What does the future hold for retail, eCommerce order fulfilment and shipping professionals? Given the speed of change and new innovation in the marketplace, this article looks at trends that are to pave the way to best practices in the order fulfilment.
The holiday season is a great time to jump on cutting-edge fulfilment trends. During this period, as new customers visit your eCommerce store, great fulfilment can give your business the competitive edge that turns casual shoppers into loyal customers and supporters.
Fulfilment cost drivers
Keeping your fulfilment costs down is imperative. Free shipping is the norm of eCommerce, but you shouldn’t offer free or low-cost shipping at the expense of your profit margins.
Factors to watch that could affect shipping this holiday season is a shortage of truck drivers in America. High demand for deliveries during peak holiday shopping could put a strain on a shrinking pool of drivers, leading to delays; increasing petrol prices will increase delivery costs as well.
Although these factors are out of your control, it is more important than ever to find ways to save time and costs in your fulfilment operations. Savings can come from with the aid of a 3PL provider that offers same-day order fulfilment as well as strategically located fulfilment warehouses to reduce shipping time and costs.
Customers expectations when it comes to waiting for ordered deliveries are getting shorter. Retail giants like Amazon have pushed the envelope with expanded offers of same-day and one-day delivery; Walmart offers same-day pickup, with the option to schedule a pickup time.
Although online shoppers have more reasonable expectations of what small and niche retailers can do to turn around orders, a speedy delivery will increase customer satisfaction.
Plan ahead to make ensure your inventory stock is warehoused and ready to ship when holiday orders pile in. Analyse the geographic distribution of your customers to choose optimal warehouse locations for quick delivery and consider dividing your inventory stock between two or more fulfilment centre locations for increased speed of distribution.
With the newest delivery options, consumers can now schedule in-home delivery even when no one is home. By allowing a delivery person access to their home, consumers are inherently trusting a complete stranger to access their home. For example, Amazon Key In-Home gives delivery people physical access to a consumer’s home. This delivery method is promoted as being a more secure method, since the package will be left in the home instead of the more traditional methods of delivery, such as outside the home.
Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and availability of qualified workers lead the defining trends of order fulfilment. While the labour pool remains limited, an increasing number of companies will rely on technology–automation and AI to compete in eCommerce.
As consumers’ order fulfilment and delivery time expectations are increasingly shortened, combined with the current labour shortage, companies will become more and more reliant on automation. We are seeing a lot more companies using robotics to assist with order fulfilment.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Due to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, society is more in tune to current events in real-time. Embracing the IoT, users can switch from desktops to phones and, in doing so, never miss a thing. Consumers are now tuning into IoT to access live updates on their packages, where companies allow it – and this trend is getting bigger. So, the next automation phenomenon will likely be improved package tracking. Today, we receive updates when packages reach a checkpoint. Soon, however, it will be possible to see where a package is during the entire shipping process – perhaps in real-time, including the delivery van that is couriering your package en-route to your home!
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.