Distribution has gone through an evolution in the past two decades. This is mainly due to e-commerce order fulfillment. These changes have affected the entire supply chain. According to Statista, in 2017 online retail accounted for 9% of all retail sales in the United States. This may seem like a low number, but year over year this statistic is estimated to grow exponentially. About 70% of Americans will make an online purchase in 2018, contributing $461 billion in retail sales.
Manufacturers that in the past shipped pallet quantities are now becoming single item parcel shippers. This is a significant result of their big-box retail customers asking them to transform into online order fulfillment extensions of their warehouses and stores. Distributors that used to sell to retailers are opening up their own e-commerce stores, either on Amazon, eBay or setting up their own websites. Retailers are shifting their efforts to sell via the internet.
Abilities are stretched, often to the breaking point, causing disappointed customers or unprofitable growth. Automating e-commerce fulfillment processes can provide many solutions to these headaches.
Signs that it’s Time to Invest in E-Commerce Fulfillment Automation:
1. Direct Labor Has Gone Extinct
Reducing human manual labor and replacing with robots is always a tricky subject to approach. Automating your process doesn’t necessarily mean layoffs. Reallocating this manpower is also part of the equation for implementing a successful automation fulfillment process.
2. Shipping Peaks Are The Elephant in the Room
An influx of orders can be unexpected. Imagine just finishing Thanksgiving dinner only to realize your e-comm site is flooded with orders. You are now faced with the task of getting these orders fulfilled correctly and out the door on time. Why not invest in a system that you know will handle this flawlessly? You can now have your cake and eat it too!
3. Customers Expected Their Items Yesterday
A satisfied customer can mean good reviews, recurring revenue and brand loyalty. We now live in a world where I can hop on a majority of websites. Search for what I want and have my item in less than a week or even better 2 days. Informing your customer of an expected wait time, allowing for tracking as well as getting their order right all plays into the ultimate satisfied customer. Unfortunately, maintaining all these variables also leaves more room for an unsatisfied customer.
4. Your Throughput Could Use An Energy Drink
Orders are coming in, and you only have so many hands and time in a day. Meanwhile, the recurring thought is, “If only we could work twice as fast in half the time.” Cue mistakes, burn out and turnover. Automating your fulfillment process will free up manpower to attend to see the bigger picture.
5. You Have To Send Out A Search Party For Your Returns Department
As humans, error is inevitable. Mistakes happen. If you are processing an abundant amount returns/refunds due to pick and pack mistakes, damaged items or missed shipping deadlines this could be a big sign the time has come to look at taking the human factor out and implementing a streamlined approach.
6. People Are Asking Where The Flood Is
Your location is too small. You are climbing on top of each other just to make it work. Space is expensive. Plain and simple who wouldn’t want to consolidate their operation if they had the resources? (And maybe with the money you saved you can afford to buy new pants too!)