James and James – Ultimate Fulfilment

James and James, the first digital-native fulfilment house in the UK that has disrupted the eCommerce industry, continues to challenge the norm, creating solutions to scale up their clients’ businesses.

Established just over a decade ago by two Cambridge University graduates, James and James has changed order fulfilment services with their innovative cloud-based technology, enhancing online stores’ performance and making eCommerce customers happier.

James and James was officially born in 2010, and success was almost immediate. Just two years into its operation, the business secured 300% year-on-year growth. In 2018, the company ranked on the Fast Track 100, a prestigious league table of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, as well as on the FT1000 – the Financial Times’ list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

The company also boasts two Queen’s Award accolades – having grown export sales 1,700% over five years, James and James won its first award for Innovation in 2016 and a second in 2020 – this time for International Trade, following a first for Innovation in 2016.

Technology Business

What is behind this remarkable development? Order fulfilment, defined as the process of receiving, picking, and packing, and delivering orders to customers, may sound simple, but it is about more than just putting products in the post – it is about creating a good experience for customers, says the company.

This is what triggered the establishment of the new business: when James Hyde and James Strachan realised that the traditional technology behind order fulfilment was not good enough, they decided to design their own.

“We decided to build a software platform that would enable the fulfilment of orders in the cloud. So that everyone, whether the end customer, the retailer or the fulfilment centre, would be looking at the same data at the same time,” says James Hyde.

Emma Dempsey, who became the company CEO last year, affirms that it was the technology that has made the company unique, and it is still one of its distinguishing features. “We are a technology business that does fulfilment, rather than a fulfilment business that has its own technology. And this will remain so: our global expansion will be technology-led, but it will not be about more fulfilment centres. It will be about taking our technology and installing it in an existing operation. And then helping our customers to grow in the new territory.”

Unlike traditional logistics providers, James and James’s product fulfilment service is built specifically for direct-to-consumer, eCommerce brands. The company builds its order fulfilment software in-house, (supported by technology partner DataArt) from scratch, to bridge the gap between high-tech eCommerce platforms and traditional delivery networks. It combines the features one would usually find in separate operational and planning systems into one, helping businesses to be run more efficiently.

James and James develop both the software and the process, based on the understanding of what happens in operations. “People in operations actually take part in the product design sessions, to make sure that the software is really designed around the people doing the job. So, it is a technology that is designed by the job,” says James.

The Right Platform

Today, James and James provide order fulfilment services to retailers of all sizes. With a network of fulfilment centres in the UK, US and EU, the company’s clients can reach customers locally and globally. James and James’ s fulfilment centres take care of everything – from the storage of products to the pick, pack, and despatch of online orders, to the handling of any returns.

This enables businesses to outsource the order fulfilment process to the experts and focus their time and energy on other things. All of the fulfilment centres run on ControlPort – the company’s award-winning order fulfilment software, which enables clients to manage their global operations from one simple, cloud-based platform. James and James also enable its clients to licence the software for their own operation if required, while also using any of the James and James sites – a unique setup in the industry.

Talent acquisition and hiring the best employees from across the sector play an important part in James and James’s growth plan. Emma, who prior to James and James held leadership roles at third-party logistics providers including Clipper Logistics and Unipart Logistics, as well as at Marks and Spencer, affirms that getting the right people is key.

“Labour availability, particularly post-Brexit, when we lost some fantastic European colleagues who did great work in our industry, is certainly a challenge. However, we faced the challenge with a positive attitude – reached into marginalised communities, such as people with mental health issues, people who are care leavers, and all those who may find it difficult to find work. We help them help us in the workplace, and it is great for morale and engagement. On the other hand, we also address the labour shortage by making the technology more efficient. And we are succeeding.”

 Seamless Experience

“Although eCommerce volumes have now normalised after peaking during the pandemic, the market is set to continue to grow organically with new brands coming to the market designed purely for online B2C rather than for traditional retail,” Emma says.

“We are finding that there’s plenty of opportunities out there, specifically as we work with a lot of brands which sell through social media. Any product that is going to be sold through those platforms creates a great growth opportunity for us.

“Demand is coming from customers who have been working with us in the UK and growing, as well as from those who have gone with us to different locations: we continue to grow in the UK, but the international business is showing the same kind of demand at the moment.”

James explains that the company is planning to open on the US West Coast this year and is looking at Canada and Australia for its possible next step. “We are investing in people, in platform technology as well as in new locations to roll out our services and help businesses to grow. Ultimately, it’s about providing a seamless experience for our customers; one set of reporting for their global fulfilment.”

“Our whole mission is not just to be a fulfilment business with the technology but to help customers grow faster than they would have done without us,” Emma concludes.

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