The demand for online businesses has climbed exponentially in the last year. As people changed the way they shopped for both essential and nonessential items, e-commerce boomed. Online spending accounted for 21.3% of total retail sales in 2020. But the growth is not over. Consumers are still extremely dependent on online retailers, and the US is poised for the best growth since 1983.
Despite the difficulties of 2020, business owners are preparing now for another peak in the industry by boosting their teams to manage a higher number of orders and inventory. Economists now expect businesses to add 7.1 million jobs in 2021. This employment growth would be the largest since 1978.
“We had an incredible shock, but look how fast we’re bouncing back,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist, and strategist at Decision Economics Inc. “We’re in the early stages of recovery, and we’ve got three to five years to go. I think we’re going to end up in a boom.”
Is your business prepared for this growth in e-commerce? Now is the time to evaluate the efficiency of your shipping and order fulfillment and ensure your business can keep up with demand.
As e-commerce grows, your business needs to grow with it. Your ability to scale with the increasing consumer demand is key to your business’s survival. In the prior year, shoppers were limited on how often they could make purchases. Now that vaccines have rolled out across the country and restrictions are being lifted, consumers’ pockets are burning. As a result, many consumers are looking to spend that extra cash in a phenomenon known as “revenge shopping.” It is crucial that your business rises to meet the challenge presented by these new shopping behaviors. Outsourcing your order fulfillment will allow your business to grow without putting a strain on your current resources.
Using Multiple Warehouses
Limiting your inventory to one fulfillment center or warehouse is the quickest way to increase your costs and the risk of extensive delivery times. Your business needs a strong shipping network. By leveraging multiple facilities, your business will shorten shipping times and decrease shipping costs. Your product will be closer to your customers; this in turn will cut down the time it takes to get orders from the warehouse to the front door.
Leveraging 3PL Shipping Rates
3PLs ship millions and millions of packages a year. As a result, they have lower shipping rates that most small and medium-sized businesses will never be able to achieve. By outsourcing your fulfillment to a 3PL, you significantly cut your costs even during peak season.
Improving Order Accuracy
Has your business experienced mistakes with customer orders - mixed up items, incorrect addresses, delayed packages? Check your processes now before it is too late. For consumers, there is nothing worse than placing an order and receiving the wrong item. As your business tries to keep up with growing customer demand, your errors could increase if your in-house methods are not sound. It is a good idea to recruit a professional partner to help mitigate these errors. Most 3PLs have an order accuracy of around 99%. This means that if they ship 100 packages, one order will be incorrect. That may not sound like a significant amount, but you need 100% order accuracy in today’s world of online reviews. Your business’s reputation is on the line with every order – they need to be accurate. What you really need is guaranteed order accuracy.
Preparing for More Inventory
Supply chain issues have plagued e-commerce businesses in the past year. Unfortunately, more may be on the horizon. With challenges from loading and unloading cargo ships to the volume of packages to be delivered, this might be a time to carry a bit more inventory on hand. Previously, most e-commerce businesses used the JIT (Just In Time) delivery method. This concept allowed retailers to maintain bare minimum inventory levels. When merchandise went below a certain threshold, retailers simply placed an order with the manufacturer. While that worked to reduce inventory costs pre-pandemic, post-pandemic it poses a problem.
Supply chain delays are likely to continue throughout the year as a result of limited staff, social distancing restrictions, and long unloading times. You no longer have the luxury of holding a minimum amount of inventory. Instead, you should consider stocking up long before peak season. Keeping a little extra inventory can mean the difference between continuing your sales and suddenly having nothing to sell.
2021 e-commerce revenue is expected to reach over $2.7 trillion and continue rising to $3.4 trillion by 2025! Ensure the vitality of your business through this expanding industry by preparing your inventory and logistics now.
Sarah Smith is the Director of Marketing at Rakuten Super Logistics. Sarah has achieved success by applying her analytical background, marketing experience, and common sense. She has consistently achieved year over year growth, with 2020 coming in over 300% revenue growth to date. She began her career as a Forecasting and Business Operations Analyst in the CPG vertical. After moving to Las Vegas in 2005, she fell in love with digital marketing – where she has been for over 15 years. She spent most of her time in the travel industry before making the switch to B2B Marketing. Sarah understands what drives businesses and how to strategically implement digital promotions to generate optimum campaign ROI.