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E-commerce logistics – All you need to know

Making sure your e-commerce logistics is optimised is key to your success

E-commerce logistics are the cornerstone of a successful online retail business. Regardless of the types of products you sell, or who your audience is, every last one of your customers expects a high-quality, prompt and reliable service. Making sure your e-commerce logistics is optimised is key to your success.

This guide will cover the main aspects of e-commerce and cross-border logistics. From the definition to what is involved; the benefits of delivering great e-commerce logistics to examples of the kinds of solutions that can help grow your business, we’ve got it covered. Let’s begin.

What is e-commerce logistics?

E-commerce logistics, or e-logistics, refers to the range of activities, services and infrastructure involved in getting goods that are ordered online from the vendor to the customer. This includes cross border transport. Providing a great e-commerce logistics experience can mean the difference between winning and retaining a loyal customer and losing them to a competitor.

Brands can choose between managing e-commerce logistics in-house or outsourcing to a third-party logistics supplier, otherwise known as a 3PL. Many brands find using a 3PL gives them the time and space to focus on growing their business, while ensuring their customers benefit from great deliveries and returns experience.

fulfilment e-commerce logistics

What is involved in cross border e-commerce logistics?

E-commerce logistics involves an often complex network of processes. These can be manual or automated and include:

  • Warehousing and storage
  • Inventory management
  • Order processing
  • Pick & Pack
  • Shipping
  • Arranging for specific delivery options (such as signature required, or use of a parcel locker, and the returns process, where required)
  • Pushing notifications to the customer
  • Returns and reverse logistics

Each element of the cross border and e-commerce logistics process is completely reliant on the others. Customers won’t be satisfied by a prompt delivery if their goods are packaged poorly. Likewise, shoppers won’t be impressed if they specifically requested a Saturday delivery and their parcel arrives on Monday while they are at work.

What are the benefits of outsourcing e-commerce logistics?

Outsourcing e-commerce logistics offers a wide variety of benefits to both start-up and established brands. These include:

  1. Freeing up resources. Reducing the time and effort you spend on completing manual processes, or managing a range of unintegrated digital tasks and tools means more time to devote to increasing sales, developing customer retention and loyalty strategies, improving the buyer journey and delivering great customer service.
  2. Streamlined order processing. 3PLs are experts at process automation and optimising every element of order processing. Reducing the need for manual operations means your orders will be with your customers quicker and you can focus on driving more sales.
  3. Increased customer satisfaction. Lower shipping and return costs, reliable and prompt deliveries and beautifully packaged parcels equals happy customers.
  4. Access to better shipping rates. Third-party logistics suppliers are well connected. They build long-lasting relationships with a wide range of reputable shipping carriers so they can offer you the most competitive package for all your shipping needs.
  5. The ability to offer a wider choice to your customer. Today’s customers want access to a range of shipping and fulfilment services. Outsourcing your third-party logistics means you can offer them the choices they expect, at the best prices.
  6. Infrastructure that can handle peaks and troughs. Pretty much every e-commerce retailer experiences fluctuations in sales. Outsourcing means you can scale your operations at short notice, helping you meet surges in demand or to control costs during quieter times.
  7. Expert business support. The best third-party cross border logistics providers will support you as your business evolves. This includes identifying cost and resource efficiencies, advice on boosting sales and conversions, recommendations on suppliers and streamlining processes, suggestions for technical enhancements and more.
  8. Better visibility and insights into performance. Your 3PL provider will have access to analytics tools that offer powerful insights across all your e-commerce logistics processes. These can help you plan inventory better, address bottlenecks, identify opportunities to increase sales, create more accurate forecasts and much more.

Examples of different e-commerce and cross border logistics solutions

As you will have gathered, there are many different types of e-commerce logistics solutions on offer. We have highlighted some examples below to introduce some of the less well known components in the e-commerce logistics supply chain.

E-fulfilment

E-fulfilment is short for e-commerce fulfilment and refers to the activities and processes involved with fulfilling and shipping orders. This is the part of the logistics chain where orders are picked and packed, the labels printed and attached and parcels are made ready for shipping. E-fulfilment uses automation to streamline order processes and inventory management while ensuring the highest levels of accuracy and great presentation.

Some good examples of how automation optimises inventory management are setting automatic reorder points when stock levels are low and using historical sales and warehousing data to forecast demand and inventory.

Reverse logistics

Returns processes include every aspect of returning a product to the vendor. This can include supplying documents and labels, picking up the parcel or notifying the customer of the drop off options, arranging shipping, delivering customer notifications and – if relevant – sending out a replacement. It is vital that businesses have complete visibility over their returns processes so they can keep the customer informed and maintain stock controls.

Shoppers demand swift, low-cost (or free) returns services. So, why not be the e-commerce retailer that makes returns as simple and effective as possible? Your customers will thank you for it. Using a third-party e-commerce solution means you can automate many of the processes that make returns management so time-consuming and resource intensive. You can bulk print labels, schedule and send automated personalised notifications and set a variety of shipping rules for packages sizes and weights that you use on a regular basis. And that’s just for starters.

reverse logistics e-commerce

Customs clearance

Customs clearance refers to all the paperwork and processes required to import or export and cross border transport your goods to an area outside your customs territory. The documentation required is often complex and must always be completed 100% accurately. Failure to do so risks delayed shipments, fines and penalties, or your goods not getting to their destination at all. Furthermore, the requirements may differ from country to country so it can be stressful and time-consuming to complete your own customs documents.

This is where working with a knowledgeable logistics company helps. Rather than struggle through the rules and regulations for each place you are shipping to, then worrying about incorrectly filled out forms slipping through the net, why not trust an expert 3PL provider to support you with managing your customs clearance? In addition to giving you much needed peace of mind, this approach can also help you control costs.

How do I use e-commerce logistics as effectively as possible?

To ensure your e-commerce logistics strategy is as effective as possible it’s a good idea to complete the following activities.

  1. Create a logistics plan that takes every activity and process into consideration. Remember, one component cannot work without the others.
  2. Evaluate what your customer expectations are and how you can best meet them.
  3. Develop a long-term logistics strategy that will support your business as it evolves and grows.
  4. Identify tasks and processes that can be automated or digitised.
  5. Be realistic about where you would benefit from expert support to help you achieve your business goals and increase that all-important customer satisfaction.

If you would like to find out more about how working with a third-party logistics provider could help your business, talk to us today.

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