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E-commerce growth furthers interest in direct-from-origin shipping options

Some pandemic-fueled shopping trends may be here to stay

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In recent years, consumers have consistently put pressure on companies to amp up their online options. E-commerce sales have steadily grown year-over-year for the last couple of decades. E-commerce’s share of total retail sales has historically climbed about 1% each year. That changed in 2020. 

Americans’ previously slow-growing fervor for online shopping was shifted into high gear when the coronavirus pandemic started making its way across the nation in March 2020. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, e-commerce sales soared to 16.1% of total retail sales during the second quarter of 2020, up significantly from 10.8% during the second quarter of 2019. For context, e-commerce sales came in at 9.8% and 9% during the same quarters of 2018 and 2017, respectively.

This number dipped to 14.3% during the third quarter of 2020 – compared to 11.1% during the same time period in 2019 – due to loosening of coronavirus-related restrictions across the country. E-commerce growth during this period was still much stronger than the sector has historically experienced, indicating that growth rates may continue to be accelerated even as consumers move away from pandemic-caused buying practices. 

“E-commerce has exploded,” Apex Logistics’ executive vice president of customs and international trade Steve Story said. “I challenge you to find someone you know who has not bought something on the web in the past year.”

It has become clear that companies need to do what it takes to facilitate a quickly growing number of e-commerce sales. For companies that have been putting off the shift to an online-friendly model, the pressure is high and the time to catch up is running out. No matter where a company may stand with its current e-commerce model, the right shipping partner is essential to making sure orders go off without a hitch. 

Apex Logistics plays in the land, ocean and air spaces, working with companies to discover the most efficient methods to move goods from their manufacturing partners all over the globe to their customers’ homes. As far as e-commerce is concerned, the focus has begun to shift from fulfillment in North America to fulfillment from origin, according to Story. This approach allows shipments to bypass warehousing in the U.S. altogether. 

“E-commerce is obviously good for consumers because they don’t have to go to the store to buy anything,” Story said. “E-commerce is more economical in general. Companies that can do a paradigm shift and ship directly from origin are eliminating many costs associated with warehousing and more traditional freight forwarding.”

Shipping from origin can be a particularly effective strategy for products like car parts. It can be difficult to get the exact parts needed in a timely manner, and costs can be widely variable. Sourcing these types of products directly from origin can result in greater availability and significantly lower costs, according to Story.

In addition to helping customers innovate their freight-forwarding practices and navigate customs, Apex also helps individual companies tailor their methods to the kinds of shipping times their customers actually expect. 

“If consumers want fast, they’re going to order via Amazon Prime,” Story said. “Shipping through an overnight carrier is expensive. Most consumers are more than willing to pay a lower price and wait a few more days to get their package.” 

Figuring out the most effective shipping strategy for any given company requires expert analysis of that company’s unique needs. Partnering with the right partner can help ensure companies are treated as individuals and not lumped into broader categories that cause them to miss out on potential money-saving opportunities.

Ashley Coker Prince

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She works with clients to develop sponsored content that tells a story. She worked as reporter and editor at FreightWaves before taking on her current role as Senior Content Marketing Writer. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.