5 Ecommerce Fulfillment Trends Impacting 2017 and Beyond

President, Product Care Division at Sealed Air

What does 2017 hold for retail, ecommerce fulfillment and shipping professionals? Given the speed of change and new innovation in the marketplace, it’s no longer enough to look just one year ahead. You would be much better advised to consider what supply chains and delivery operations will look like in 2020.

The ecommerce challenges our consumer economy is facing today aren’t just temporary headlines — they are harbingers of what’s to come, illuminating micro trends that will soon turn into powerful tides.

With that, here are 5 ecommerce fulfillment and shipping trends to watch in 2017 and beyond:

The Definition of Fulfillment Will Change

Already the word “omnichannel” has stretched to apply to multiple fulfillment models including drop shipping and ship from store. In the future, fulfillment will performed by everyone from OEMs and major 3PLs to an Uber-esque network of independent packers, drivers and small parcel shippers. This will continue to reshape the rules of accountability in the supply chain: Who pays when there is damage? Who owns the last mile of delivery or the last moment of truth with a consumer? Packaging will play a bigger role than ever in ensuring product integrity and an ideal customer experience no matter whose hands touch each order first, third or last.

Labor Pressures Will Intensify

It’s the first variable to get squeezed in the more volume-same hours equation, and the pressure will be amplified by a lack of skilled labor. Smart, scalable automation and systems that model, prompt and correct the practices of human packers will provide much needed relief and volume growth.

Shipping Costs Will Not Cap Out

More orders, same hours? There’s only one surefire way to get a few more onto every truck load: incentivize manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to shave inches off each order with dimensional weight pricing models. Because rates will continue to rise, package sizes will need to continue to shrink – but without sacrificing protection or consumer satisfaction.

Warehouses Get a Long Overdue Makeover

At sky-high rental prices, every square foot of warehouse space will become precious. This will inspire retailers and fulfillment providers to re-examine how their operations were designed – many doing so for the first time in years or even decades. Identifying and eliminating inefficiencies throughout the operation will ensure that every resource is being used to its greatest return. A good place to start is to consider how much space is currently being occupied by big, bulky packaging materials.

Brands Will Get Up Close and Personal

Brand loyalty? What’s that? Online shoppers will be increasingly compelled to compare prices and look for the item with the best delivery dates, lowest shipping cost, and the best discount codes. The winner may come down to which retailers know the consumer the best: their delivery preferences, their likelihood of return shipments, and what type of packaging can be recycled curb side in their area and what cannot. Personalization – both of the packaging itself and the entire at-home delivery experience – is the next frontier for retailers looking to stand out from their competitors.

Ken Chrisman is president at Sealed Air Product Care

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