Today’s ecommerce customers have high expectations. They’re looking for their online shopping experience to include: fast shipping, visibility, the best prices, easy returns, and continuous communication from order confirmation to the proof-of-delivery (POD). These customers understand that if they are unable to have their expectations met by one online retailer, there are a myriad of others available to them.
Smaller ecommerce businesses are feeling the pressure of increased customer expectations and, without the resources to dedicate to warehouses and fulfillment operations, can become overwhelmed by trying to keep up. In order to thrive in this competitive environment, top online retailers know that high expectations mean they need to get fulfillment processes right.
While the phrase “Pick, Pack & Ship” is often used to describe the warehouse processes for larger operations, small and medium-size ecommerce businesses (SMBs) can still benefit from the lessons learned by larger organizations.
Automate Connectivity & Fulfillment
Many online retailers know that they can expand their reach and customer base by utilizing a diverse range of ecommerce marketplaces. Expanding to these marketplaces, however, comes with its own challenges. Different marketplaces have varied order information and fulfillment criteria and failure to manage them holistically can lead to errors, inventory mismanagement, added labor expense and dreaded customer ratings. Top pick, pack and ship solutions have the capability to automate multi-marketplace connectivity, streamlining fulfillment operations and improving shipment accuracy and timeliness.
The typical approach to organizing a warehouse is to group similar items. However, this practice does not make the best use of space. For example, organizing by product type does not mean that the related items will fit in a given space without time consuming reorganization and that fast-moving items are placed within easy reach to maximize picking productivity.
A “chaotic storage” approach fills free space more quickly and is more efficient in using space. Chaotic storage involves letting the warehouse management system (WMS) direct the put away of items in what appears to be a random fashion to minimize put away time. The WMS then efficiently manages the picking process because it knows where all items were placed.
The key takeaway from the chaotic storage model for SMBs is to look closely at your storage methods and think critically about whether a WMS directed operation is a more efficient way to store and handle merchandise.
Single vs. Multi-order Picking Strategies
SMBs, can now employ picking strategies that were limited to larger warehouse operations to improve picking productivity.
- Single-Order Picking
This is the classic scenario where an order is simply picked, packed, and shipped. For small businesses, this may be perfectly fine. As a business grows, however, individual order fulfillment becomes more-and-more labor intensive and inefficient.
- Multi-order Picking
In this model, a worker is guided by the WMS to pick items for multiple orders at once. Workers are directed to pick orders that have items clustered closely together in the warehouse. Toward the end of the process, orders are consolidated, packed, and shipped.
Real-time Customer Updates on Order Status
In today’s competitive environment, it is critical to offer customers visibility during the entire purchase lifecycle to enhance the customer experience and build delivery confidence. Best-in-class warehouses and online retailers offer full and accurate stock availability as well as continuous fulfillment statuses from picking through proof-of-delivery. Leading ecommerce fulfillment solutions offer SMBs the connectivity, automation and communication capabilities to help inform and delight customers.
Service Level & Carrier Selection
Selecting the right service level and most cost-effective carrier can be a complex endeavor. The size of a product, weight of an item, location of a customer, and other factors can have a substantial impact on carrier cost.
While many ecommerce companies have discounted rates with one carrier, many have discovered that using multiple carriers, comparing rates, and evaluating service levels are best practices to minimize costs and better meet consumer needs. Deciding the right carrier and service can be challenging, especially as the volume of orders increases. Leading ecommerce companies are using shipping solutions that can determine the optimal choice to provide the best service at the best cost and print one-off carrier labels or in batches to support the fulfillment process.
Streamlined Pick, Pack & Ship
Warehouses are complex operations with many moving parts and functions happening
simultaneously. In this environment, it can be challenging to know where to focus productivity improvements and determine where optimization efforts will pay off. It makes sense then that any competitive advantage is best derived from focusing on the elements of the fulfillment process that affect the customer directly, i.e. pick, pack, and ship processes.
Ecommerce pros focus on solutions that benefit the customer by optimizing the entire fulfillment process. Their solutions connect their sale channels, streamline fulfillment operations, improve productivity, continuously engage the customer and support a path for long-term growth.
We’re here to help
Descartes ecommerce solutions provide an end-to-end-ecommerce fulfillment platform. From sales channel connectivity to order and warehouse management to shipping, we can help your ecommerce operations. If you are looking to have a conversation about how Descartes can help your ecommerce business succeed our experts are standing by.