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IDC: European E-Fulfilment Market to Reach US $3.7 Billion by 2003

[London, ENGLAND] The e-fulfilment market in Europe will reach US $3.7 billion by 2003, according to an iForce-sponsored IDC white paper, published Monday.

Entitled "The Growing Role for e-Fulfilment Specialists - Delivering in a Wired Marketplace," the paper says the only factor likely to inhibit growth is a failure to satisfy the customer.

Matthew Peacock, group chief executive of e-fulfilment business iForce, explained how the service differed radically from traditional fulfilment.

"'Few to many' requires a specialist approach to all aspects of the customer delivery and service process; such as more flexibility on order management, highly responsive customer service throughout the process, and faster and tighter timeslots for delivery," said Peacock.

Peacock went on to say that enhanced customer service requires a transparent tracking process to keep customers in touch with their orders whilst being able to handle alterations and returns. One key requirement, Peacock said, is for customers to be able to talk to service people through multiple channels - phone, fax, Web and online chat.

In 1999, the outsourced e-fulfilment market in Europe stood at just US $244 million. Currently, around 20 percent of e-fulfilment activities are outsourced, compared to an estimated 33.2 percent in 2003.

IDC's white paper also makes estimates for the growth of online purchasing in Western Europe, saying it will expand from US $10 billion in 1999 to $125.3 billion dollars in 2003.

In many of the reported figures, IDC appears to be more precise in its estimates than in quoting historical data. However, in examining costs it takes both figures to one decimal place. E-fulfilment costs, says IDC, will fall from 24.6 percent of Internet commerce revenue in 1999 to 22.3 percent in 2003.

E-fulfilment is the key to customer satisfaction in B2C e-commerce -- and it is not just about delivering goods, according to Matthew Peacock. "Customers who receive poor service from e-tailers don't come back," he said.

In the U.K., e-fulfilment services are being offered via some unusual means of transportation including milk floats. E-fulfilment company M-box is working with Express Dairies who carry packages with the early morning milk deliveries. This weekend, M-box also announced another deal with courier network Addison Lee, offering 2-hour deliveries in the Greater London area.