What advantages does e-commerce have over traditional retail?

  1. Convenience
  2. Convenience
  3. Convenience

What advantages does traditional retail have over e-commerce?

  1. Speed
  2. Human-to-human interaction
  3. Some stuff about community and the environment that people talk about all the time but keep shopping online anyway because they don’t really care.
  4. Speed

E-commerce has gotten as big as it has because of its insane convenience. But there’s one major advantage that traditional retail has always had over e-commerce: speed.

If you buy something in a traditional store, it’s yours. You don’t have to wait a week. You can take it home immediately. That’s just a level of speed that e-commerce has never been able to match. Yet faster shipping is always better.

Next-day delivery is good but it’s not instantaneous. Many stores don’t even do next-day delivery. It’s mostly an Amazon thing and even that is for Prime customers on select items.

Amazon still has 3-8-day shipping options, which is standard for most online stores. Some take as long as a week, which is clearly not good. Whatever you do, get your shipping time down to under a week.

How to improve your shipping speed

The 3-5-day duration of shipping is limited largely by technology and money. You can’t make cars and trucks drive any faster than they already do. Even if you could, there are regulations to worry about.

Faster methods like planes are also prohibitively expensive unless you do it on a very large scale. These limitations don’t mean faster shipping is impossible, however. There are several things you can do:

1. Make your products shipping-ready

Don’t wait for an order to arrive before you start packing. Pack your products and have them ready to go. All you have to do when you receive an order is print a shipping label, stick it on the box, and dispatch it.

2. Outsource your fulfillment and split your inventory

You may not own multiple warehouses across the country like Amazon, but you don’t need to. There are a lot of third-party fulfillment services out there. Shop around for the best deal and split your inventory among their warehouses.

This is because shipping speed mostly comes down to distance. A product being shipped a hundred miles away will arrive sooner than one being shipped a thousand miles away. The closer you are to the customer, the faster you can get your products to them. Ship local orders from your own warehouse. If you have customers from farther away, shop around for warehouses closer to the customer’s location and ship all orders from there to improve your shipping speed.

This is very different from dropshipping where you just outsource everything to a third-party service that may not care too much about your speeds. With inventory splitting, you consciously pick your warehouses.

If you operate out of Los Angeles and have a lot of customers from New York, you shop for a warehouse in the New York area and store your products there, cutting miles out of the distance a product has to cover after it’s been ordered.

If you can afford a second or third warehouse, then it’s always advisable to do it yourself. The more control you have over the shipping experience, the better you can optimize for speed. If your sales volume in a region can’t justify leasing a whole warehouse, then you can outsource your fulfillment. Amazon, Shopify, Rakuten, Red Stag, and Ship Bob all offer fulfillment as a service.

3. Avoid batching if you can

For smaller operations receiving only a couple of orders per day, the temptation to wait for orders to pile up before packing and dispatching them can be very strong. Don’t fall for it. Make sure you dispatch all your orders within 24 hours. Every day, or sometimes even an hour that you delay, costs you a day, maybe more.