Delivering E-Commerce: The Online Revolution

The world of e-commerce is redefining the way the parcel delivery industry and its customers are doing business.

The only delivery choice that online customers have had is how much they're willing to spend to receive their purchases. Based on this economic choice, online retailers have identified for their customers a carrier to deliver the merchandise.

All that has changed.

There's an increasing number of choices customers can make regarding the delivery of products they've acquired online, including which carrier they want to deliver the goods and when they want the items to arrive, even the time of day.

Almost all the players in the parcel delivery industry — the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, Federal Express — offer the same delivery products. Whether customers want track-and-trace capability or day-certain delivery, everyone's got them. The leader of the pack will be the provider that offers something above and beyond what the others provide.

Track-and-trace features, from a consumer's point of view, are not all that crucial. UPS and FedEx say they can determine where a package is in the delivery stream by running diagnostics of how the package travels. But consumers are not concerned about where their packages are at various intervals. They care about the ultimate timely delivery of their items.

So what strengths can a delivery provider draw upon that would differentiate it from the rest?

What are e-tailers looking for from this industry?

To date, these marketers have exhibited tremendous strength in developing and marketing their products. Where they fall short, however, is in supply chain management.

In the conventional retail environment, these manufacturers navigate established fulfillment networks and generally lack logistics knowledge about product distribution. Subsequently, in the e-commerce environment, these manufacturers are looking to the shipping industry to step forward and handle warehousing, inventory control, fulfillment and product shipment.

Presently, manufacturers ship from a location — Japan, for example — to retail centers via warehouses. The most efficient scenario is one in which manufacturers — in concert with a delivery provider — develop their products, then create a Web page from which they sell and ship the items directly to their customers, skipping retail centers and warehousing. This cuts holding time at company retail centers, allowing consumers to order and receive fulfillment directly from the manufacturer.

The real winner in the package delivery game is the company that provides one-stop shopping by serving as a logistics organization that moves products directly from the manufacturer to the buyer.

The emerging industry leader will be the one that finds ways of saving consumers time, money and effort when buying online while providing the best value for managing and supplying all phases of product distribution. That leader will provide all that manufacturers and consumers require, such as appropriate software, a variety of shipping options and features, affordable prices and high service standards.

Future industry trends spurred by e-commerce will include more local deliveries traveling shorter distances. For example, customers who could drive a mile to their local bookstore for an item will opt to purchase that item online from that same location.

Online retailers can expect to experience growing pains as they expand their demographic reach throughout their newest territory, the cyber-mall. Partnering with a savvy, full-service delivery provider will allow online retailers to do what they do best, product marketing, while that partner moves the goods.

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