Fulfilment time performance of online retailers – an empirical analysis

Jingran Zhang, Sevilay Onal, Rohit Das, Amanda Helminsky, Sanchoy Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: Fast fulfilment is a key performance measure in online retail, and some retailers have achieved faster times by adopting new designs in their order fulfilment infrastructure. This research empirically confirms and quantifies the fulfilment time advantage that Amazon has achieved, relative to other online retailers. The purpose of this paper is to investigate three research questions: what is the overall mean fulfilment time difference between the new logistics designs of Amazon and the alternative designs of other retailers? For each order what is the distribution of the fulfilment time difference? What is the difference in fulfilment time by product category, price and size? Design/methodology/approach: This research uses an empirical method to evaluate the fulfilment time performance of consumer orders made through the Amazon website and one or more competing online retailers. For 1,000 different products two fulfilment times, one at Amazon and another at a competing omnichannel retailer, are recorded. The analysis is then focused on the comparison between this paired data. Findings: The research confirms that the new logistics methods, including physical facilities, distribution networks and intelligent order processing methods, have resulted in faster order fulfilment times. The performance, though, is not universally dominant and for 33 per cent of orders, the difference is 1 day or less. The fulfilment time difference varied by product, category, price or size. Practical implications: The ongoing transformation of fulfilment and logistics operations at online retailers has generated several new research questions. This includes the need to confirm the fulfilment efficiency of the new designs and specify time targets. This paper identifies the fulfilment time gap between new and traditional operations. The results suggest that store-based or distribution centre-based fulfilment strategies may not match the new designs. Originality/value: The study provides a quantitative analysis of the fulfilment time differentials in online retailing. The critical role of fulfilment logistics in the rapidly growing online retail industry can now be better modelled and studied. The survey method representing a single buyer allows for order pair equivalency and eliminates order bias. The results suggest that new warehousing and logistics designs can lead to significantly faster fulfilment times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-510
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


  • E-commerce
  • Fulfilment time
  • Logistics
  • Omnichannel
  • Online retail
  • Parcel delivery


Dive into the research topics of 'Fulfilment time performance of online retailers – an empirical analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this