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You buy, it ships: Maersk’s offer to challenge Amazon


Maersk wants to continue moving your online purchases once they have landed by preparing the orders to be shipped to your doorstep.

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A Danish shipping giant is betting that your online shopping for appliances, furniture and sweatpants will be the next phase of its growth.

Maersk, which carries nearly a fifth of the world’s ocean freight, recently bought Visible, a logistics company with nine e-commerce distribution centers in the United States that store and pack orders for retailers. With the acquisition, Maersk says, it can fill orders and get them to the doors of 95% of all American households in two days.

The company’s strategy: combine its fleet of 700 container ships with warehousing expertise to assemble a supply chain offering port-to-door service. This, according to Maersk, will reduce costs for retailers and customers by minimizing package transfers to external contractors, a common practice in the industry. This is part of an offer to capture more of the money you spend online.

The plan is to attract customers who sell from their own platforms and need help filling orders, said Brian Bowers, COO of Visible. Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment service targets these sellers as well, and while the company hasn’t provided data on the number of third-party sellers using it, that’s not the bulk of its business. execution. Visible offers personalized packaging, allowing retailers to maintain control of their branding throughout the delivery process. The setup also means fewer giant packages filled with plastic air bubbles. It’s about moving away from selling products through popular online marketplaces run by Amazon, Target, or Walmart.

“We find clients who want to do something different,” said Bowers.

It’s no secret what motivates Maersk to fulfill online orders. E-commerce exploded during the pandemic as consumers filled virtual shopping carts rather than tote bags at the mall. Online sales grew 44% in the first three months from 2020. Growth has moderated at 9%, but e-commerce continues to grow faster than the rest of retail.

The investment comes as the global supply chain suffocates from historically increased demand, COVID-related port closures and chaos created by storms. Scores of the freighters have moved back in ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, awaiting unloading. Tennis ball, canapes and even pickles were affected. Therefore, any product you order online – think about your holiday shopping – could take longer than usual for delivery.

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Ecommerce companies are reinvesting their pandemic deals. Walmart is pouring billions to expand local distribution centers and buy bots to fill orders faster. target, including e-commerce business has grown faster than its competitors, is plowing $ 4 billion of those sales in a strategy that includes building its e-commerce capacity. Even fast fashion retailer American Eagle Outfitters is get into e-commerce with its acquisition of Quiet Logistics, announced on Tuesday.

Amazon, who generated about 40% of e-commerce sales in the United States in 2020, has doubled its warehouse space since the start of the pandemic. It currently has more than 350 distribution centers, air hubs and other facilities to move goods.

The packaging of orders and their exit has become a very competitive part of e-commerce, representing 78 billion dollars in sales globally in 2020. It’s about better control of the supply chain to make sure things run smoothly, as consumers expect their packages to arrive fast or for free. Combining Maersk’s marine and port services with order fulfillment can help retailers meet these consumer expectations, said Narin Phol, regional general manager of Maersk’s North American operations.

“We have all the pieces of the supply chain,” said Phol.

Carlos Rodriguez, a lawyer who negotiates deals for e-commerce and transportation companies for the Husch Blackwell company, noted that Maersk offered an alternative to online marketplaces. Selling through a large retailer’s platform gives merchants access to robust fulfillment services, but can come at the cost of branding when products arrive in Amazon smile boxes or with them. Target or Walmart logos.

“This will create a new competitive environment,” Rodriguez said of the acquisition.

In pursuit of Amazon

Tightening the supply chain improves purchasing for customers, said Jordan Speer, retail industry analyst at IDC. Fast delivery is such a selling point for e-commerce that in some ways, she says, “the product is the supply chain.”

Amazon changed consumer expectations when it introduced its Prime two-day delivery service in 2005. With Prime now available globally, 200 million people have become accustomed to its fast service for goods sold on websites. sprawling Amazon, which include nearly 2 million independent sellers.

Nearly half of Amazon’s third-party vendors in the United States let the company fulfill their orders. In 2020, that translated to nearly 2.8 billion packages shipped to the United States, according to e-commerce tracking company ShipMatrix. The service leverages the company’s hundreds of facilities in the United States and uses a highly systemized, labor-intensive process in which people and robots fill boxes. Amazon also has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks and air cargo carriers, and has delegated more than 1,300 small delivery companies to distribute packages in communities all over the United States and Europe.

Amazon is also expanding its access to port terminals by 50%, increasing the speed at which it can unload goods for itself and its third-party sellers, and has doubled its capacity to load and unload shipping containers in its warehouses. as he tries to remedy global shipping delays for the holidays.

From sea containers to delivery trucks

Maersk and Visible have something the e-commerce giant doesn’t: hundreds of container ships around the world. Maersk owns or charters over 700 vessels and has a subsidiary, APM Terminals, which operates 76 port terminals. Maersk has a great source of potential customers for Visible’s fulfillment services, as these containers hold millions of tons of consumer goods, many of which will need to be shipped directly to a customer once they land.

Visible also offers proprietary software that optimizes delivery through one of the company’s five shipping partners: UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and Pitney Bowes. Amazon is also optimizing deliveries.

Additionally, Visible works with retailers to customize package sizes and get branded logos on the boxes they ship. This can reduce shipping costs for retailers, Bowers said. It can keep the company that designed the product in mind when you open the package, instead of making the Amazon, Target, or Walmart logo the first thing you see when you receive it. It resolves the loss of consciousness that causes people to say something like “Got it on Amazon” about things they actually bought from another merchant.

“We have a lot of customers who say, ‘I actually don’t want Amazon to own my brand,’” Bowers said.


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