Shopping online is no longer the exception; it’s the norm. How often have you pulled up Amazon on a random night when you can’t sleep and ordered things just because you could? It’s so easy now and everything comes so fast; it’s the ultimate in immediate gratification. Well, it isn’t so easy for the e-commerce retailer. With higher consumer expectations, especially when it comes to shipping, it’s critical to be front line on the future of e-commerce and fulfillment practices in the supply chain.
In the Beginning: Fulfillment Before the E-commerce Boom
Fulfillment is every step a business, or third-party logistics provider, has to execute to get product to the customer. This includes everything from receiving the order to handling payments, managing the inventory, and dealing with any post-sales issues like returns and exchanges. Before the e-commerce boom, companies just had to make sure they stocked enough products. Now that e-commerce has exploded onto the scene with no hint of slowing, supply chain and fulfillment processes have had to evolve to meet the changing demands.
Evolving Fulfillment for E-commerce Standards
Millennials make 60 percent of their purchases online, with two-thirds of those purchases being made at Amazon. Why? They’re continually improving the ease of ordering. In a few quick clicks, shoppers can find what they’re looking for, compare prices, read reviews, and then select their product and shipping speed.
There are five stages the e-commerce purchase goes through: Discover, Transact, Fulfill, Care, Community. We’ve seen the Discover and Transact steps above and they seem straightforward and easy. Fulfill can be the hardest part of that equation because it is the fulfillment of not only the goods, but also the fulfillment of the promise that the order will arrive on time, completely correct, and in perfect shape. Delivery times are the apex of the fulfillment equation because the Amazon Effect has conditioned consumers to expect that shipments should be delivered in two days, or in some cases, the same day. To meet this need, logistics providers and warehousing must use tech that supports the current climate. This includes SaaS systems, which are mobile and utilize scanners and tags. This digitizes all fulfillment data, which not only helps with tracking but also provides valuable analytics for inventory projections and supply chain areas of concern.
The Future of Fulfillment: Automation
The logistics sector is seeing an explosion in fulfillment tech. The goal is to speed up the process while reducing errors and doing so in a way that increases profit margin. To do that, smart companies and third-party logistics are turning to automation. Notable tech additions that will enhance any warehouse include advanced conveyor systems, pick to light and put to light systems, automated guided vehicles (AGV), radio frequency identification (RFID) scanning devices and wearable devices, voice-picking technologies, sorting and material handling systems, and robotics. Real-time data processing is also king and while most companies are automated there, it’s important to stay current on new technology that can push efficiency and savings even further into the green.
Supply chain management and fulfillment can seem like a daunting thing in these constantly changing times. Companies who’d rather work with a knowledgeable and experienced partner than suffer a tremendous learning curve should look no further than JIT Services. JIT is a full-service 3PL who offers a wide variety of fulfillment services, work with industry leaders, and have strategically located warehousing, which provides flexibility and fluidity. Contact us today to learn more.