want products that will give the best bang for their buck with speedy delivery, and good after-sales support. Here’s where the different companies offering order fulfillment services come in.

What is an Order Fulfillment Service?

 Order fulfillment is defined as the steps involved in receiving, processing and delivering orders to end customers. A fulfillment service is defined as a third-party company that provides these order fulfillment steps on behalf of another party, such as an online seller.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of using either Amazon FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) or a 3PL for your fulfillment needs.

Fulfillment By Amazon

 FBA, or Fulfillment By Amazon is a business model wherein e-commerce sellers on the Amazon Marketplace, big or small, can have their products stored in any of Amazon’s giant warehouses, pack and deliver them to customers, handle customer support, and returns.

FBA Pros
Expertise and Reach

 Amazon has one of the most advanced e-commerce fulfillment service in the world, can help you scale-up or grow your business and as of the last measured period, the source estimated 90 million paying Amazon Prime subscribers in the United States, up from 63 million in June during the previous year.

Amazon Prime customers are eligible for 2-Day Shipping, Free Shipping and other benefits. If you sign up your products for Amazon Prime, your products are eligible for free shipping, too.

Customer Service and Returns

FBA handles customer service and returns. Listings are displayed with the Prime logo, so customers know that Amazon handles packing, delivery, customer service, and returns.

They handle the fulfillment services side of the business and saves your time, so you can focus on the other aspects of your business.

Multi-Channel Fulfillment

With Multi-Channel Fulfillment, you can fulfill orders from other sales channels using your inventory stored in Amazon order fulfillment centers. Single-source your inventory to streamline your fulfillment operations, manage your inventory through an online user interface and can direct Amazon to return your inventory in e-commerce fulfillment centers at any time.

Cons of using FBA
Customization

Little to no order customization. Sellers must comply with existing Amazon .processes.

Branding

Items are shipped in Amazon boxes. Sellers can ship in generic boxes which may cost extra.

Warehouse Pricing

Storage fees are generally higher compared to 3PLs and usually rise during holidays.

Higher order handling fees for non-Amazon orders.

Communication

Solutions are based in standard processes which may pose little opportunity for dialogue.

Conflict of interest

The fact that Amazon may actually be a competitor to the seller. Amazon is in the business of selling, they just happen to offer shipping services. For Amazon, it’s free product and market research, and they’re making money off you.

Third Party Logistics (3PL / TPL)

Third–party logistics in logistics and supply chain management is a company’s use of third party businesses to outsource elements of the company’s order fulfillment services.

Pros of Using 3PL
Customization

Boxes/bags and all internal packaging are customized to a specific brand. Processes are adapted to your business’ operation and specification.

Warehouse Costing

Attractive storage costs that is variable. Customer pays storage space on a given month. Some 3PLs even offer free warehouse storage for a limited time.

Communication

Has onboarding processes, frequent communication before and after product launch. Collaborative approach is encouraged.

B2B (Business to Business)

Certain 3PLs can handle both B2B and B2C (Business to Consumer) fulfillment, resulting in one e-commerce fulfillment partner for all sales channels.

Cons of Using 3PL
Finding a Trustworthy 3PL company takes time.

Not all 3PL providers are created equal. It takes time to find a good company to work with from the beginning. Once you find someone you can trust, you can rest assured that your goods are being properly cared for. The initial search could be stressful but it will all be worth it once you find a reliable 3PL company.

Bad Service Reflects on Your Company

An inefficient 3PL provider could make your company look bad. Your customers do not care who is in charge of getting the product to them. All they care about is the end result. It is very important to look for a good distribution center early on to avoid customer-satisfaction issues in the future.

Amazon FBA or 3PL in Conclusion

Order Fulfillment Services are a crucial part of your business and a major factor in determining its success or failure. Whether you entrust your fulfillment services to FBA or a 3PL, there is a greater chance that you will be in good hands – these are fulfillment experts, after all.  The key difference is you as the owner,  – what do you want for your brand and what kind of customer experience you want to give to your consumers.

If you are happy to use Amazon’s existing system and tap into their wide customer reach, FBA may be a perfect fit for your company.  If, however, you would like more control over your order fulfillment services, partnering with a 3PL could be the best solution. Make sure your order fulfillment service provider is experienced with the type of operations you need before you entrust them with your reputation.

Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on March 8, 2018.

Complexity in the Retail Supply Chain!

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As consumers the complexity in the retail supply chain is usually oblivious to us. We go to the store and pick up the goods that we want. Or we order goods online from our devices at home, in the office, or anywhere for that matter. We consume the items, returning them if necessary, unaware of all of the work that went into making those goods available to us.

A phenomenal amount of activity goes on behind the scenes to make this experience as seamless as possible. I am not saying that it always goes smoothly. Sometimes items are broken. They are late. Or there is some other issue.

But behind the curtain that is Retail there are a lot of people managing a lot of processes and dealing with a lot of complexity earnestly trying to make your goods available to you.

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Multichannel vs Omnichannel Fulfillment Solutions!

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Unchaining Change Leadership

“Omnichannel” is certainly the prevalent phrase in the E-Commerce arena.  The expectation in an Omnichannel Fulfillment world is that a customer can order what they want, when they want, on whatever device they want, and have it delivered how they want.

The physical delivery part of the Omnichannel expectation can be very elusive.  Many companies claim that they are Omnichannel service providers.  But are they really?

How many E-Commerce Fulfillment options are there?  And how many do you provide in your company?

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What is a Multichannel Distribution Management System?

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Multichannel Distribution article originally published at and permission to publish here provided by tenfold.com.

Many businesses begin with single-channel distribution. That sole channel could be a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce website. In either case, all sales flow through one outlet.

The advantage of a single-channel distribution management system is simplicity. There’s only one channel to manage, one channel to stock, and one channel to market to customers. As a business expands, however, the single-channel model can limit growth.

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From Click to Ship in 4 Minutes! Ultimate Principles for World Class Fulfillment!

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The capability we had in E-Commerce order fulfillment was rather basic.  We had employees manually pushing carts up and down standard warehouse racking aisles picking goods off of shelves.  And when they had completed an order or a set of orders they would then push the entire cart back to a centralized order packing station.

As a Supply Chain Services company we needed a dramatically better capability if we were wanted to have customers trust their growing E-Commerce business with us.  Pushing carts around a warehouse is both inefficient and lacks innovation.

We had to go back to the drawing board.  But in doing so we would end up with a World Class solution!

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The Omni-channel Approach to Customer Experience!

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Unchaining Change Leadership

Customer experience article originally published at, and permission to publish here provided by Karl Crisostomo at tenfold.com

In the last decade, the growing adoption of ecommerce has been swift–and ruthless. Huge retail market players like Best Buy and Toys R’ Us are shutting down huge chunks of their physical locations due to plummeting revenue. Not only is this a result of not embracing ecommerce early in its wave, they are also now competing with ecommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba who sell the same or competing products online.

Traffic drought in physical stores could be attributed to the rising number of purchases made over the internet for certain customer and product segments. For some, the revenue drop is significant. And yet another part of the challenge big box retailers face as publicly traded companies is that they have to answer to their investors–and with ecommerce delivering superior results, the patience afforded to big box retailers is just not as generous.

So, where does the success of ecommerce lie?

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Turn your Brick And Mortar Stores into E-Commerce Distribution Hubs!

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Retailers with Brick and Mortar stores continue to be under tremendous pressure.  Competition is intense in the fast growing Omnichannel E-Commerce world.  Every week there seems to be news about how one Retailer or another is closing more of their stores when they could be using them as Distribution hubs.

And very few Retailers with Brick And Mortar stores have been able to make a profit in E-Commerce.  Competitors who only sell online without physical stores appear to have an advantage with lower overhead costs.

So how can Brick And Mortar Retailers turn their stores into a competitive advantage plus a source of greater profitability?

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Last Mile Delivery! What is your Strategy?

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Amazon has set the benchmark for Last Mile Delivery.  With massive Distribution Centres within a short distance of every major population centre they are able to offer fast delivery of virtually any product they sell.  The Amazon Prime Now service promises delivery within 1 hour.

Amazon Fresh is their grocery delivery option and with their Whole Foods acquisition they are obviously planning for rapid delivery.  Amazon Go is their Retail store option.  Amazon Key is their in home delivery service.   And the Amazon promise of drone delivery will further cement their leadership in the Last Mile Delivery race.

So how do you compete with that?  What are your options?  And what is your Strategy?

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3 Key Trends in E-Commerce Logistics!

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E-Commerce Logistics article originally published by, and permission to publish here provided by, Adam Robinson on https://cerasis.com 

With the increase in the popularity of e-shops and delivery companies, the logistics e-commerce business keeps growing. It faces more and more challenges, as customers need companies to be quick and increase their logistics performance more than ever before.

What does it mean for your business? This article explains why understanding and following the key trends in logistics e-commerce are crucial for organizations that want to save their place in the supply chain and get better results with less effort. 

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World Class E-Commerce Fulfillment Principles! (Infographic)

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E-Commerce is the fastest growing avenue for doing business anywhere.  It has been for many years and it will be for many years to come.  In support of this your operations need to be World Class.

It is certainly a challenge to establish the sales, marketing, merchandising and transactional infrastructure to offer an efficient and effective E-Commerce solution to your customers.

At the core of the Supply Chain an enormous challenge is to have a highly competitive and compelling E-Commerce Fulfillment solution.  So what are the key principles that you must have in place to design, construct and deliver a leading E-Commerce Fulfillment solution?

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Has Walmart Beat Amazon Using an Omnichannel Returns Strategy?

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Returns strategy article originally published by Veridian at   http://veridiansol.com . Permission to publish provided by Jason Rosing.

Amazon has reigned supreme in e-commerce for years, but Walmart is well on its way to making the e-commerce giant a little nervous. Amazon acquired Whole Foods and dropped the price of Prime Pantry through Prime Perks. Amazon began looking into brick-and-mortar storefronts, hoping to capture a new slice of the omnichannel pie.

Walmart has a different approach, and in several ways, Walmart is positioning itself to best Amazon in e-commerce through an innovative, omnichannel return strategy. To understand the true scope of this accomplishment, supply chain leaders need to understand the precursor steps Walmart has taken.

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3 Challenges Facing Supply Chain in the Next 5 Years!

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Challenges facing Supply Chain article written for Supply Chain Game Changer by Ralf Llanasas at heroicsearch.com.

It can sometimes feel as though our commercial landscape is in a constant state of flux. Whether due to frequent changes in technology, attitudes of consumers, or shifts in working practices, this can breed both an exciting sense of competition, as well as uncertainty. Supply chain managers are often at the forefront of these developments.   

As a result, there is a need for not just individual companies, but the supply chain itself to undergo periodic evolution. It’s not always simple; the industry must continue to meet the expectations of a demanding customer base, while making certain that any changes are sustainable.

Each time the need for evolution presents itself, supply chain managers must create change management plans which not only help their business meet their goals, but present minimum disruption. 

We stand at the cusp of some interesting new possibilities for business. As such, we can expect some potentially drastic changes, and with them the need for smart solutions. We’ll take a look at a handful of the major challenges facing supply chain over the next half-decade, and how the industry is approaching these. 

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Omnichannel Customer Service Best Practices!

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Omnichannel Customer Service article originally published and permission to publish here provided by Karl Crisostomo at tenfold.com.

The growing size of today’s consumer market sets the stage for entrepreneurs and companies of varying capacities to take part. The US consumer market alone was at $1.5 trillion in 2016. And this number is continuously increasing. According to an article from AdAge, US Gen Y or millennials are also swiftly increasing their slice of the pie, spending more than $200 billion annually.

With businesses vying for the attention of a growing but still finite market, channeling focus and spending resources toward staying ahead of the pack is crucial.

Top of mind for customers is swift and consistent support–hence the rise of omnichannel customer service. Today’s customers no longer simply rely on calling customer support for assistance. They now make use of whichever channel they can get the best and swiftest help, be it through knowledge bases, live chat, website, social media, SMS, and email.

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