16 February 2023

What is the typical product journey in eCommerce?

Join us as Intersoft walks you through each step in a products journey from retailer to the customers hands.


A customer has browsed a retailer’s website to find the product they want to purchase. Perhaps it’s an impulsive buy, leading to multiple sizes of an item of clothing being ordered. Or maybe it’s a long-considered purchase.

Either way, the journey begins with an item in an online basket.

This begins the chain of events that get that product into the customer’s hands. But how does that product go from being available online to reaching the customer’s home or selected pick-up point? What systems and processes happen in the background and what is the typical journey a product makes in eCommerce?

Here we’ll go through each step, following the journey of that purchased item and how it seamlessly makes its way through each element of the eCommerce cycle.

Delivery Choice

Right before a payment is made at checkout, the first step that impacts the course of the eCommerce journey starts: the delivery choice. There is usually a range of delivery options given to the customer such as: deliver to home, deliver to store, store pick-up, lockers etc. and followed by how soon they want it (next day, 3-4 days etc.), and the cost (free or with fees). Inevitably, all or some of these options will come with tracking, in-flight delivery options, and delivery notifications.

A Carrier Management System (CMS) is often used in this step to help simplify how this information is gathered and used. It streamlines and automates the entire shipping process. Retailers can then link to multiple carriers using the carrier management’s API to enable the consumer to keep track of exactly where the product is during its journey.

Delivery options

Pick and Pack

Once the product has been purchased and delivery options are chosen, the information for that product is passed to an Order Management System (OMS). This manages stock and replenishment, and is often linked to the website or channels selling tools.

The next crucial piece of the puzzle comes when the order information of the product reaches the warehouse. A Warehouse Management System (WMS) may be used to streamline operations. It helps inform those in the warehouse where the goods are stored and the most efficient processes and routes for picking orders that come through. In the warehouse, the order is picked and packed and, linking with the CMS or retailer, a delivery label is created alongside any invoices, customs information (CN23’s) for international deliveries, hazmat labels, commercial invoices, and a tracking number.

At this point, the tracking information can then be sent by the retailer to the customer so that they are kept up to date with where their package is heading. For the carrier, manifest details are produced.

Scanning barcode

To the Carrier

When the package is ready to collect from the warehouse, it is handed over to the carrier that the customer chose when placing their initial order. This begins the product’s last-mile journey. The selected carrier, such as Royal Mail or DPD, will then take the package across to a mail centre, where it is sorted and placed on the correct route to its destination. This may be a domestic location or an international one.

As the package goes through this journey from warehouse to doorstep, the customer is given updates on where their package is (tracking and delivery notifications). The level of detail in these updates will depend on the service they chose for delivery. Tracked products will often show location details, delivery driver details, and estimated arrival times, for example. This all ensures that the customer is kept in the loop and their product arrives when expected.

dispatching boxes at warehouse

Arrival at destination

Another feature determined by the customer at the time of purchase, or chosen by the retailer based on the value other goods or other enhancements, comes into play when the package is ready to be delivered. There are many options these days for where a package can be dropped off. These range from traditional delivery right to the customer’s doorstep to in-store drop-off points at retailers, or even lockers in various locations.

At this point, the systems that have been tracking the parcel will be updated to reflect that the shipment has been successfully delivered.

Possibility of returns

But what happens if the customer is unhappy with the item they receive? Perhaps the size is wrong, or the product is faulty in some way. This is when the entire cycle can start again.

For a customer to initiate a return, the method is dependent on the retailer. Some of the common ways to start a return are:

  • A returns label in the box or a printable label
  • Log into a customer account on the retailer’s website or mobile app
  • Download a QR returns code via returns portal (retailer branded)
  • Call customer support


A retailer may use a Carrier Management System to offer some or all of the above options as an added feature or it can be a standalone piece of technology or software partner that ties into the retailer’s larger system.

Much like the delivery options when purchasing a product, the choices of how a customer returns a product also comes into play here, and the more flexible the options the better. The retailer either works with the carrier(s) directly or uses a selection of OMS, CMS and WMS features to offer flexible return collection and drop-off options.

Once the item has been received by the carrier, it then begins its entire journey again, whizzing it’s way back to the original sender. Hopefully, this will be through a tracked service so that the retailer knows what is coming back, why, and when it will be received.

qr returns


The eCommerce journey is a well-oiled machine. Each part of the process, from tracking through an Order Management System to shipping through a carrier from a warehouse, gets the product from a seller directly into the hands of a purchaser.

Fortunately, great partnerships exist in this industry with many solutions tying in links and integrations to make the whole customer experience seamless.

So, next time you click that “Buy Now” button, you’ll be able to recognise the chain reaction started, and how every piece of the puzzle aims to make shipping as effortless as possible.