The Late Show

Apr 01, 2001 9:30 PM  By

Once again, a number of e-tailers took orders from consumers during this past holiday season and did not deliver as promised. Research firm Bizmetric’s “Holiday 2000 E-commerce Fulfillment Report” states that order-to-ship fulfillment (the time from the click of the “buy” button to the moment the merchant gives the item to the shipper for delivery) varied drastically among companies surveyed, with drugstore.com fulfilling in a rapid 10.08 hours and Target fulfilling in a laggard time of 108.15 hours.

Quick to Ship
Site Average Fulfillment Time
1. drugstore.com 0 days, 10 hrs. and 5 mins.
2. eToys 0 days, 22 hrs. and 14 mins.
3. 800.com 0 days, 22 hrs. and 35 mins.
4. SmarterKids.com 1 day, 2 hrs. and 38 mins.
5. Outpost.com 1 day, 3 hrs. and 9 mins.
6. Borders.com 1 day, 11 hrs. and 36 mins.
7. KBKids 1 day, 15 hrs. and 57 mins.
8. BestBuy 1 day, 18 hrs. and 21 mins.
9. Tower Records 1 day, 21 hrs. and 42 mins.
10. CDNow 1 day, 23 hrs. and 35 mins.
Average 2 days, 8 hrs. and 24 mins.
Source: “Bizmetric Holiday 2000 E-Commerce Fulfillment Report”

In compiling the report, Bizmetric monitored e-commerce transactions at 21 well-trafficked Web sites during the 2000 holiday season. The report was based on 311 orders, each involving multiple transactions. They were placed by a panel of ordinary shoppers around the U.S. from Nov. 27 through Dec. 24, 2000.

According to the report, one of the most critical steps an e-tailer must take to build trust and confidence with new customers is immediate e-mail order confirmation. On average, customers received confirmation in 27 minutes; however, a number of Wal-Mart shoppers experienced delays in excess of 10 hours due to apparent glitches in Wal-Mart’s e-mail transmission. Obviously, customers who sit staring at their computer screens for the better part of a day waiting for an e-mail confirming their order might hesitate the next time they consider buying from that particular e-tailer. Hence, prompt order acknowledgment is essential.

Bizmetric also gauged total fulfillment time (excluding drugstore.com, because the company does not track its products). Outpost.com had the quickest order-to-receipt fulfillment time, with an average total fulfillment time of 42.43 hours. Borders.com took the longest of all companies surveyed, at a whopping 163.4 hours.

The report suggests that it may actually be more important to meet or exceed customer fulfillment expectations consistently as set at the time of the order, rather than ship all orders as soon as possible. The flat-out fastest reported end-to-end fulfillment was 15.35 hours, by outpost.com. The slowest reported total fulfillment occurred in an astronomical 506.16 hours, or something over three weeks, reported by Barnesandnoble.com.

Outpost.com consistently beat customer fulfillment expectations, fulfilling orders 36% faster than advertised on its Web site on average. To be fair, Barnes & Noble has a good record for order shipping — three days on average — and the company apologized to and refunded the money of the customer who waited three weeks for order delivery.

The clincher this year, as in every year, remains getting merchandise promised by Christmas to customers on time. In a market as competitive as today’s, a major Christmas mishap can destroy both a company’s reputation and its bottom line. BlueLight, K-Mart’s online medium, and Borders stand out in the relatively small list of companies that missed Christmas deadlines by delivering half of all holiday orders late. For more information, visit www.bizmetric.com.