A premier e-commerce services provider, PFSweb specializes in providing end-to-end service. Now the company’s focus is on devoting more resources toward the omni-channel market and striving to combine digital and physical commerce channels.
PFSweb primarily serves two types of clients. One is a business that has not previously had an online commerce channel. The other kind of client may be an already established brand online, but they are looking for a better customer experience and want to upgrade their services.
“For some of the clients we serve, sometimes we provide them with the full suite of e-commerce services,” Vice President of Global Fulfillment Scott Talley says. “That involves developing the website and setting up the contact center. It is interesting because sometimes they may have their own fulfillment capability but no e-commerce piece. Other times it is the opposite. So we take a custom solution approach so we can provide either a full suite of services end-to-end, or bits and pieces.”
Whether clients are new to e-commerce or not, PFSweb must understand all relevant variables. The company understands the different needs of clients involved in making individual sales directly to consumers versus clients selling wholesale in a B2B environment. It understands the staffing challenges clients face, as some might not have the manpower or resources to keep an e-commerce operation running on its own.
In addition, it understands that some clients may not understand how to execute on omni-channel marketing ideas, or how to manage a call center or a holiday peak season. It is through this thorough understanding of the conundrums facing its clients that PFSweb can provide the right solution for the right setting.
“We have the ability to customize our solutions so they are brand-centric and work for the individual customer,” Vice President of Business Development Michael Wright says. “For example, we have some high-end luxury clients, and the online brand experience is critical to them. For those clients, we take great care in understanding their brand needs and executing on those points.”
PFSweb has invested in capabilities and facilities to support its ability to work flexibly with an array of clients. Altogether, the company has approximately one million square feet of space in its facilities. In one building, the company operates a facility that is certified for food and beverage operations. Throughout its facilities, PFSweb has invested in conveyor systems to meet sector demand.
PFSweb’s investments in its facilities have ensured that it can handle one of the most challenging aspects of e-commerce activity, which relates to peak seasons and promotions. Volume surges are commonplace during peaks and promotions, so PFSweb has tried to ensure that its infrastructure is efficient and can be scalable.
“Another thing that is unique about e-commerce operations and brand-centric service is handling specific brand packaging and how our clients want packaging to appear when the consumer receives it,” Talley says. “For some of the highest-end clients, they want packaging that matches the quality of higher-end department stores and contains all relevant promotional material.”
In addition, PFSweb has invested in conveyors and sorting equipment that can handle smaller and lighter packages than is seen in traditional distribution environments. “While traditional distribution deals with full pallets, we deal with an assortment of single units,” Talley says. “That can make order management very complex.”
PFSweb has also invested in mobile pick cart technology specifically designed for batch picking. The system allows PFSweb’s people to move through the warehouse in a logical method so they can make picks in the right order and fill multiple orders at once.
“That is something that is unique, and we’ve invested a lot of money in bringing that system to our Memphis facility,” Talley says. “Most of our other investments have been into traditional racks and shelving, but the conveyor sortation systems and pick carts are unique and critical for us.”
Ready for the Future
Looking ahead, PFSweb is focused on being able to offer what Wright called “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere” solutions. Although this isn’t necessarily a new idea, it has remained an elusive goal for smaller companies that don’t have as big a footprint as big-box stores.
“We are in the early stages of getting the ‘fulfill anywhere’ component in place,” Wright says. “We’ve partnered with Shopatron on developing a solution where if one of our clients’ website’s inventory is sold out of a product, it can use built-in logic to access a local store’s inventory and check product availability. Some of our clients may have a smaller number of stores, but they want to do everything they can to make their customers happy so they don’t lose the sale.”