From the moment the website goes live and you start ordering in the cardboard boxes and shipping tape, any ecommerce venture is going to require a speedy order fulfilment system. This is now industry standard, and customers simply expect this level of service from pretty much all ecommerce companies. With the advent of things like next day delivery from nearly all the ecommerce giants, there is simply no getting around this.
Furthermore, the challenges and obstacles involved in achieving this only increase as your business expands. While you can take heart from the fact that needing to invest in regional hubs or cross docking services means that things are going in the right direction and you are seeing a degree of success, it only becomes more complicated to organize as things expand. Yet every business aims to expand, and for success in ecommerce, this is simply the way it goes.
By the time you are distributing to various locations around the country, it is certainly time to consolidate operations and ensure that the system can work well though fluctuations in order load, changes in packing material prices, and changes in warehouse maintenance prices. Nevertheless, this is not the end of the road. For the truly ambitious, it is after establishing an effective national network of distribution that the time has come to take things global.
The Biggest Challenges When Internationalizing Fulfilment
Shipping and Handling of Texas, an ecommerce fulfilment company out of Houston, advise that international operations are usually only the preserve of those ecommerce ventures large enough to be actively engaged in manufacture. For example, it is not likely that any company which sources its products from a third party would be shipping them internationally. This is simply because equivalent providers exist in most countries and so those markets are served by local businesses. To truly go international, you need to be manufacturing your own stuff – or to be the exclusive dealer/distributor from a particular manufacturer.
There is also the choice to be made between international shipping and cross border warehousing. In the former case, your goods will go from your central manufacturer or warehouse towards customers in other countries. In the latter case, a company makes use of local fulfilment services to ship goods from local warehouses towards customers, meaning that the latter part of the process is handled by other people. Deciding on which of these is right for you is a matter of geography.
The Question of Geography
If you are about to internationalize your shipping, you should certainly consider what international actually means. Sending some goods across the border to Canada, with a short truck journey, and shipping your goods by container ship to Japan, both count as international shipping but, obviously, they are quite different situations.
Sometimes, you should not expand operations too wide at first and instead take tentative steps towards internationalization by, first of all, keeping things to the same continent. It is very common for American ecommerce companies to take their first steps into internationalization by shipping to Canada.
For shipping to customers closer to home, it makes more sense to go with international shipping from your home manufacturer. This is simply because as the products do not need to go too far, the additional costs will not be as high and it offers a “stepping stone”, of sorts, towards a larger international operation. Once things ramp up, cross-border warehousing might become the better option.
In the end, this is perhaps the most important principle to bear in mind – it’s best to consolidate a strong domestic market first, and then take baby steps into the wider world.