D2C Fulfillment

The Future of Order Fulfillment in D2C E-Commerce

The Future of Order Fulfillment in D2C E-commerce

Nobody can see into the future, but every once in a while, we get an unexpected glimpse into how things are changing, and where they might be heading. When it comes to order fulfillment in D2C, the event that gave us unprecedented insight was, of course, the pandemic.

At this point, many parts of the world are well into a push back towards “normalcy,” and while the specifics of that effort are confusing, to say the least, one thing’s for sure: COVID-related e-com trends aren’t just quick fixes anymore.

While many brands were forced to adapt and build new e-com and fulfillment methods and strategies to make it through the quarantine era, the result was an unexpected boom in the e-com industry, and the realization that some of these “quick fixes” were actually better for the customer experience in general.

Comparing previous data to the growth we’ve seen over the past couple of years, we can get a good idea of what’s to come in the following chapters of D2C fulfillment. This can help small and growing brands stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in the long-run. Here are three key trends that spell out the future of order fulfillment.

D2C will continue to grow

The reason we hadn’t seen more growth in D2C fulfillment before is rather simple: it’s expensive.

Infrastructure is neither quick nor easy to build, logistics can require a whole team or expensive dedicated software to handle, and even if all of that gets taken care of, most brands simply cannot compete with the fulfillment customer expectations forged by lightning-fast delivery options such as Amazon. However, especially as the world’s geopolitical climate continues to grow more complex, it might be more expensive for brands to not invest in D2C infrastructure.

Especially during the pandemic but with other recent events as well, brands relying solely on third-party fulfillment were hit hard. Social distancing made the final point of contact inaccessible for so many brands and customers, and supply chain issues can put potentially unrelated problems in the way of quick and convenient fulfillment.

It’s no wonder that D2C has shown impressive amounts of growth in recent years, and is projected to continue with that growth into the future. Modern technology like the AE Next-Gen PIM is also helping further democratize D2C, making logistics of this size accessible to brands who simply could not enter the space before.

Wholesale will still have its place

D2C infrastructure will certainly continue to grow, but that does not mean that wholesale and retail partnerships will die. While we tend to think in these sorts of binary extremes, usually, the reality is somewhere in the middle.

The truth is, as mentioned, fully committing to D2C is expensive, and not every brand is going to be ready to do so soon. Additionally, wholesale and retail still serve as integral parts of identity for so many brands.

It’s no secret that the online space has become saturated with brands trying to differentiate themselves from one another, and making a meaningful impression while avoiding the plateau is also more of a challenge than ever.

Some brands like Allbirds have noticed this, and have recognized wholesale as a saving grace in brand sustainability as the online space continues to place more options in front of the consumer than they could possibly care for. Staying alive and competitive requires a bit of creativity, resourcefulness, and flexibility. Speaking of flexibility…

Flexibility is king

One thing that came straight out of COVID-response is the trend toward flexibility in D2C fulfillment. This flexibility certainly existed before, but was really only majorly relevant to most people in food orders: take-out or delivery. Now, that same concept has become practically ubiquitous across so many industries, especially as brands with larger or more valuable products make their way into the e-com and D2C sphere.

Having options like curbside or in-store pickup can not only be more convenient for the consumer, but it can also help solve another issue: last-mile delivery. Although that final stretch has seen a lot of improvement recently, it’s an issue that has been plaguing brands and their customer experiences’ for years. That comparatively insignificant amount of distance at the end of delivery can make or break the customer’s expectations, and it is the most logistically burdensome and complicated part of the entire shipping process. However, if the customer can and prefers to simply drive to a pickup spot themselves? Problem solved! For that reason and many others, this trend towards flexibility in fulfillment is ultimately better for everybody involved — a happy detail that we don’t always get.

These trends are a helpful glimpse into the future of e-commerce but, as mentioned up top, nobody can know for sure exactly where this dynamic industry is heading. Checking in with the right resources can be a great way to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for just about anything.

So, are you ready for the future?

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Alex Borzo

Alex Borzo

A content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce