Andy Sulston, Director of Contract Logistics & Consulting

Clearing the path for one-click culture: what does the emergence of eCommerce mean for logistics?

Director of Contract Logistics & Consulting | Hellmann Worldwide Logistics

Customers from all over the world are modernising their shopping habits, taking trade away from the high street and into the world of eCommerce.  With the option of next day delivery now virtually standard, a host of new demands are being placed on the logistics behind our one-click culture.

Exactly what’s driving this culture change is open to debate.  While customers are undoubtedly keen to take advantage of convenient next day or office delivery options, the real driving force behind the change could be retailers looking to achieve a competitive edge.  With working hours often coinciding with shop opening times, eCommerce is, in many respects, now faster than shopping in-store.

Rapid fulfilment requires a well-orchestrated and integrated logistics network.  That’s why at Hellmann, we’ve invested in technology.  Our state-of-the-art warehouse management system enables quick and easy acceptance, processing and order fulfilment across the entire eCommerce envelope.  Not only that, but with every order logged into the system, customers can track their purchases and receive live updates on estimated delivery times.

Demand for order tracking has understandably encouraged major logistics service providers like us to invest.  There’s an industry-wide focus on integrating the many complex systems used in eCommerce into one customer-friendly channel.  While technology is playing a vital role, ironically, one of the biggest challenges placed on our sector by the eCommerce revolution is one of simple capacity.

Following a lack of investment in new build facilities through the recession, there’s an emerging shortage of suitable warehouses, which in turn, is driving demand and rental prices up, as well as the length of lease on premises.  With space in short supply and the economic recovery delivering higher volume orders, maximising capacity and driving efficiencies has never been more crucial to success.

In terms of geography and infrastructure, the UK is uniquely placed to provide a leading service for trade with the EU.  Our close proximity to the continent means businesses can easily export to France, Germany and The Netherlands, while our nationwide focus on delivering technological innovation means we’re at the forefront of developing new automation solutions to improve and streamline the entire process.

When retailers look further afield, our job is to make sure they’re receiving a service that’s as comprehensive as possible.  And if getting goods from A to B seems simple enough; orchestrating the entire fulfilment process requires a genuine commitment to offering industry-leading expertise.

Our eCommerce division – which is headquartered at our German office in Osnabruck – provides companies with an all-inclusive service: everything from frontend web development, through live order tracking, customer services and ultimately, distribution.  Although a number of UK providers are looking at adding value through additional services, our integrated offering is rather unique in the current marketplace.

While the majority of larger retailers will already have a frontend system and supply chain in place, these services can enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to offer competitive delivery options and enter new markets with a fully integrated fulfilment package – and without the heavy investment usually associated with establishing a suitable infrastructure.

The modern prevalence of eCommerce is changing the very nature of our industry.  Previously a sector hidden in the world of B2B, logistics is emerging as a vital component in consumer retail, particularly for businesses targeting expansion abroad.  Through warehouse maximisation, live order tracking, innovation and service expansion, logistics must rise to the challenge and meet the demands of modern consumerism.

Hellmann Worldwide Logistics