Ecommerce is a sector which is completely built on and driven by technology: without the internet, eCommerce would not be possible; without secure payment systems, customers wouldn’t dream of entering their credit card details into a web form. In today’s connected world, customers want and expect to be able to shop online round the clock, and retailers are recognizing this;in 2013 they invested more in their eCommerce systems than on their in-store systems for the second year running.
Technology never stops moving, and its evolution is changing and refining the industry which has been built on that very technology. And just as front-end eCommerce systems are adapting and expanding to meet ever-increasing customer demand, so the fulfillment systems behind the scenes need to work smarter and faster than ever before in order to keep pace with the exponential growth in the orders they are processing.
Today’s eCommerce fulfillment systems are taking full advantage of secure, cloud-based technology to give them the flexibility they need to meet sudden peaks in demand for products. The move to cloud servers makes scaling up operations during peak order periods incredibly easy; all that’s required is for additional workstations to be hooked up, and they’re ready to go in a matter of minutes.
Modern fulfillment systems also come with a range of sophisticated features which can vastly increase the efficiency of the manual order picking and packing process. For example, the system can identify similar orders which can then be passed through to the warehouse for ‘wave picking’, where multiple orders for similar products are picked at the same time. The result is that large numbers of orders for a single type of product will benefit from an improved average picking and packing time.The latest eCommerce fulfillment systems also receive orders in real time as they are placed by customers. This means that upsurges in orders are instantly visible and staff can quickly be moved from less urgent tasks to assist with order picking and packing, helping to prevent bottlenecks or backlogs of orders.
There have also been some interesting and innovative developments in the area of inventory and stock control. Industry-leading fulfillment systems are now equipped with automated inventory alerts which take into account factors like clients lead times and historical sales data when alerting clients that it’s time to re-order. This helps to dramatically reduce the availability issues which can be so damaging to customer satisfaction. In addition, goods which come with a best before end date can now be dispatched efficiently in date order. This fully automated stock rotation process means that the risk of winding up with stock which needs to be sold quickly at a reduced price or written off altogether is vastly reduced.
Advances in tracking systems are another important feature of the changing face of eCommerce fulfillment. The latest developments mean that customers are able to login and view every single step in the fulfillment process as it happens, from picking and packaging, through dispatch, right up to delivery, including who signed for the parcel – all in real time. This means that customer queries on the progress of orders can be effectively eliminated, and any issues that may arise can quickly be pinpointed and resolved.
Ecommerce fulfillment has developed rapidly over recent years, with live order retrieval, live reporting, accurate picking, fast delivery and professional packaging. All of these improvements are making for a slicker fulfillment process which is giving businesses a competitive advantage when it comes to stock control, customer service and, in turn, their reputation. It will be fascinating to see where technology will take us next.
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