The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on eCommerce and 3PL Order Fulfillment

No doubt about it, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people shop and how people get their goods. Nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the eCommerce and order fulfillment industries.
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In the years leading up to 2020, the eCommerce marketplace was booming exponentially year over year. Particularly in the United States and Canada. More and more consumers were taking advantage of being able to avoid crowds and shop for a wide variety of goods from the comfort of their own homes or using their compile devices. With good reason, as the eCommerce industry expanded, 3PL order fulfillment companies became better and better and getting products to consumers. This was the emergence of same-day shipping. Essentially, consumers could order a product online, and the product would ship the very same day. This quickly became an eCommerce consumer expectation. Place and order for a product online, and have a tracking number within hours, and in many cases within mere minutes. These two industries combined forces and were taking the retail market by storm.

Even prominent retailers began to shift focus from brick and mortar stores to eCommerce marketplaces and operations. This was the birth of new concepts like the Walmart Canada Marketplace. This allowed eCommerce businesses to sell their products on the actual Walmart Canada website (and even opened up to vendors using 3PL Walmart Marketplace shipping services). Right alongside Walmart’s own products. The Amazon Canada marketplace was already established. This marked the rise of multi-channel eCommerce order fulfillment companies. 3PL operations that had expertise and know-how to ship from their facilities across a multitude of sales channels and marketplaces on behalf of their partners. The timing was perfect, and things were going smoothly, the eCommerce and order fulfillment industries were growing alongside one another…

And then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world like a ton of bricks. Before more and more people were opting to shop online, but when the pandemic started, it truly seemed like everyone was. In terms of revenue, this seems like great news for eCommerce businesses at face value. More orders being placed online means more revenue. This was not the case. The tidal wave of orders flooded the online market. With the mountain of new safety regulations and protocols, order delays became commonplace.

Carriers’ shipping lines became flooded resulting in massive bottlenecking. Canada Post and USPS simply did not have the infrastructure in place to move the sheer volume of parcels. Even carriers like FedEx and UPS quickly became overwhelmed by the magnitude of parcels. Meanwhile, at parcel processing facilities, new safety measures slowed parcel movement down even further. And to make matters worse, it was no different at Canadian 3PL order fulfillment companies like InterFulfillment. Strict protocols to ensure employee safety are still in place on the day of this article being written. InterFulfillment Warehouse Associates no longer work side-by-side to fulfill customer orders, they must be mindful of their proximity. When arriving at work they must be checked for symptoms of COVID-19 on a daily basis. Anyone with the smallest symptom is asked to return home and only return after a negative COVID-19 test is acquired.

eCommerce vendors also felt the wrath of the pandemic. In many cases, they were forced to work remotely and work on reestablishing their supply chains. The delays on global supply chains were just as staggering. And not being able to work side-by-side at an office was a challenge in itself.

Needless to say, for merchants, carriers, and 3PL companies, getting used to these new dynamics while getting orders where they need to be has been a challenge and in many ways continues to be until this day. However, we have all adapted. We have all learned to work around the pandemic and remain efficient. Currently, many companies have implemented vaccine protocols to further provide stability and peace of mind they do not experience an outbreak at their facilities. InterFulfillment is proud that all of our staff has been vaccinated and no longer accepts unvaccinated employees. Above all else, the health and safety of employees are the most important things.

No doubt about it this expedited the expansion of the eCommerce marketplace, which is a good thing, but it has been an uphill battle every step of the way. The silver lining is that the volume is there and still growing strong, and having to weather the pandemic storm has made every aspect of the eCommerce marketplace and supply chain have become more resilient than ever. When people come together and face a challenge they can do some really amazing things. If you need proof of that look no further than the perseverance of the eCommerce and 3PL order fulfillment industries. We remain hopeful that we will be able to put this pandemic behind us as soon as possible, and we feel that we will be able to handle whatever challenges come our way in the future.

About InterFulfillment

InterFulfillment is the leading Canadian eCommerce 3PL order fulfillment company. With fulfillment centers located across Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia providing 3PL services to some of the biggest brands and organizations in the world.

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