How Technology is Changing the Field
There’s no doubt about it: Amazon has set a high bar when it comes to order fulfillment.
At a time when consumers are becoming more likely to make purchases from their smartphone than in a store, Amazon has set a standard for e-commerce and rapid home delivery that retailers can no longer ignore. And for consumers, the new normal is same-day shipping and two-day shipping — or faster.
The good news:
Amazon set another high bar by merging automated warehouse robots alongside human employees to meet their fulfillment demand. While robots compile items for a customer’s order, ensuring that literally tens-of-thousands of orders can be sent out, humans still play a crucial role in supervising the process.
In other words, investing in technology gives your workers the tools to fulfill orders using the smartest and most efficient methods available. That’s how you maintain a high track record for assured deliveries.
Vision and imaging technology
Let’s face it: your warehouse requires a highly-controlled environment.
And while order fulfillment is a complex process, technology lets retailers streamline the process from point of sale to delivery. If Amazon can demonstrate high-levels of efficiency in their warehouses through vision and imaging technologies like handheld image-based barcode readers, the same kinds of technology can also be used by retailers of any size.
Today, cameras, sensors and imagers help maximize productivity in a host of ways. Vision technology, for example, helps retailers improve the checkout experience by eliminating the need to scan a product’s barcode. In this regard, vision technology lets your workers access information more quickly — and with a higher accuracy rate.
Inventory management software
Studies indicate that product availability is the second highest concern for customers, after price. It’s a major factor in their buying decisions, which means it’s more important than ever for an e-commerce retailer to have the right item in stock.
Struggling with inventory spreadsheets is a headache for any retailer, which is why technology can make the process of inventory management considerably easier.
If you need to get products to customers through multiple channels and fulfillment options, new software will integrate your channels, locations and order processes using a single management platform.
Inventory management software allows you to track inventory by serial numbers and instantly know when it’s time to replenish supply. You can ensure you’re carrying the right amount of stock to meet customer demand.
This kind of software also enables you to quickly locate items at different locations and at the right place in the supply chain.
A Warehouse Management System will help you coordinate your warehousing and distribution activities while managing inventory and the flow of product. It can also help you expand your base of suppliers. There are onboarding programs to match you with new vendors when products are needed. For example, if a supplier notifies you that there’s a problem fulfilling an order, you can quickly locate a new supplier.
Meeting 2-day shipping expectations
Being able to meet customer expectations similar to Amazon’s same day shipping is no longer just an option to ponder. Customers expect it. Being able to demonstrate quick delivery times will help solidify customer loyalty.
According to the Walker Sands Future of Retail 2018 study, 42 percent of survey participants said one-day shipping was the No. 1 incentive when asked what would make them more likely to shop online.
Other retailers are asking suppliers to meet e-commerce orders on the retailer’s behalf, or simply fulfilling orders through a retail store closest to where your customers are. Some retailers are opting to open distribution centers in cities that get the most orders.
But most importantly, give your customers a strong sense that you care about their package and its delivery by using technology to communicate with them while the package is en route.
Systems like Globegistics can improve communications between you and your customer during shipping, and you can use carrier integration software to share shipment updates and send a status notification from the carrier to the customer. This enables you to notify the customer if there’s a delay in shipping, and to provide information for all customer inquiries.
Emerging order fulfillment technology and software can help reduce the number of decisions that need to be made by warehouse staff per order, enabling your workers to be more productive and helping to cut down on errors. And because e-commerce sales are expanding rapidly, handling e-commerce fulfillment in a timely and cost-efficient manner is going to be a key to your future business success.
By MICHAEL FREEMAN | Contributing Writer