E-commerce can be a very rewarding, efficient way to do business, but
you have to organise properly if you want to get ahead. Most
‘e-tailers’ or ecommerce sellers prefer to begin with the help of an
experienced warehousing, distribution and fulfilment partner who
can handle the whole ‘back end’ of the operation, while the merchant
focuses on business and sales, maintaining the website, and any other
sales channels that they have developed.
So what’s involved with starting an e-commerce business?
Your suppliers Whether you buy completed products or you being in raw or finished
materials and produce the products yourself, you have a list of
suppliers who provide your products and materials. If you deal in
finished products, you can have them delivered directly to your
warehousing and distribution partner, who will make them ready to be
sent to the customers. If you do some or all of the manufacture
yourself, you’ll need both materials and finished goods storage, and
more transport options.
Once you’ve sorted your suppliers out, you need to determine just how
much finished stock you should keep on hand to fulfil your orders. Most
start-ups will adopt a ‘pull strategy’, where inventory levels are
responsive to demand. This is especially useful in the early days, when
demand is hardest to predict. Your warehousing partner will receive and
store your stock, and keep you apprised of current stock levels, as well
as your supply relative to current demand.
Your packaging is important, not just for transport and delivery, but
for brand identification and marketing. You will need to make this
available to your W&D partner, unless you do your own package
Transportation Your fulfilment and distribution partner will handle the day-to-day
aspects of transportation, but there are many choices to make. Delivery
methods, shipping charges and many other variables will change depending
on exactly what your product is, and what your sales volumes are. Your
logistics partner can help you make these decisions.
Will your orders come from your own ecommerce website? From eBay or
Amazon? Multi-channel ecommerce is important, and it is just as
important to work out where your orders will be coming from with your
warehousing and distribution partner early, so they can provide services
best customised to your needs. Orders may go through you to your
fulfilment provider, or they may go directly to the provider.
Fast and accurate order fulfilment is important, but exceptional
customer service is not to be ignored either. Happy customers are return
customers, after all.