“What is the top fulfillment concern or challenge that e-merchants face?”
It’s integration. What people are trying to do around fulfillment is to get to real time. That will allow for a lot leaner logistics supply chain. The sort of integration hurdles people have to overcome are illustrated by this common scenario – I order something on the Web from Amazon and I get an e-mail telling me when my order is going to arrive. Then I get a notice saying the item is not in stock, and my order will be arriving a week later than originally estimated. With an order system that’s integrated directly with the warehouse in real time, that kind of thing doesn’t have to happen.
Given that we had a sort of train wreck last year around Christmas, and the FTC actually fined some companies for over-promising, I expected that companies would be much further along than they seem to be. But that’s just the business-to-customer scenario. Once you get into business-to-business, the computers and servers need to be much bigger, and the systems are much more complex.
Of course, integration always takes longer and costs more than you think it will. Still, there are companies out there that with B2B solutions – they’re called off-the-shelf solutions, but toolkit solutions is probably a better term – that should make integration much easier, in theory. You have to wonder why more aren’t being used on the fulfillment end of the supply chain.