Overcoming omni channel fulfillment limitations
There are several eCommerce solutions that, when implemented, will help retailers deliver omni channel experiences to customers. Merchants can engage shoppers across a myriad of channels, but they can also fulfill orders from multiple locations as well. However, it is easy to forget that offering an omni channel experience is not just about purchasing and deploying the right solutions – there are other roadblocks that merchants must address as well.
Here are a few of the barriers that retailers encounter as they look to deliver a seamless experience to their customers:
1. The order fulfillment process
So, where can this process go wrong? First and foremost is fulfillment location size and density. If warehouses are full of inventory, it can be difficult to remove items from shelves or storage units. Or, if goods must be delivered from one end of a large warehouse to another on foot, this can also lead to delays and slower fulfillment speeds.
Another big problem lies in the experience levels of staff. While tenured warehouse employees have likely been trained how to pick, pack and ship orders, new workers will not be as proficient. Additionally, with many merchants implementing ship-from-store offerings, this means the people taking care of fulfillment tasks could be regular store associates who do not have the requisite training.
Finally, those in charge of the fulfillment process may lack the tools to expedite the task. For instance, the lack of a wireless barcode scanner may really slow down order fulfillment.
2. Determining the optimal source for order fulfillment
Order fulfillment is not as simple as receiving an order and then processing it. When merchants have multiple locations from which they stock inventory, deciding where to to fulfill the order can be pivotal, both in terms of maximizing operational efficiency and getting customers their products as quickly as possible.
For instance, if one location does not have much stock left, it may be wiser to fulfill the order from a different location as long as it does not mean a significant delay to the customer. Or, in the case of multi-unit orders, should retailers send the order from a single location or multiple? Both are viable options, depending on whether customers want their purchases right away or whether they want it in a single package.
Learning how to decide which fulfillment location is optimal for both the business and the customer and creating logic that will automatically choose the right option is important to order routing efficiency.
3. Seasonal demand
Most retailers experience fast seasons and slow seasons, and some merchants even have peak periods multiple times per year. While flurries of sales activity is good for merchants’ bottom lines, they can also put order fulfillment processes to the test, particularly in today’s always-on digital commerce world, where customers can make purchases at any hour of the day.
Retailers must be able to accurately gauge how much capacity each fulfillment location can handle and consider hiring additional employees and extending operating hours so processes like picking, packing, and shipping are not hindered by the increase in workflow.
With the renewed focus on improving the order fulfillment process, it is critical that retailers are able to recognize potential challenges and overcome them.