Getting the Most Overlooked Part of E-Commerce Right
Creating innovative products from properly sourced raw materials. Hiring social media influencers to show off your latest product release. Using data to deliver an amazing web and app experience. These are the kinds of things that e-commerce brands dream about when launching a business. They're the fun parts of e-commerce, but they're only half the story.
The other half lives in my expertise: supply chain and logistics. This is the mundane, everyday business of taking the things people dream up, putting them into boxes, and sending them off to consumers. While most people take this side of the equation for granted, it should be much more top of mind. If you think about it, there are really only two major ways in which people interact with your brand: the fun stuff — like using a product — and the shopping and delivery experience.
You can easily see what I mean by browsing one-star reviews on Amazon.com. While this is a bit of a controversial topic, one thing is incontrovertible: if a product arrives incomplete or damaged, it will generate lots of one-star reviews. And it only takes a few one-star reviews to drag a product well down the list of recommendations — and thus probably out of consideration for most consumers. Therefore, delivery matters. It really does.
Ideally, your product arrives at your customer’s house, perfectly. It won’t be damaged, wet, late or with any of a dozen other defects; anything but that could severely impact the customer experience. This is e-commerce fulfillment, and it has to be right.
So how do you go about getting it right? While hiring a logistics expert is really the best way, it’s good to know some of the considerations that are involved. Here are a few things you want to think about with fulfillment and delivery:
To Amazon or Not?
The nice thing about Amazon is that it’s Amazon. You know that if you use the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) program, your product is going to arrive (and the good news is it will arrive) in an Amazon box with Amazon branding, delivered by an Amazon driver. It’s a perfectly acceptable experience in certain cases, but it’s also a bit like fast food. You know what you’re getting, but you probably won’t love it.
Size and Shape
Understanding e-commerce packaging starts with understanding what it’s not: traditional packaging. In big-box stores, you really want to go for shelf space and vibrant colors. The exterior is really what matters. You want it to pop on the outside. In e-commerce, it’s the opposite: the interior comes first. You want to make sure the box is the right size for your product, and then when it’s pulled out, it offers a great unboxing experience. Also, don’t forget that you have additional options to make everything more memorable — e.g., you can include samples, inserts, additional materials, and more. You have a great deal of control over the experience, and you should take advantage of it.
Hard and Fast
Whenever a package ends up on a shelf in a big-box store, it's likely only been touched by five to 10 people. Maximum. By contrast, an e-commerce product will go through the hands of as many as 25 or 30 people. As a result, that exterior packaging needs to be strong. If it’s shipped to a wet environment, that needs to be accounted for as well. It’s worth working with partners that understand all of this and make sure that your customers get the product in an undamaged, pristine state.
Delivery Services Aren't Equal
While you have almost certainly heard of most of the major delivery services, you may not realize that they each have particular strengths and weaknesses. Some are better for heavy goods, others for fragile goods. Some are faster, while others have more reach. The United States Postal Service, for instance, is the only carrier that goes to every house every day, which makes it ideal for delivering to out-of-the-way places. Likely, there will be an ideal delivery partner for your products, and you should work with a logistics expert to figure out just who that is.
How consumers receive a product is an extremely important part of how they experience it. In some cases — such as Apple — that experience can greatly enhance the enjoyment of the product. In others, it can be damaging and problematic. Whether you oversee this important aspect of branding yourself, or make sure an excellent partner is hired to help your brand with all aspects of it, you probably need to focus at least some of your energy on the behind-the-scenes part of e-commerce. It’s just too important to ignore.
Brian Birch is chief supply chain officer of Netrush, an e-commerce growth platform partnering with premium brands to provide the teams, technology, strategy, and infrastructure needed to thrive on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms.
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Brian Birch is Chief Supply Chain Officer of Netrush, an e-commerce growth platform partnering with premium brands to provide the teams, technology, strategy, and infrastructure needed to thrive on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms.
Brian has been leading the fulfillment team since 2013. Coming to Netrush with nearly nine years of leadership experience at Amazon, Brian brings a wealth of insight that allows the supply chain and fulfillment teams to soar.
With headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, and processing facilities in Kentucky and Canada, Netrush provides a full suite of capabilities ranging from supply chain to creative services that make brands stand out across the shopping journey.