Few industries have grown as rapidly as eCommerce, and the business model continues to evolve. The change has been driven by market leader influences and customer expectations. It wasn't too long ago that an order could be fulfilled within 24 hours and delivered in 5 days to receive glowing praise from the end customer.
Fast forward to 2020 and the consumer has been "trained" to believe that an order placed on Monday will be delivered on Wednesday at the latest. How long will the two-day expectation be acceptable is the question most are asking themselves. If history is a sign of what's to come, same day and next day fulfillment services will become the standard in the not too distant future.
While the experience is designed to be as easy and convenient as possible for customers, the complexity of fulfillment is far from simple. With two-day, next-day, or even same-day deliveries at no extra charge rapidly becoming the norm, maintaining these high levels of customer service requires enhanced technology.
Three primary benefits of enhanced technology are connectivity across the transaction, increased efficiency to meet customer expectations, and the ability to integrate multiple data streams.
1. Connectivity is Critical
The good news for professionals in the eCommerce order fulfillment industry is the availability of a wide range of technology options to help efficiently run your business. What's even more important is these systems are now connected typically through webhooks, APIs, or other integration methods.
This allows supply chain leaders to be constantly connected to sales activity in a real-time environment which allows for labor-management planning, transportation management, material management, and more. There's no question that every day in the life of an eCommerce order fulfillment professional is different and curveballs are the norm but we have to embrace that we are now in a technology-first industry and make investments that position ourselves for future success.
2. Increased Efficiency Makes It Possible to Meet High Levels of Demand
Some of the challenges that supply chain teams experience also impact the ability of merchants to meet order fulfillment goals. For example, the labor market for warehouse associates is extremely tight and competitive. It’s never been more important to not only have competitive wages and a people-first culture, but to finds ways to automate some aspects of warehouse operations.
This does not mean replacing workers – it is about making it possible for the teams to optimize their time on the clock. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are just two technologies that improve eCommerce fulfillment operations. The use of AI to predict order forecasts at the unit level by geography allows for inventory placement closer to future customers which reduces transportation time and cost. It all adds up to a more efficient operation before the first order is processed.
3. Integration of Multiple Systems Enhances Visibility
In today's eCommerce world, there is no "silver bullet" or single super-technology that will magically meet your needs. In fact, providers often take a technology stack approach. This includes leveraging integrations with platforms, marketplaces, and retailers that are connected to an OMS (Order Management System), WMS (Warehouse Management System), TMS (Transportation Management System), and LMS (Labor Management System).
The goal of the “stack” is to drive a cost-effective operation that also provides meaningful information to make intelligent data-backed decisions. To give a business the opportunity to sell products in any channel anywhere in the world and to easily push timely order information to customers.
Many Choices, But Technology Is Not a "Nice to Have"
There are many different ways to enhance your technology infrastructure, including partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider like Kenco.
Let your 3PL do the "heavy lifting" when it comes to finding the best technologies and ways to configure them to meet your needs. At Kenco, our inhouse Innovation Lab is constantly testing multiple new and emerging technologies. Regardless of how you choose to approach it, now is the time to embrace technology. It isn't a "nice to have" anymore, it’s just the price of admission.