Touchpoints: Human Interactions for Every Online Purchase

Delivery worker delivering a package to a woman at home

How much labour is involved in getting your product?

Have you ever thought about how much physical labour and how many touchpoints are involved in you receiving your online purchases?

E-commerce represented 13.0% of all retail sales in 2017, with Amazon up an astonishing 38% in online sales and Walmart up at least 23% in online sales.

Every major courier service in 2017 posted a year over year boost in revenue (Canada Post parcels up $11 million, Purolator up $40 million, Fed Ex up globally $2.7 billion, UPS up globally $5.8 billion).

Working Conditions in Online Shipping Warehouses are Unhealthy

Reports are now starting to hit the media that, to meet higher online demands and corporate targets for increased profitability, warehouse working conditions are pushing the boundaries of unhealthy quotas and unrealistic working hours in their treatment of behind-the-scenes blue collar workers.

Almost 20 Touchpoints Before Your Online Purchase Reaches Your Door

It may shock you how many touchpoints (person physically handling your package) your online product has before it arrives at your door.

Let’s assume the product you buy is built in Canada, so you don’t have the added touchpoints that occur at border or ocean crossings.

For ease of conversation, the product you just purchased is manufactured in Montreal, distributed from Toronto, and arrives at your home in Edmonton.

Boxes ordered online from amazon piled up in front of a door

Online Shipping Isn’t as Simple as It Seems

For almost every manufactured product, (1) there is a point where a person puts that product into a shipping box.

Still at the manufacturing plant, (2) workers stack like products together waiting for an order.

When a distribution center places an order, (3) an order picker will pull those products and get them ready for shipping.

These products are then handed off to the first shipping company (4, 5) where they get sent to the distribution center.

Online Purchases are Repacked at Distribution Centres

There, containers arriving from manufacturing companies need to get (6) unpacked, (7) sorted, and (8) stored so that they can show you they have product in stock ready to order.

When you order online, (9) a person picks the order, (10) sends it to the sorting station, where it is then (11) staged for outgoing shipments.

A courier company (12) will then come to pick up your (and many other) products from the distribution facility.

Major touchpoints of an online shopping order

As all courier companies operate, the courier that picked your package is not the one who delivers it hundreds of miles away.

Your package is first headed to the nearest courier sorting facility.

At this point the courier trucks are (13) unloaded from the local truck, (14) sorted to your area, and (15) loaded onto the appropriate outbound shipping truck.

Assuming there are no other stops along the way (like reloading the entire truck in Winnipeg), your package now just has to arrive at your local courier facility. Finally, it is (16) unloaded, (17) split to the appropriate conveyor belt, (18) loaded onto your neighbourhood courier truck, and (19) delivered to your door.

Delivery worker delivering a package to a woman at home

Each Package You Order Online has a Minimum of 19 Touchpoints to Get to Your Door

This does not account for additional touchpoints from the manufacturer, who may have their own warehouse that is used before the distribution center receives it.

Nor does it account for foreign products or components that have to go through additional holding facilities before landing at a distribution center.

Also consider that distribution centers may ship products between centers to guarantee your product may arrive sooner.

Add to this that most courier operations are not ever as straight forward as described above. It’s a good bet with all these extra factors to consider, you have put 40-50 people to work by ordering those shoes online.

It’s no wonder that media is becoming increasingly concerned with warehouse working conditions as online sales increase.

The behind the scenes process that goes from click to your door is labor intensive and fast paced. If you are in the business of getting products to people, reach out to us at EWI Works.

We can make sure your touchpoints are as safe as possible.

*Author Shane Hudson spent 5 years in the transportation industry improving warehouse and courier operations by focusing on the people involved in the process.

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