The Impact of COVID-19 on eCommerce Fulfilment
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Supply chains suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. That much is certain.
Fulfilment and eCommerce delivery was significantly impacted during 2020. Over a year later, many logistics companies and retail organizations are still feeling that impact. Things have changed, and they might have changed for good.
Many brick and mortar stores closed their doors in 2020 and most consumers relied on eCommerce for goods. It’s quite unlikely that this will change or go back to the “normal” we were once used to before the pandemic began. In fact, many consumers who purchased goods regularly online during the pandemic found the experience pleasant and convenient, and thus will not be likely to return to old ways of shopping soon.
And with the holidays coming up, the trend of relying on eCommerce might stay for good. This could be an excellent opportunity for eCommerce and logistics companies-- but the key to taking advantage of this situation is to ensure that your inventory and fulfilment practices align with these new changes. One can’t sell a product that they do not have.
2021 was a year of major fulfilment challenges in eCommerce. The continuous effects of the pandemic in the last two years have many retailers and logistics companies concerned about having enough inventory for Q4 and the upcoming holiday season. It’s clear that logistics businesses need to learn how to effectively adapt to new a post-pandemic economy. However, this doesn’t have to be a difficult process. In fact, many logistics operations can even maximize the new post-pandemic economy and their order fulfilment strategies based on automation.
In this guide, we’ll explore the background of the post-COVID effects on logistics and eCommerce fulfilment, as well as how online retailers can align their current and future strategies with this new landscape.
How COVID-19 Impacted eCommerce Fulfilment
Before the pandemic began, fulfilment for eCommerce was relatively simple. After the pandemic began, however, supply chains were completely disrupted. There have been numerous cases of supply chains being completely disrupted in 2020 and 2021. As a result, businesses found themselves with dwindling inventory and the inability to fulfil orders despite the increased demand in eCommerce goods.
The effects of the pandemic continue to this day and will likely continue through the holiday season. Naturally, many retailers are concerned about the state of the global supply chain and its instability, and many are concerned if they will have enough goods in their inventory when Q4 arrives. Larger businesses and massive enterprises are already on top of it-- some have even contracted whole dedicated ships to take better control of their supply chain. Unfortunately, this isn’t really an option for smaller eCommerce businesses and logistics companies.
Just as well, retailers, eCommerce businesses, and logistics companies alike are concerned about the supply chain and fulfilment impact of new COVID-19 variants. In southeast Asia, new variant outbreaks delayed production for a number of industries, particularly the shoe and clothing industries. It’s natural that there are fears that variants will cause more problems in the future and are simply unpredictable.
So what’s the solution?
Solution 1: Focus on Your Omnichannel Opportunities and New Technology
Many businesses are boosting their omnichannel options for fulfilment, especially when it comes to curb side pickup, though this isn’t entirely relevant to eCommerce platforms. However, another major focus is being directed towards AI-based technology.
Far too many eCommerce businesses lacked a focus on new and emerging technology solutions that improve fulfilment practices. In the wake of the pandemic before the upcoming holiday season, it’s vital that more eCommerce and logistics businesses start looking into matching and exceeding their competitors with better tech. Specifically, technology that is artificial intelligence-based is going to be necessary for handling the ever-complex process of substituting inventory items, keeping track of available product, and managing overall inventories with little human intervention.
For example: Transportation management systems and eCommerce fulfilment applications are going to be worth looking into in the long term.
Solution 2: Focus on Warehouses and Omnichannel Retail
In the wake of the pandemic, a strong and comprehensive eCommerce fulfilment solution will be heavily based in one’s warehouse. While warehouses were once considered a simple back-end function of a much bigger picture, warehouses are now considered the foundation and spine of the supply chain in an unstable and unpredictable world.
Each and every thing that happens in your warehouse goes on behind the scenes. Customers (and, a lot of the time, business owners) don’t see what happens. However, everything that happens in the warehouse will have a significant effect on the overall customer experience.
This brings us back to omnichannel retail. Omnichannel retail makes it easier to provide a seamless customer journey through all channels of shopping. Through this, omnichannel retail is radically changing the way warehouses operate. In order to meet your customers’ need for fast access to your inventory, your warehouse will need to be able to process and ship products with impeccable speed and responsiveness, preferably near delivery points. This can be quite a pricey transition that could include completely reimagining and reengineering your facilities for the smoothest possible product flow, fast order fulfilment, DTC delivery, and DTB delivery.
Luckily, you don’t have to invest massive resources into flipping your warehouses upside-down. JRD offers a wide range of warehouse fulfilment services, so you won’t have to focus heavily on managing and monitoring the warehouses you pay for. When speed and efficiency is key, outsourcing your warehouse and fulfilment needs could be the best decision you could possibly make.
Solution 3: Beef Up Your TMS
eCommerce fulfilment doesn’t end with your warehouse. Because of the influence of online retailers that are constantly raising the bar and overall eCommerce standards, the whole transportation management system (or TMS) of a competitive omnichannel eCommerce retailer must now operate on an all-day, all night, every day delivery basis.
Doing so effectively requires a few things. To start, many eCommerce businesses and logistics companies will need to upgrade or update their transportation management systems to something extremely robust. Just as well, there will need to be changed in both the internal culture of the company as well as changes in how the overall transportation network is laid out and approached.
It doesn’t end with your TMS, either. To keep up with the increased and changing demands of consumers, you will also need to strategize and invest in multiple transportation services. These include traditional truck and boat fleets, parcel carriers, last-mile delivery, and contract delivery programs.
Solution 4: Keep More Inventory On Deck
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of manufacturers and retailers utilized lean manufacturing. Essentially, this principle involves keeping minimal product on hand to reduce product waste and losses. By receiving product just in time and when needed, retailers could keep their inventory costs down and use a lot more space with more efficiency.
This is yet another situation that was drastically changed by the pandemic. When COVID began, the lean strategy for inventory left most retailers with massive inventory shortages, as more consumers were opting for eCommerce and panic buying. In some cases, manufacturers had to stop production completely due to rising cases, thus disrupting retailers’ ability to fill their inventory and keep their fulfilment processes the same.
This could continue to be an issue as different COVID variants pop up, so it’s vital for retailers to ensure their inventory is as stocked as possible. Lean manufacturing is still a smart practice in the long term. But in the meantime, it might be wise for retailers to stock more than what they’re used to. Safety stock will need to be a priority for a while, and the exact timeframe will depend on how long it will take for supply chains to return to pre-pandemic processes. This can help prevent future inventory shortages that can lead to company shutdowns. The main downside to this is, of course, the fact that more resources will need to be used to stock more inventory. Smaller eCommerce retailers may need to invest in larger warehouse space as well. We recommend taking this time to examine your available resources and determine the best way to allocate them to solving potential capacity issues in the short term.
If beefing up your inventory isn’t optimal for your business, your best alternative would be to invest in the services of a third-party fulfilment service or a top-notch inventory management system that will eliminate the need for excessive inventory. JRD is an excellent solution that implements both of these services so you don’t have to aggressively manage your inventory or invest more money into products that may not sell.
Solution 5: Utilize Warehouse Automation Technology
The fulfilment sector and eCommerce, in general, has been slow to adopt automation technology, which is a real shame-- especially because eCommerce businesses that failed to use up-to-date and innovative tech struggled to keep up with fulfilment practices during the height of the pandemic.
Warehouse and fulfilment automation is finally gaining some transaction, and the pandemic has only sped up its widespread adoption in eCommerce. Warehouses are still dealing with adjusting their inventory counts, speeding up delivery practices, and decentralizing their platforms. Automated storage and inventory systems are now here to help warehouses get back their floor space and provide efficient protocols for their staff.
In fact, automated storage systems used for fulfilment can recover a massive amount of floor space when compared to traditional shelving practices. We’ve established that warehouses need more floor space to tackle the need for more inventory. Better inventory technology can make this possible in a post-COVID world. When such systems are implemented along with transportation management systems and inventory management software, eCommerce retailers put themselves in front of a massive opportunity for growth and success. Just as well, such technology makes it easier to deal with unpredictable labour changes and demand spikes among consumers that have become all too common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Solution 6: Invest in Warehouse Fulfilment Services
Warehouse fulfilment services are becoming the standard for many eCommerce retailers that need assistance getting their fulfilment processes up to speed. We’ve established how hard COVID hit fulfilment processes for eCommerce businesses, and warehouse fulfilment services are a response to a great need to assist in getting products to customers quickly.
There are so many benefits to using warehouse fulfilment services instead of taking on full responsibility for your in-house fulfilment processes.
To start, while consumerism is at an all-time high, especially in the eCommerce world, fulfilment volumes are still quite low. It’s vital to ensure that one’s fulfilment capabilities match the increased demand for goods. However, in-house fulfilment processes aren’t meeting the mark. This is true even for massive enterprises. As a result, it might be a good idea to outsource your fulfilment service needs to a third-party service provider like JRD to take on these complex and work-heavy fulfilment processes the right way.
Just as well, fulfilment service providers can help keep struggling businesses operational. All eCommerce retailers are extremely reliant on their fulfilment processes. If those processes are lacking, retailers can’t meet customer demand, and those customers will look elsewhere for goods. Warehouse fulfilment service can meet the demand of consumers in ways that many in-house fulfilment teams simply can’t.
In addition to these benefits, warehouse fulfilment services have a few more perks. Warehouse fulfilment services are better equipped to facilitate consumer purchases, can save money in the long run, and accelerate digitization via warehouse automation. One problem many businesses faced during the pandemic was a lack of innovative technology implementation in their fulfilment practices. Businesses that kept their thumb on the pulse of automation technology had a leg up on the competition. Warehouse fulfilment service vendors like JRD utilize new and innovative automation technology to make the fulfilment process faster and more efficient.
So which warehouse fulfilment service is the right one for you? We recommend partnering with JRD Fulfilment.
Solution 7: JRD Fulfilment is Here to Help with Innovative Technology
JRD Fulfilment offers state-of-the-art eCommerce fulfilment solutions. In the change fulfilment climate that has eCommerce businesses and logistics companies scrambling to develop the right strategies, JRD can offer services in the realm of inventory, storage, and warehousing that can keep your online business thriving and scaling.
Our mission is to help online businesses grow. That's why we offer technology-focused order fulfilment, shipping, and warehousing services to our clients. No matter the size of your business, JRD offers fulfilment services for businesses in all niches and stages of growth. Our bespoke approach takes into consideration how different eCommerce and logistics businesses are from one another, and that's why we focus on providing tailor-fit services that fit your unique business needs.
So how does JRD do it? To start, we provide packing, warehousing, and shipping management services to logistics and eCommerce businesses. We're essentially the team that you can outsource all of your fulfilment needs to. We boast a massive global network of warehouse centres and fulfilment services for any business in the eCommerce industry.
Our top-notch IT team has developed and maintained an incredible warehouse management system (WMS) that is designed to manage inventory in real-time. One of the biggest concerns of post-pandemic Q4 shopping trends is the possibility for inventory to be out of stock. Our platform ensures that you can manage your inventory efficiently, quickly, and with maximum accuracy.
JRD also works closely with a number of logistics partners and a variety of different innovated software platforms to manage the goods of our clients on a global level. Operation optimization is our focus-- with the right technology, research, and management, JRD Fulfilment continuously analyses and improves fulfilment processes to ensure they are as service-oriented and efficient as possible.
There's no need to stress over changes in eCommerce this holiday season. JRD is here to take on your fulfilment needs. Get in touch with our team today to learn more about our personalized services and get a free quote!