Are Your Omni-Channel / E-Commerce Sales Really Profitable? Part 3

Richard Sharpe Analytics & Big Data


If you have been following this blog series, you know that we are focused on how to determine if your Omni-Channel / E-Commerce orders are really profitable. Multiple industries are struggling with this question, none more than the Retail industry, which is being turned upside down by virtual retailers. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that consumer online purchasing has soared 10.2% over the past year, while department-store sales have declined 1.7%.

This posting is the third in the series on managing Omni-Channel / E-Commerce profitability.   We started by defining the four components of the Total Cost To Serve (TCTS) for Omni-Channel / E-Commerce orders:

  1. The cost to purchase or manufacture the products, often referred to as the product’s Standard cost
  2. The costs to position inventory to be ready for order fulfillment activities
  3. The costs to actually fulfill the Omni-Channel consumer order, and
  4. The cost of product returns

After defining these costs, we offered the straight forward profitability equation of:

Omni-Channel Order Profit = Net Revenue – (A+B+C+D)

Today, we are going to specifically focus on the cost category above.


The problem

Consumer expectations are moving more and more in the direction of rapid gratification. Consumers expect to find the exact product they are looking for at the best price and to quickly have it in their possession, often at no additional cost. So what is wrong with that? Well, absolutely everything if you are the company trying to get that consumer’s business.

E-Commerce order fulfillment activities simply do not have the economies of scale of traditional supply chain operations. Generally speaking, E-Commerce orders require the picking and packaging of much smaller quantities of product and they have to be delivered to a much larger number of destination points, often for free. Adding to this perfect storm is the fact that “comparative shopping” often reduces the actual revenue derived from the sale.


It is no wonder that many companies are asking the question:
“Are we making money on our Omni-Channel / E-Commerce orders?”



As noted in an earlier posting, up until now the focus for many companies has been to create an Omni-Channel / E-Commerce presence in order to hold on to market share. But losing money on orders in this channel is often the result of imprecisely measuring the cost to fill the order. The shift must now be to manage the profitability of Omni-Channel / E-Commerce orders by having fact-based financial performance insights.

The solution

The solution starts by recognizing the wisdom in the adage “one size does not fit all.” Customer buying patterns, order mix, discounts, promotions, and expedited deliveries all contribute to whether an E-Commerce sale is profitable or not. Therefore, in addition to the net revenue gained from Omni-Channel / E-Commerce orders, it is imperative to understand the true costs of each customer order-fulfillment activity. Knowing the exact profitability gained through these financial insights positions a company to change future online ordering offerings to insure profitability targets are met.

How do you do that?  It starts with having specific and accurate facts regarding each part of the profit equation defined above. Using this information to segment consumer patterns and order related characteristics (quantities, mix, applied promotions and discounts, selling price, and applied delivery fees) is critical to clearly understand different profit contribution patterns.

This profit intelligence can then be used to create informed strategies on how to influence the profitability of specific customer orders while continuing to build market share. Strategies such as restricting free shipping to consistently unprofitable customers or potentially providing different forms of order promotions to different segments of profitable customers can have an immediate impact on the bottom line. Yes, you may lose some customer orders, but most likely your competitor has just lost additional profits.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

All the best,


Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe is CEO of Competitive Insights, LLC (CI), a founding officer of the American Logistics Aid Network(ALAN) and designated by DC Velocityas a Rainmaker in the industry. For the last 25 years, Richard has been passionate about driving business value through the adoption of process and technology innovations. His current focus is to support CI’s mission to enable companies to gain maximum value through specific, precise and actionable insights across the organization for smarter growth. CI delivers Enterprise Profit Insights (EPI) solutions that enable cross-functional users to increase and protect profitability. Prior to his current role, Richard was President of CAPS Logistics, the forerunner of supply chain optimization. Richard is a frequent speaker at national conferences and leading academic institutions. His current focus is to challenge executives to improve their company’s competitive position by turning enterprise wide data from a liability to an asset through the use of applied business analytics.