The term fulfillment includes the entire spectrum of services and processes that are necessary from the point in time of the conclusion of the purchase contract in order to fulfill the obligations contained therein. In e-commerce, however, fulfillment also offers online shop operators the opportunity to stand out on the one hand through special additional services and on the other hand through strong networking of their channels.

Beyond mediocrity

The term fulfillment includes the entire spectrum of services and processes that are necessary from the point in time of the conclusion of the purchase contract in order to fulfill the obligations contained therein. In e-commerce, however, fulfillment also offers online shop operators the opportunity to stand out on the one hand through special additional services and on the other hand through strong networking of their channels.

This in turn enables him to offer his customers a convenient, personalized shopping experience and thereby create customer loyalty and retention. Thanks to a consistent database and processes planned in detail, as well as a mature infrastructure, customers are provided with the services they want to use at exactly the right time. In the best case, these fulfillment service options are already offered in the shop's checkout process and advertised on the product detail pages.

In the following, some sub-areas of the wide field of fulfillment will be discussed. What scenarios can be expected? Is fulfillment already maxed out? How can I differentiate myself from the competition? And what do customers actually want?

Diversity pays off

A non-negligible part of fulfilment, especially when it comes to acquiring new customers, is the offering of various payment options. In the purchasing process, it is also the first fulfillment component that the customer is confronted with. In order to be able to evaluate as a shop operator whether their own payment options are sufficient, the checkout process should be examined for particularly high bounce rates using web analysis tools. Otherwise, you risk high abandonment rates.

According to a study by the Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail Order (bevh), payment systems such as Paypal or sofortü (together 40%), purchase on account (29%), payment by credit card (10%) and payment by direct debit are the most common (9%) the common and desired payment methods[1]. Only the purchase on installments still represents a potential unique selling point, but it is associated with high administration costs and financial risk of failure, which is why it is worth hiring a service provider.

Despite the fact that no procedure has been firmly established to date, mobile payment systems should also be taken into account, especially after they were introduced by the discounter ALDI Nord and the resulting likely increase in customer acceptance. Either via QR code scan or NFC, customers can make payment transactions both in the store and in the online shop via smartphone. ## Shipping comes after payment

For several years in a row, the study “Success factors in e-commerce – Germany’s top online shop” has shown that additional fulfillment services are highly related to customer satisfaction and loyalty, with consistently high values ​​for the customer-perceived relevance of tracking delivery, choices between shipping options, etc., proven.

In particular, customers with a high order frequency and young customers under the age of 35 want more flexible shipping options[2]. Above all, delivery to a nearby shop, a retailer's branch and delivery to a packing station are very popular.

In addition, more than half of all respondents would like to have the option of particularly fast shipping methods such as same-day delivery (67%), delivery on Sunday (56%) or even within an hour of placing the order (42%).

These are by no means standards, as the study "Shop systems, merchandise management and shipping" shows. This shows, for example, that 50% of B2C online senders do not plan to offer the determination of the delivery date. 37% of those surveyed do not intend to enable pick-up in the future and 52% do not want to launch express delivery[3]. Fulfillment in e-commerce therefore still offers potential for expansion.

Pick it up or have it sent – ​​tipping the scales

As shown above, customer expectations are a driving force for companies investing in the expansion of fulfillment options. Another is the competition already mentioned in connection with payment solutions. The direct comparability of offers in e-commerce is a great advantage for customers when looking for the best offer, but it puts providers under enormous price pressure.

Fulfillment can be crucial in countering this pressure, namely by offering special delivery or pick-up conditions after the previous payment process that stand out from those of the competition. Various approaches are conceivable, especially in multi- and omnichannel commerce. The following three examples represent scenarios in which fulfillment can make the difference in an online purchase.

Case 1 - Buy online - pick up in store:

In this context, a use case can be that a customer needs the product they want at a certain point in time (e.g. due to an upcoming trip). It would also be conceivable that it is a high-priced good that the customer would like to own as quickly as possible after a long decision-making process. Price sensitivity takes a back seat.

When in doubt, he does not decide on the cheapest online provider, but on one who is able to have the product ready for immediate collection in a branch or to send it from there using same-day delivery.

Case 2 - Buy online - return in store:

Another fulfillment strategy follows the reverse flow of goods. The customer ordered an item online but wants to return it to a physical store. The regular returns shipping process is lengthy and doesn't always work perfectly. 68% of online shoppers in Germany are particularly dissatisfied with parcel delivery and would like alternatives such as collection at home (32%) or return to a nearby shop (21%).

Returned in the shop, however, the purchase price is refunded immediately, the customer can take a replacement directly or get advice from specialist staff on alternatives. Offering barrier-free switching between online and offline services is an important tool for customer loyalty, especially for sectors that generate a lot of returns, such as fashion omnichannel stores.

Case 3 - Purchased Online - Suggested Pickup Option:

In the future, fulfillment should also consider the following constellation: A customer visits the branch of an omnichannel retailer from whom he ordered an item in the online shop the day before, but which has not yet been shipped. Using NFC, his store visit is registered and with it the pending delivery. A comparison with the store inventory shows that the item is in stock. A notification is then sent to the customer's smartphone, telling them that they can take the ordered product with them immediately instead of having it sent to their home. The shipping process is stopped accordingly when the item is picked up in the store.

In a modified form, this procedure would also be conceivable for products viewed in the online shop or placed in the shopping cart. Initiated by the customer's visit to the store, these are displayed to the customer on their smartphone as being in stock, or perhaps even with a discount as an additional incentive to buy.

In each of the cases mentioned, the basis is fast and consistent order management with high availability, which can access warehouse management system data as well as CRM and stock levels in the individual stores. At the same time, the online shop must also be able to display the necessary options. Basically, the fewer system breaks that occur, the faster information about the fulfillment process can be forwarded to the customer.

Regardless of the specific design, it should always be noted with all fulfillment offers related to shipping that customers react very sensitively to delays and errors. Every second online shopper would refrain from making another purchase if they were dissatisfied with the shipping. But that's not all. More than three quarters would tell their friends about their negative experiences (negative word of mouth) and thus make it difficult to acquire new customers.

The Track and Trace fulfillment module can use shipping notifications (e.g. via push notifications or as SMS) to ensure a more transparent process and visible shipping progress or to point out delays in good time. At the same time, the customer can better coordinate the personal acceptance of the shipment. After Sales Services

After successful payment and shipping/collection, further fulfillment services can be used to strengthen customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Querying the customer's opinion for evaluation purposes shows an interest in one's own service improvement. Any quality defects are communicated more readily through direct inquiries and the customer feels valued. In addition, it offers the possibility of offering complementary goods to match the purchased item (cross-selling).

The sending of status emails after returns have been received also leads to increased satisfaction, as the customer sees the progress in the process and that his concerns are being taken care of.

Assuming that there was inconvenience for the customer during shipping, an individually formulated apology and unbureaucratic goodwill (quick exchange, simple return - possibly in a retail store for online purchases, price reduction for another order) shows service orientation and understanding of customer needs Securing Customer Loyalty.


Fulfillment offers a wide range of opportunities to generate unique selling propositions and increase service quality in order to ensure stable customer loyalty. The basis for this is the expansion of the omnicommerce-typical networking of all existing channels and a high willingness to innovate. At the same time, investment in fulfillment can also mean optimization potential for warehousing and logistics in order to enable flexible delivery processes.