You may need an array of disparate fulfilment channels to serve many customer purchasing channels well.
1) The pressures omnichannel marketing can put on your pick and pack operations
Ecommerce and multi-channel retailers are feeling pressure to increase revenues in new and different ways, which is driving increased competition for market share and attempts to reduce prices in an increasingly customer driven market. Amidst this conflict, ecommerce, omnichannel and multichannel ecommerce operations of all kinds struggle to improve their efficiency and reduce costs without incurring fatal drops in customer service levels.
Many retailers have turned to employing multiple local warehousing, pick and pack and distribution partners to serve a growing network of retail outlets, kiosks and web-based sales portals simultaneously. In omnichannel operations like these, all the channels, assets and points of customer contact need to work well together, and give the impression of one single, seamless whole. The goal is to provide an excellent end user/customer experience while casting an extremely wide net. Obviously it is all too easy to overextend yourself but it is just as deadly to be too conservative.
Smaller businesses can take a great many cues from the ways major retail outfits have altered their pick and pack operations to make onmichannel ecommerce work for them.
2) Customer expectations that will force you to adapt your pick and pack system
Customers today demand quite a lot, and there are more than enough competing retailers for them to find someone who will offer it all. They want a wide range of products: in-stock inventory, flexible next day (or even same day) delivery, easy returns and often free shipping as well. Giving them the kind of lightning fast fulfilment they expect requires faultless pick and pack operations.
Adapting to an omnichannel marketing approach that meets all, or even most of these demands requires you to understand the trends that define the current omnichannel marketplace, such as:
- A large and in-stock inventory: Your customers won’t tolerate out of stock or on order products. But how are you to stock so much inventory, and pay for the warehousing expense?
- A huge increase in one-line orders, even for brick-and-mortar stores: Managing online orders in parallel to traditional retail sales requires new pick and pack methods.
- Fast shipping: Customers expect what used to be considered express delivery as standard. Omnichannel sellers need to invest in software and hardware solutions that improve pick and pack speed and accuracy, or partner with a 3PL who already has.
- Dynamic sales: Flash or dynamic sales offer extremely low prices on one or more specific SKUs for a tiny window. Your pick and pack operations must be warned, and be capable of handling the rapid fulfilment and inevitable fast re-stocking.
- Return and subscription sales: Subscribing or returning customers represent a fantastic opportunity for up selling and cross selling. A good distribution partner can include upsell options with their orders.
- Free returns and free shipping: In order to offer these without losing your shirt requires you to reduce warehouse costs dramatically. Improved pick and pack operations are just the start.
How are retailers meeting these often contrary demands? Many are investing heavily in warehousing, distribution and inventory management operations, hoping to make the costs back on efficiency and increased sales. Many others are seeking out skilled 3PLs who have already made these investments, and already have experience providing pick and pack, distribution and other services for omnichannel sales operations.