As a result, retailers and suppliers are feeling this pressure to provide the same service but often lack the required fulfillment capabilities.
So, how can they emulate the experience of convenience? One option is to offer “omnichannel shopping”, which aims at providing a seamless customer experience whether a customer is shopping online or in-store.
While it does make it possible to stay relevant where businesses aspire to offer next-day or same-day delivery, it also poses new challenges for their supply chain and fulfillment processes.
Being creative to cater to customer expectations
Today’s customers expect a certain level of convenience and service. This includes browsing products online or in a physical store and have them delivered to them or to a convenient place on the same or the following day. For a business without the capabilities of Amazon, it means being creative with the resources and facilities that are available and fully leveraging them. This also includes offering additional delivery options, such as click-and-collect and home delivery.
Flexibility, the availability of advanced supply chain solutions, and the consumer expectation of shopping convenience have all driven these requirements. Despite personal preferences and there always being customers preferring to buy in person in “brick and mortar” stores, retailers and suppliers wanting to remain competitive must offer a shopping experience with a variety of ordering and delivery options.
This is as true in the US and Europe as it is in Latin America and Asia, and as such it presents similar challenges for supply chains, warehouses, and stores across the globe.
Online orders are not only rapidly increasing in numbers but are simultaneously diminishing in size, sometimes down to orders with single items. As a result, workload in warehouses has increased. However, with the growing number of orders, it is even more crucial they are picked accurately. This means that all warehouse processes, including picking, packing, and shipping, need to become more efficient. Additionally, retailers need to manage a growing number of customer returns and fluctuations in order volumes, such as for promotional or seasonal items.
What adds to these challenges is the increasing complexity involved in managing different transport service providers and parcel services to control cost.
Required are complete visibility of warehouse processes, inventory, and order status, as well as a high picking and fulfillment efficiency to overcome those challenges.
Tackling the challenges with technology
Consumers’ shopping preferences are the central point of omnichannel retailing. The flexibility in the supply chain, especially warehousing processes, is what sets a retailer up for success or failure. So, what’s required? Forward planning, speedy and flexible fulfillment and a rapid response to changes in orders. This efficiently manages good flows and minimizes costs.
Modern omnichannel warehouse management solutions are scalable to handle any number of orders and any volume of goods. They also provide the flexibility to change workflows, so that retailers can continue to deliver a tailored and integrated customer experience across all channels. Plus, they must be able to handle multiple order types. This can be achieved through execution workflows with different cut-off times, streamlining order picking and supporting different delivery options, as preferred by end customers.
Other key capabilities are centralized management of transport service providers and courier express parcel services to control cost; as well as track and trace functionality, including proof of delivery, which keeps track of shipments during the “last mile” to the point of delivery. The result is complete visibility of the supply chain, from the supplier to the point of sale to the end customer. Catering to online shopping is not complete without comprehensive returns processing to accommodate the constantly increasing return rates across virtually all product categories.
Omnichannel retailers are also becoming aware of the benefits of implementing end-to-end supply chain processes for expanded visibility and control. To support this, warehouse management systems have to integrate with other supply chain solutions, such as transportation management systems or parcel shipping solutions.
Omnichannel retailing poses challenges which requires increasing speed and accuracy of order fulfillment and optimizing delivery times. This, however, poses a unique opportunity for smaller, dedicated retailers and suppliers who are ready to bridge the gap and do what the giants cannot do – specialize.
Adopting the right warehouse management solution allows them to keep up with their customers’ demands while improving their operational efficiency and ultimately their bottom line. In return, their customers stay loyal.
If you partner with an expert such as Körber, with expertise in the entire supply chain, you can set your business up for success. Learn more about our warehouse management solutions.