The ubiquity of online buying has leveled the playing field so retailers can no longer just compete on price. The next step in the supply chain, fulfillment, has evolved to become one of the key differentiators for all the leading retailers. Consumers are getting smarter and they want their purchases quicker and with the lowest shipping and handling costs possible.
Amazon, the leader in online retail, has the world’s largest marketplace and has a number of fulfillment options to satisfy varying customers’ needs. One of their main programs, Amazon Prime, allows you to receive free 2 day shipping with yearly membership. Amazon also gives the option to have your purchases sent to a locker so you can pick it up rather than having the package sitting on your doorstep unsecured. Traditional brick and mortars are trying to compete by focusing on their .com businesses and converting their physical stores to distribution hubs to shorten delivery times.
Time sensitive shipping has also become the rage lately. Google’s Express service is in beta and you can purchase products from their select stores and have deliveries shipped same day for free. And of course, Amazon has same day shipping for their Amazon Fresh store. On the more extreme end, myDoorman is a startup based in San Francisco, which will deliver your packages within a two hour time window.
Granted, the online leaders mentioned above are willing to forgo profitability now for more market share, but they have forever changed the way fulfillment is carried out. Fulfillment is now part of the purchasing decision and those that can get products in their customers’ hands most conveniently at the best value will win mind share.