Distributed fulfillment means utilizing a nationwide or global network of warehouses and fulfillment centers to bring inventory closer to potential customers, as opposed to shipping from one to two centralized locations. While this supply chain model creates more complexity and room for error, tech companies have come to the rescue with powerful software that integrates virtually every aspect of getting a product from the online store to te customer’s door.
Companies have found enormous success using predictive analytics and machine learning. These tools intelligently allocate inventory across networks to avoid stock-outs, reduce miles traveled, and decrease delivery time, cost, and environmental impact.
To understand the power of a distributed fulfillment network, consider that distributed fulfillment services can prioritize ground transportation and achieve a two-day shipping standard anywhere in the United States. That’s receiving an order, picking, packing, and shipping using trucks, cars, bikes, or scooters anywhere within 3.797 million square miles…in less than 48 hours.
As shoppers slowly regress to in-person shopping habits, retailers have taken the opportunity to roll their customer-facing storefronts into this distributed fulfillment network, creating a hybrid model for traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The front end handles in-person shopping, while the back end receives and handles online orders from nearby customers.