‘E-commerce fulfilment starts with the customer’

When it comes to the logistics behind online orders, companies still all too often think in terms of different delivery options. In fact, it’s more important to uncover and respond to the customer’s real need. That was the advice of logistics experts from Amazon, Zalando and eBay during the two-day Deliver conference in Berlin in early July.

By Martijn Lofvers

Rohit Sodha, Amazon’s Country Lead for Transportation for Germany and Austria, took a very methodical approach to explaining the various strategic choices in multichannel logistics. Who is the owner of the inventory, who manages the inventory location and who handles the payment for the fulfilment? That could be Amazon or the vendor that is selling goods via the Amazon platform. “But to make the right decision you should always start with the customer and work backwards. Each particular need – for quality, fast delivery, transparency, ease of delivery or ease of returns – calls for a specific logistics approach. Some customers need delivery within one or two hours. We’re currently running a pilot with Mercedes to deliver products to people’s car boots.”

Collaboration between Zalando and Adidas

Zalando is also trialling an innovative collaborative initiative with a brand manufacturer for last-mile delivery; in the Berlin area, it would like to ship home deliveries from Adidas stores. “We’re open to working with more local partners on co-innovation,” Carl-Friedrich zu Knyphausen, Head of Logistics Development at Zalando, announced invitingly to the audience. “Meanwhile, we need to develop a culture of testing and learning, as well as always asking the customer for feedback. We want to make fashion flow like water. But there are still numerous ice floes – such as inventory allocation, delivery windows and returns – in the current logistics process.”

Online service: Shutl

“Shipping is the number-one complaint in ecommerce,” said Tom Allason, Vice President of Shipping at eBay. “That’s why, ten years ago, I set up an online service called Shutl for very precise delivery including a time window and specific delivery modality, such as by bicycle, motorbike, car or van. We’ve got various delivery processes in more than 20 regions in the UK.” Shutl has since been acquired by eBay to make it really easy for the vendors who use that platform to respond to their customers’ delivery needs.

Real service

Wayfair, an online catalogue for interior design products by thousands of suppliers, turns delivery into real service. “We’re investing in our own trucks to deliver bulky products such items of furniture – a logistics nightmare,” explained Maxim Romain, General Manager of Wayfair Europe. “We provide extra service, such as assembling the products in the home and removing old items. Our logistics employees – who all wear the distinct Wayfair uniform – receive a bonus if a customer rates their service as excellent.”

Wayfair is already supplying products from 4,000 suppliers in 20 countries. In Germany, the UK and the USA the company has fulfilment locations where the best-selling items are held in stock – under the suppliers’ ownership – ready for next-day delivery. For the rest of the range, the products are shipped from the suppliers via the Wayfair network for delivery to consumers’ homes within the space of a week.