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Working at an eBay Fulfillment Center

What’s it like to work at a fulfillment center during the holiday rush? EcommerceBytes did a series called Amazon Confidential last year that followed a worker throughout the weeks of their temporary employment at an undisclosed Amazon warehouse.

This year, ecommerce analysts Sucharita Mulpuru and Peter Sheldon of Forrester Research put in a 4-hour shift at an eBay fulfillment warehouse on December 10th to get some perspective on the challenges that their retail clients face. To clarify, while the eBay marketplace does not provide fulfillment services, its eBay Enterprise division – formerly GSI Commerce – does provide fulfillment and other services to large retail brands.

In a post on the Forrester blog, the two analysts shared the experience of manual labor. One thing that struck the pair was the different needs of each of the 100 brands eBay Enterprise services.

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eBay Enterprise operate fulfillment operations for approximately 100 brands across its 12 fulfillment campuses. It was fascinating to see how orders for one major teen apparel chain were packed in mere seconds in a highly automated environment, while the packing process for another lifestyle accessories and fashion brand took up to eight minutes per order. The attention to detail that went into the packing of the boxes was interesting, from perfectly measuring the tissue paper lining, to the last seal of the branded label on the box. First impressions count.

The center in which they worked employed a staff of 500 that day who picked and packed about 70,000 orders.

They also learned that many customers order multiple items, some ordering multiple quantities of the same item. “It was clear that when the sales hit, online shoppers go big and are maximizing their online spend to qualify for free shipping thresholds and bulk order discounts, although some of these “same product, different size” apparel orders will inevitably be returned after the holidays,” Sheldon wrote on the blog.

He strongly encourage all ecommerce executives to spend some time in their company’s distribution center. “In an intensely competitive environment with Amazon, increasingly the efficiency and flexibility of your fulfillment operations will either become a competitive advantage or burden. There is no better way to understand this than to go out on the front lines.”

You can read the full post on the Forrester blog.

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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