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An Empirical Examination of the Decision to Invest in Fulfillment Capabilities: A Study of Internet Retailers

Author

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  • Taylor Randall

    () (David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112)

  • Serguei Netessine

    () (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3730 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Nils Rudi

    () (INSEAD, Boulevard de Constance, 77305 Fontainebleau Cedex, France)

Abstract

Internet technology has allowed for a higher degree of decoupling between the information-intensive sales process and the physical process of inventory management than its brick-and-mortar counterpart. As a result, some Internet retailers choose to outsource inventory and back-end operations to focus on the sales/marketing aspects of e-commerce. Nonetheless, many retailers keep fulfillment capabilities in-house. In this paper, we identify and empirically test factors that persuade firms to integrate inventory and fulfillment capabilities with virtual storefronts. Based on the extant literature and previous research in e-commerce, we formulate nine theoretical predictions. We then use data from a sample of over 50 public Internet retailers to test whether empirical data are consistent with these hypotheses. Finally, given the strategic importance and financial magnitude of the inventory investment decision, we analyze the effect of this decision on the economic success of Internet retailers during the period of study. We find that there are many circumstances in which it is prudent to own fulfillment capabilities and inventory. Empirical data are consistent with hypotheses that this tendency is higher for older firms selling small, high-margin products, offering lower levels of product variety, and facing lower demand uncertainty. We also discover that firms making inventory ownership decisions that are consistent with an empirical benchmark derived from environmental and strategic factors are less likely to go bankrupt than those making inconsistent inventory choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Taylor Randall & Serguei Netessine & Nils Rudi, 2006. "An Empirical Examination of the Decision to Invest in Fulfillment Capabilities: A Study of Internet Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(4), pages 567-580, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:52:y:2006:i:4:p:567-580
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1050.0493
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhan Qu & Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2017. "Incentives through Inventory Control in Supply Chains," CESifo Working Paper Series 6705, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Serguei Netessine & Nils Rudi, 2006. "Supply Chain Choice on the Internet," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(6), pages 844-864, June.
    3. Çömez-Dolgan, Nagihan & Tanyeri, Başak, 2015. "Inventory performance with pooling: Evidence from mergers and acquisitions," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 331-339.
    4. QU, Zhan & RAFF, Horst & SCHMITT, Nicolas, 2016. "A Theory of Intermediation in Supply Chains Based on Inventory Control," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-40, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    5. Gérard P. Cachon & Marcelo Olivares, 2010. "Drivers of Finished-Goods Inventory in the U.S. Automobile Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 202-216, January.
    6. Agatz, Niels A.H. & Fleischmann, Moritz & van Nunen, Jo A.E.E., 2008. "E-fulfillment and multi-channel distribution - A review," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 187(2), pages 339-356, June.
    7. Yu, Dennis Z. & Cheong, Taesu & Sun, Daewon, 2017. "Impact of supply chain power and drop-shipping on a manufacturer’s optimal distribution channel strategy," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 259(2), pages 554-563.
    8. repec:wsi:apjorx:v:34:y:2017:i:04:n:s0217595917500166 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Zhan Qu & Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2015. "Inventory Control and Intermediation in Global Supply Chains," CESifo Working Paper Series 5269, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Sergey Rumyantsev & Serguei Netessine, 2007. "What Can Be Learned from Classical Inventory Models? A Cross-Industry Exploratory Investigation," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 9(4), pages 409-429, April.
    11. Cong Pan, 2018. "Supplier Encroachment and Consumer Welfare: Upstream Firm’s Opportunism and Multichannel Distribution," ISER Discussion Paper 1020, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    12. Raff, Horst & Schmitt, Nicolas & Qu, Zhan, 2017. "Incentives through Inventory Control in Supply Chains," KCG Working Papers 7, Kiel Centre for Globalization (KCG).
    13. Xu, Haoxuan & Gong, Yeming (Yale) & Chu, Chengbin & Zhang, Jinlong, 2017. "Dynamic lot-sizing models for retailers with online channels," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(PA), pages 171-184.

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