Mar 9, 2022 / BY microlistics

How to adapt your B2B supply chain to support B2C delivery

In the age of eCommerce, warehouses organised for the traditional linear supply chain, from manufacturer to storefront, must now handle direct to consumer delivery. Fewer goods are needed on physical store shelves, and more are needed in the ‘endless aisles’ of online and omnichannel retailers. In part one of our three-part series, we look at the ‘low-hanging fruit’ changes that warehousing can implement to get into eCommerce fulfilment and/or see some initial success.


eCommerce growth and its impact on the traditional supply chain are here to stay

Back in 2019 eCommerce accounted for almost 14% of total retail sales worldwide, it now accounts for almost 20%. (Source: Statista) According to eMarketer, over the last two pandemic years, Retail eCommerce sales increased by 26.4% in 2020, and 16.3% in 2021 – from just over $3.3 trillion USD in 2019 to almost $5 trillion USD in 2021. While YOY increases are expected to flatline at closer to 10% this year and into 2025 when ecommerce sales are forecasted to exceed $7 trillion USD and come close to 1/4th of retail sales. (Source: eMarketer)

As fewer goods are needed on physical shelves and more are needed for digital ‘endless aisles’, the traditional retail supply chain (manufacturer to centralised warehouse to regional distribution center to storefront) has given way to an omnichannel model where goods from any of those links in the chain can be delivered direct to consumer.  The underlying practices and technology that ‘push’ inventory through the links in the chain are different from those needed to support B2C delivery.  In most, cases warehouses are being asked to support both models simultaneously.

As eCommerce looks poised to deliver 3x and 4x cost-of-living growth over the next 5 years, it makes sense for those warehouses to invest in eCommerce omnichannel fulfilment.  Because eCommerce shipping is higher volume, lower value shipping, with less room for errors or inefficiencies, getting it wrong can erode margins and bleed profitability.


Prepare for high volumes by locking in accuracy, efficiency and scalability

The first challenge of eCommerce fulfilment is the higher frequency of orders in smaller quantities.  Essentially, moving from palletised orders, to shipping several different SKUs in an order or even one-off ‘eaches’.

eCommerce fulfilment is also plagued with wilder swings in demand that are less predictable than the seasonality of traditional retail supply chains. Adding insult to injury, end-consumers have higher expectations and SLA for delivery times are much narrower.  Consumers expect their orders in days and sometimes hours, not weeks and sometimes months.

Those same consumer expectations leave little room for errors or failed deliveries. To succeed in eCommerce fulfilment warehousing needs to automate and error proof processes while handling spikes in demand.

Here are a few warehouse tips to get you out the door and on the path towards eCommerce success with a focus on accuracy, efficiency and scalability:

  • Avoid manual data entry bottlenecks that throttle throughput by ensuring that all systems in the fulfilment lifecycle, from eCommerce marketplace through to last-mile delivery, are closely integrated
  • Add redundant picking and pack out stations that can be activated during seasonal peaks or demand surges and can be staffed by shifted or temporary resources
  • Add quality control checkpoints that alert staff of errors before finalising any order so that corrections can be made before the shipment leaves the dock
  • Use thorough and logical multi-order batch and wave picking processes to ensure all order line items are included
  • Establish replenishment levels based on historical and planned seasonal demand that reduce or eliminate online ‘Stock-outs’ that will cause abandoned shopping carts.
  • Organise wave and batch picking based on product location, DIMs and pick equipment (e.g. trolley, forklift, high bay lift)
  • Expand your carrier choices to include local, regional, as well as national carriers to avoid throttled shipping volume, enable apples-to-apples comparisons and make more cost-effective shipping decisions

With these processes in place, warehouses can be confident in offering and meeting eCommerce service levels and fulfilling higher volumes of smaller, more frequent, highly time-sensitive orders. Failure to make and meet these commitments will cost you customers or your customer customers.  Keeping them will mean happier customers that will keep returning.

Stay-tuned for part two in this series where we address some harder warehouse changes that will provide higher returns and part three where we look at taking your digital commerce to the next with our technology partner Ultra Commerce.


Are you ready to turbocharge your warehouse for eCommerce success?

Check out our latest eBook “Turbocharge Your eCommerce Supply Chain and Accelerate Omnichannel Retail Success

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