The Future of Ecommerce Fulfillment: How to Avoid Platform Lock-in

Manish Chowdhary

August 25, 2022

Why did Amazon go from a severe lack of warehouse space to overstaffed and looking to sublease their warehouses in a span of just four months? Major changes are happening in the fulfillment landscape among the biggest ecommerce players, and they have big implications for sellers.

Marketplaces Accelerate Fulfillment Strategies

In Amazon’s April ‘22 earnings call, CFO Brian Olsavsky’s admission about warehouse capacity, “We quickly transitioned from being understaffed to being overstaffed”, caught many by surprise. The statement went along with another announcement that flew under the radar in the press, but is much more important for the future of ecommerce. On April 21st, Amazon launched a new service: Buy with Prime, which will enable direct-to-consumer (DTC) merchants to offer Prime checkout & shipping on their websites.

Shopify saw the shot across its bow, and it didn’t take them long to respond in a big way. In May, they announced their own big move: they’re acquiring Deliverr, a 3PL network, and plan to launch Shop Promise, a new service that will offer Shopify merchants one- and two-day delivery options.

Not to be outdone, Walmart is pushing hard to grow their own ecommerce delivery network, Walmart Fulfillment Services. In June, they announced that they’re building four “next generation fulfillment centers” to modernize their ecommerce supply chain. They explain, “Today we use our 31 dedicated ecommerce fulfillment centers and 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population to fulfill online orders at exceptional speed. But we’re not stopping there.”

Why are the three titans of ecommerce all hitting the accelerator on fulfillment? What does it mean for you?

It Isn’t Just About Fulfillment: It’s Also About Locking Merchants to Platforms

Amazon Prime is the service that hundreds of millions use to get online delivery in two days or fewer, so Buy with Prime must be about fulfillment, right? Only on the surface.

Here’s how Buy with Prime will work: for a fee, the service will let third-party ecommerce merchants use Amazon’s fulfillment network for orders from their own sites. In addition, Buy with Prime will put the Prime badge on DTC websites next to items eligible for free 2-day and 3-day shipping. Last, the whole checkout experience will be powered by Amazon Pay.

The last part has gone overlooked, but it explains much of where ecommerce is heading.

The key is in the relative profitability of different pieces of ecommerce: online retail, logistics, and fulfillment all have fairly small margins. In contrast, payments are extremely lucrative.

Who is getting that lucrative payments profit on direct-to-consumer websites right now? Shopify, not Amazon. Shopify’s Merchant Solutions revenue, which notably includes revenue from Shop Pay, is growing much more quickly than their Subscription Solutions revenue. In their Q1 ‘22 earnings guidance, Shopify noted that Merchant Solutions grew to make up 71% of their total revenue, dwarfing Subscription Solutions’ 29%. The numbers show it clearly: payments are Shopify’s lifeblood.

Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify are all ecommerce “landlords” that want to charge rent to their “tenants”, ecommerce merchants, everywhere they can. They’re locked in a race to provide ever-more-compelling platforms to merchants not only to capture more of the merchants’ GMV, but especially for all of the extra services that they can bolt on top. Not to mention, the payment processor gets access to first-party data, the lifeblood of modern digital advertising.

Amazon Buy with Prime ratchets up the pressure on Shopify to help its sellers offer fast delivery. If Shopify had done nothing, they risked defection to Buy with Prime, and then they would have lost much of their massive payments revenue. Shopify had no choice - they had to come out with a bold upgrade to their own platform, which they did with the Deliverr acquisition.

Properly understood, the flurry of fulfillment announcements from Amazon, Shopify, and Walmart are more about keeping sellers happy and on their platforms, where their other services rake in the profit.

You Need One-to-Many Solutions

Some see the fulfillment competition between Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify as a good thing – in trying to one-up one another, they’re continually improving the options that merchants have at their fingertips. And it would be a positive development, except for one key issue: they’re tying their ecommerce order fulfillment networks to their own platforms. Here’s the downsides.

Yes, sellers can use Fulfillment by Amazon for their DTC site with Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment and Buy with Prime; but MCF is >50% more expensive, and it shares inventory limits with Amazon volume. On top of that, DTC orders come in Amazon branding, and many marketplaces like Walmart don’t allow FBA at all.

Walmart is even less flexible: Walmart Fulfillment Services only fulfills orders sold on Walmart.com.

Meanwhile, Deliverr is quickly pivoting to prioritize Shopify. Shopify introduced Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN) just three years ago in mid-2019, and it never grew past an invite-only platform available only to Shopify sellers. In fact, earlier this year they looked to be giving up on SFN when they announced that they were cutting fulfillment locations. Given the relative small size of SFN and Deliverr, we’re not surprised that Deliverr’s recent product release announcements have been mostly tailored for Shopify sellers.

As more sellers expand to additional channels to boost growth, the realization that their current fulfillment strategy can’t support them throws cold water on their growth plans. Having many fulfillment providers adds complexity and failure points, and more importantly it also adds costs in the form of duplicated inventory. Sellers want to consolidate as much as possible to enjoy economies of scale, but Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify are doing everything they can to deny one-to-many solutions.

Faced with this threat to their profitability, sellers must move past convenient, but un-scalable solutions. Amazon wants you on FBA, Walmart wants you on Walmart Fulfillment Services, and Shopify wants you on Shopify Fulfillment Network. You need a flexible one-to-many fulfillment service (like Cahoot!) that powers Amazon-like speed and cost no matter the channel. Don’t let the ecommerce giants force you into their boxes – keep your growth opportunities open and enjoy economies of scale with a channel-agnostic partner.

Contributing Author: Manish Chowdhary, Founder & CEO at Cahoot (World's 1st Peer-to-Peer Fulfillment Network for Brands & Retailers)

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Sept 6, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 6th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon announces new inventory and distribution service, AWD Amazon has launched Amazon Warehousing and Distribution (AWD), providing inventory and distribution services to its sellers as a means of addressing current supply chain issues. AWD is now available for sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), i.e. outsourcing their fulfilment to the platform. Amazon has plans to expand the service outside the platform in 2023. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/02/amazon-introduces-new-service-to-help-solve-supply-chain-challenges/) Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in the UAE AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing platform offering, has launched its second region in the Middle East and now provides its services in the UAE. The move will now allow anyone in the UAE who utilises cloud technologies to harness AWS’s advanced platforms and APIs. An estimated $11 billion USD is expected to be added to the UAE’s GDP thanks to the implementation, with an average of 6,000 external vendor jobs to be created annually. AWS is now available in 87 zones across 27 regions, with sights set on expanding further across Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/30/amazon-web-services-launches-region-in-uae/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Lazada to launch in Europe Alibaba-owned ecommerce platform Lazada is set to launch in Europe, marking a refreshed internationalisation push from the company. The move follows toughening economic conditions and performance in Southeast Asia, advancing the need to tap overseas markets. In Europe, Lazada will face tough competition from giants like Amazon and Zalando. Lazada’s exact entry strategy is to be confirmed and will be reliant on macroeconomic and market conditions, according to Lazada CEO James Dong. [Read more on DigitalCommerce360](https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2022/09/01/alibabas-lazada-to-take-on-amazon-zalando-in-europe-push/) Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo to launch cross-border platform in the United States Pinduoduo, a Chinese ecommerce giant rivalling Alibaba and JD, has announced it will be launching a new cross-border ecommerce platform. The marketplace is set to launch in the United States next month, as part of the company’s larger push into new markets. Pinduoduo found success in China thanks to its rock-bottom price offerings and harnessing of social commerce marketing, emulating strategies similar to fast-fashion giant Shein. [Read more on Yahoo Finance](https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/pinduoduo-launch-international-e-commerce-034129263.html) Alibaba launches its biggest B2B sales event, ‘Super September’ China ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has now launched its month-long B2B sales event ‘Super September’. The event provides 40 million buyers and 200,000 suppliers with the ability to connect on the platform, showcasing a ‘virtually unlimited’ number of products. The event hopes to foster new cross-border business relationships to tackle supply chain challenges currently faced by businesses. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/alibaba-launches-super-september-b2b-sales-event/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Klarna’s losses quadruple in first half of 2022 BNPL provider, Klarna, has reported losses of $581 million USD for the first half of 2022. This figure is almost four times larger than a year earlier, where $129 million USD in losses were reported. The company attributes the losses to employee costs, technology investments, and rising credit losses. Klarna’s figure reporting comes amidst worsening economic conditions, fresh legal and regulatory scrutiny, and pressure from Big Tech competitors. [Read more on The Financial Times](https://www.ft.com/content/483451db-9221-4ca4-83a6-b4ddc6bfcfbb) [Read more on the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/31/klarna-losses-more-than-triple-as-consumer-spending-slows) One fifth of Snap employees to be laid off amidst poor financial performance Social media platform Snap (‘Snapchat’) has announced it will be laying off 20% of its employees and closing out a number of projects following a year of poor financial results.The move will see 1,200 employees globally lose their jobs, saving the company an estimated $500 million USD in costs. Snap is currently valued at $20 billion, an 84% decrease from its valuation of $130 billion last year. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/snap-to-lay-off-20-of-its-workforce-and-wind-down-a-number-of-projects/)
Aug 30, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 30th August 2022

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Aug 23, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 23rd August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to add mental health support to primary-care service Amazon is set to move into mental health therapy with its primary-care division, following its recent acquisition deal of One Medical. The plan is to partner with virtual behavioural therapy service, Ginger, to offer its Amazon Care users with on-demand access to mental health services, licensed therapists and psychiatrists. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/11/amazon-plans-to-add-mental-health-support-to-primary-care-service/) GMB union calls for £15 an hour minimum pay at UK Amazon warehouses Amazon recently offered its warehouse workers a 3% pay rise, which in comparison to the June inflation rate of 9.4% left employees disappointed. Following this, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stopped work last week, protesting against the minimal pay increase, seeking a minimum of £15 an hour. Recent protests consisting of employee walkouts and sit-ins aim to get a better offer out of Amazon. [Read more on The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/aug/09/gmb-calls-for-15-an-hour-minimum-pay-at-amazon-warehouses-in-uk) Amazon third-party sellers have received their first-ever holiday fee hike Amazon’s third-party marketplaces account for close to half of the company’s online sales. The company introduced a 5% fuel and inflation charge to its third-party sellers earlier this year, and has now implemented another inflation increase charge. Commencing 14 October, any seller who uses Amazon’s fulfilment service is subject to the price hike, which is set to be an additional 35 cents per item for products sold in the US and Canada. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/17/amazon-third-party-sellers-have-received-their-first-ever-holiday-fee-hike/) Amazon puts a pause on UK grocery shop roll-out as the cost of living increases Amazon has slowed down on its UK roll-out of till-free Amazon Fresh grocery stores following disappointing sales and the rise in cost of living. Allegedly, the company is no longer looking for potential sites to expand and if more stores are opened, they will likely no longer use a till-free system, as consumers become more cautious about spending. [Read more on The Telegraph](https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/08/21/amazon-pauses-uk-grocery-shop-roll-out-following-disappointing/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopee overtakes Alibaba across international markets Shopee has surpassed Alibaba and taken the top spot for sales outside of China. Singapore-based marketplace saw a year-on-year increase of 51.4% at the end of Q2 of this year, while Alibaba saw a 3% drop during the same time period. This can be seen as a promising development for start-ups and their ability to compete with some of the largest ecommerce giants in the market. [Read more on Exchange Wire](https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2022/08/18/shopee-surpasses-alibaba-in-international-sales-amazon-searches-for-entertainment-exec/) H&M reopens its official store to Alibaba’s Tmall ecommerce platform It has been nearly 18 months since Alibaba removed H&M from its Tmall platform, following H&M’s criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It is estimated that over a million people, predominantly minorities in the area, have been unlawfully detained in camps across the city. Brands including Nike, Adidas, Burberry and Converse were swept up in the controversy, however H&M was one of the first to be targeted for speaking out about the issue. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/16/hm-returns-to-alibabas-tmall-platform-16-months-after-xinjiang-controversy/) Klarna launches new feature allowing UK consumers to view full online order history Buy-now-pay-later company, Klarna, has launched a new feature on its shopping app, which allows UK consumers to view their full online order history, regardless of whether they purchased the product using Klarna. The feature also shows delivery tracking and aids consumers in managing their online purchases more conveniently. [Read more on The Industry](https://www.theindustry.fashion/klarna-launches-new-feature-allowing-uk-consumers-to-view-full-online-order-history/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Online marketplaces responsible for £280 billion business turnover in the UK Nearly 900,000 UK businesses are currently selling on online marketplaces, generating an estimated £282 billion worth of sales each year. This figure represents 6% of the UK’s annual business turnover, highlighting the notable contribution that marketplaces make to the UK economy, along with the potential for further growth in this area. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/09/online-marketplaces-responsible-for-280-billion-business-turnover-in-uk/)

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