You’ve invested aggressively in your digital storefront. Your e-commerce platform is slick, the user experience is seamless, and the transaction is easy and hassle-free. You’re waiting for your breakthrough moment, but what will you do when it finally happens? Demand for your product is skyrocketing, but can you keep up with it?
That’s the sort of question that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, or at least it should. E-commerce is booming and will continue to boom for a long while. A recent report by Transport Intelligence notes that the e-commerce logistics market was over $40 billion in 2012, and that number will likely grow more than 10% by 2015. As a result, business owners need to invest in advanced logistics solutions now in order to stay ahead of the continuously shifting retail paradigm.
The days of “please allow six to eight weeks for delivery” are long gone. These days, two-day and three-day shipping is the norm. But in the very near future, even that may seem glacial. Many large shipping companies are experimenting with different models of same-day delivery.
If successful, same-day delivery could eliminate the immediate gratification advantage that physical retailers have over their online competitors. In order to prepare for this very likely eventuality, SMBs need to make sure their supply chains are lean and, if the e-retailer doesn’t ship its own products, that their fulfillment solutions are capable of competing in a world of same-day delivery.
Don’t Go It Alone
Among the best options for fulfillment for SMBs are third party logistics solutions. Third party logistics (or 3PL) allows small businesses to reduce warehousing and shipping overhead by providing these services externally.
There are a range of 3PL solutions available for businesses of any size, and they provide numerous benefits. They ship quickly and are more accurate than many SMBs ever could be and they shoulder the entire financial burden of implementing, maintaining, and improving their warehousing and shipping resources. Businesses often rely on 3PL solutions to pick, package, and ship their wares, allowing the retailer to maintain little or no physical stock on hand. They also allow businesses to increase the speed of delivery by having multiple fulfillment centers in different geographical locations.
A Two-Way Street
3PL solutions can also help with reverse logistics. Simply put, reverse logistics is the ability for a customer to return something to you. SMBs that have invested little or nothing in their reverse logistics networks are likely to find themselves on the receiving end of a torrent of negative reviews, lower customer satisfaction, and a significant decrease in return customers.
A robust system to support returns is critical for building trust with consumers as well as staying profitable. Return policies will vary, but if customers have extreme difficulty returning defective or undesired purchases, they will lose confidence and likely go elsewhere for their next purchase.
Your online presence may be polished and your product may be innovative and flawless, but if you can’t get it to the customer quickly, your business won’t be able to compete. Investing in improved logistics solutions are crucial for success in a business environment that prizes immediate gratification and an easy, low-stress shopping experience. In today’s marketplace, customers who have to wait don’t stay customers for very long.