“What is the top fulfillment concern or challenge that e-merchants face?”
I think e-merchants’ biggest challenge is to develop their priorities. For a while, they were just looking for what’s going to be the next big application in e-fulfillment. This past year I think people in the industry have cooled off, and they’re being more methodical about implementing new technologies, partly because they’re unsure about what the next big application will be. Whereas in the past, companies have jumped ahead with developing applications just to get out there, the cost of that effort to be twelve months ahead of the competition can be astronomical.
At least initially, we have found that we’re better off presenting a standard scenario to clients. For instance, we have so many ways of doing postage and handling tables now that when we send out a questionnaire the customers sometimes don’t know what to do with it.
There will be an economic downturn – nature has a way of thinning the herd – but the e-commerce channel will continue to grow. Volume in January 1999 was bigger than in December 1998, and bigger again in January 2000 than in December 1999. Value-priced products are fairly recession-proof. Luxury products may take a hit, but we will continue to see people buying online, and I expect growth will continue in two digits in this medium.