The modern world of e-commerce can often hide a lot of complicated processes behind a shiny interface. Case in point: order fulfilment. The last few years especially have trained us to expect a seamless service once we click ‘Buy Now’; we just trust that the right parcel will appear on our doorstep. In practice however, fulfilling orders requires balancing a number of moving parts – and as e-commerce takes centre stage some businesses are struggling to keep up.

To understand more about this fast-moving sector, we sat down with Alexander Leichter, CEO and Founder of byrd, who has developed an all-in-one order fulfilment solution for B2B and B2C commerce, on our podcast Freight to the Point. Here we explore the key challenges in building a modern order fulfilment function and how the right supply chain integration can help you build a more efficient service.

Feeling fulfilled

The age of e-commerce has turned ordering into a major competition area. From flexible delivery times, to fast turnarounds and simple returns, businesses are vying to create the simplest post-sale service possible.

Order fulfilment now covers:

  • Collecting the orders and collating different items
  • Packaging orders in appropriate material
  • Dispatching the goods with a last mile service provider
  • Managing returns and
  • Monitoring warehouse inventory of incoming and outbound stock

While, once, many brands would have handled this process themselves, the rapid shift to e-commerce has pushed many traditional retailers, in both the B2B and B2C space to lean on specialist support, such as byrd. The availability of external supply chain and delivery solutions has also powered the rapid growth of D2C models, where businesses eschew traditional retail infrastructure to simply supply consumers directly – a sector forecast to grow by over 50% for consumer goods sector, furniture and homeware and sporting goods by 2023.

The ability to deliver in line with customer expectations has put increasing pressure on businesses to be where the customer is, on every channel. 

‘What has fundamentally changed in the last year certainly, but even before then, is that in the e-commerce markets, competition for merchants has gone up significantly.’ says Alexander. ‘The requirements that you have to fulfil as a merchant in terms of your supply chain capability is increasing massively, because of the omnichannel [approach].’ 

Selling everything, everywhere, all at once

Supply chains for omnichannel retail are a core element of modern competition – whether it’s your website, store or third-party marketplace, managing inventory and service across diverse routes to market brings new challenges for businesses. This is made even harder when businesses are established and manage their inventory and sales nationally, but sell internationally.

Byrd was built around solving this challenge. ‘We provide our merchants a technology solution that gives you not access to one warehouse and one or two last mile services in a given country, but over 30 warehouses in seven different countries and as many last mile logistic services,’ says Alexander. 

Implementing a digital order management solution as part of your digital supply chain management strategy helps businesses:

  • Reduce cost by being able to ship locally in a range of countries
  • Accelerate deliveries with faster lead times
  • Manage CO2 emissions for last mile delivery

This requires a robust network of data and tracking to manage inventory levels across warehouses, track goods in transit and manage the returns process, but the end result is a business that can be anywhere, on demand.

Instant scaling

There is, of course, a trade off for businesses taking this route – brands are outsourcing a large part of their supply chain to a third party. However, like working with a digital freight forwarder, this should be considered as a partnership, not a replacement. 

Digital service providers in the supply chain have the ability to track, collate and present huge amounts of data to the businesses they service, but the power remains with the brand. ‘We provide a ton of data for our merchants, including customised data reports, from simple things like reorder points and stock limits when you run out, to more sophisticated conditions.’ says Alexander.

Businesses lead the conversation with order fulfilment partners when it comes to demand, strategy and SLAs. This is where byrd’s integration with Zencargo can help close the supply chain loop.

‘If I think about the future of supply chain, it is the combination of demand forecast, inventory and warehouse, and flexibility and distributed inventory, and inbound visibility and inbound data flows at a SKU level.’ says Alexander. Zencargo’s platform acts as a central source for demand information, digitising purchase orders and lead time data, enabling businesses to align their inbound inventory with their outbound deliveries. This provides the chance to:

  • Optimise warehouse space to only hold the stock needed for ordering
  • Reducing minimum orders to manage working capital
  • Avoiding D&D charges for stock waiting outside warehouses 
  • Shortening delivery windows by optimising held inventory 
  • Targeting marketing based on availability of stock and delivery capacity 

Digitising your orders and fulfilment

As the market tends more towards digital, the ability to scale, respond to demand and manage delivery customer experience will be a key competition area for brands across every sector. Zencargo’s digital supply chain platform is built with connectivity in mind, helping you connect the data, tools and services you need to run an agile supply chain.

Our logistics professionals have worked with some of the world’s fastest growing businesses to help them build, optimise and execute their strategies for today’s changing market. We can support you with everything from implementing new tools, integrating third-party data and analysing your data to build more responsive strategies. 

To find out more about how you built an end-to-end value-driving supply chain, get in touch with our team today.