Shoppers today want to shop anywhere at anytime, which means retailers must have omni-channel fulfillment strategies in place.
These strategies focus on single orders from single customers, who want their order immediately – or they’ll shop somewhere else. Statistics show that US e-commerce orders will reach $362 billion by 2016. This exponential growth is forcing retailers to rethink their strategies for fulfilling orders – whether they are fulfilled in stores, picked up in stores, or delivered to the consumer’s home.
For success in the omni-channel market, retailers need to know what inventory they have and where it is located, where the order will be fulfilled from and how it will end up in the hands of the consumer. Easy, right? Not even close. Fulfilling orders that originate directly from the online customer is a much different proposition than replenishing brick and mortar stores. Typically merchandise is sent in bulk shipments to the stores to replenish inventory. On the other hand, online order sizes are very small, often a single unit. These orders are then shipped directly to the customer rather than in bulk to the store.
Omni-channel requires different fulfillment processes, such as:
- Flexible fulfillment paths to meet demand, regardless of which channel it comes from.
- Fully automated distribution processes that will increase productivity and fulfillment rates using a variety of material handling equipment.
- Real-time visibility into the entire pool of inventory to reduce safety stock and inventory carrying costs.
- Dynamic control over access and allocation of inventory in real-time.
- Processing and shipping of individual orders at the lowest cost, either direct-to-consumer or direct-to-store.
Fast-growing e-commerce operations experience SKU proliferation and demand fluctuation. Fast moving and slow moving products can change from day to day, impacting order filler efficiency, pick density, walk times and replenishment cycles.
If orders are going to be fulfilled from an existing distribution center, retailers need to make sure they have enough room in the DC to handle this increase of single orders.
Individual orders typically use carton flow or shelving systems, designed to present the product to the order picker so the worker can select an individual piece without interference. After being picked, the product is placed into tote or master carton and transported via conveyor or cart to the next stage of the order picking process.
UNEX has developed many solutions that help retailers embrace omni-channel practices. Contact our Pickologists today to see how we can help your operation succeed.