Blog Posts 2021 Fulfillment Forecast: Be Prepared for the Year Ahead

Key Takeaways

  • Ecommerce growth is impacting order fulfillment operations.
  • In 2021, fulfillment will need to be more strategic, sophisticated and responsive.
  • Mastering 10 key trends can help set you up for success.

Still reeling from the rapid rise of ecommerce in 2020, retailers and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are trying to prepare for the year ahead. In his latest column for Multichannel Merchant, Perry Belcastro, Saddle Creek’s senior vice president of fulfillment services, identifies 10 areas fulfillment operations should focus on in 2021.

Following is an excerpt…

10 Ecommerce Fulfillment Trends to Pursue in 2021

The past year has redefined how Americans shop. Online order volume has risen exponentially. Buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pick-up have become commonplace. Free shipping is practically an industry standard. Already underway prior to the coronavirus pandemic, ecommerce fast became the new normal – and it promises to be a force to reckon with in the year ahead as well.

What exactly does that mean for ecommerce fulfillment operations? Now more than ever, they must be strategic, sophisticated and responsive. Following are 10 key areas to master to be on top of your game in 2021.

  1. CX strategy
  2. As shoppers move online, there are fewer opportunities to connect and engage with them in person. Therefore, it is critical to ensure the best possible virtual customer experience (CX). Be sure to establish meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) to help measure your effectiveness in delivering fundamentals like quality, accuracy and timeliness.

    Also, look for ways to increase and improve communication around each step in the order process. Enhancements might include live chat capabilities to support buying decisions or post-purchase surveys for voice-of-the-customer (VOC) research.

  1. Ease of omnichannel purchase
  2. As buying habits have changed in the past year, so have consumers’ expectations for a seamless experience across sales channels. Can you make it easier for them to research, buy, ship – and even return – your products?

    If you’re not doing so already, share information about product availability and inventory levels as well as updates on order status and shipment tracking. Offer customers a variety of delivery options (i.e., BOPIS, same-day delivery, and/or white glove services) and ensure ease of returns with expanded options and timelines.

  1. Bridging the gap between online and offline
  2. In the wake of the pandemic, the urgent need to accommodate accelerated ecommerce volume often resulted in makeshift solutions. When overwhelmed with online orders, for example, many brick-and-mortar retailers opted to fulfill ecommerce orders from stores. While the solution worked temporarily, it is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term unless you have extensive resources.

    If you need to support both business-to-business (B2B) and direct-to-consumer (D2) fulfillment, it can be helpful to use micro-distribution centers where products can be picked, packed and shipped without causing congestion in stores. Another option is to outsource order fulfillment to a 3PL with both B2B and D2C fulfillment capabilities.

For the full list of fulfillment trends, read the article.

eCommerce Fulfillment eBook

Related to: Customer Experience, Selling Online