By Ryan Bennett, VP of Fulfillment Sales at ShipHero
As the logistics world gears up for another peak season, brands are looking back on last year’s shortfalls to determine where there’s room for improvement, or experimentation, with how products are shipped.
While the supply chain remains strained by the rapid growth of online orders, new methods and technologies have emerged that help simplify the complicated world of fulfillment and shipping.
According to GoShippo.com, 56% of retailers identified the cost of shipping as their number one challenge. As inventory shortages and delays persist, keeping these costs under control could give your brand the upper hand against competitors. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of alternative shipping options and fulfillment technologies to see how they can keep you ahead of the curve this upcoming peak season.
Micro Fulfillment Centers
From the onset of COVID-19, inventory shortages and warehouse bottlenecks have become a major burden for eCommerce brands. Without the ability to get products to their customers in a timely manner, retailers face the possibility of falling behind on sales and missing an opportunity to scale.
The rapid expansion of online shopping has led to online retailers renting out additional fulfillment centers to accommodate the growing number of orders.
In an effort to shorten delivery times, or eliminate them entirely, many brands have turned to converting existing warehouse space in closer proximity to their customers. These micro fulfillment centers, or MFCs, are typically located in urban centers and provide more flexible delivery options. Brick and mortar store fronts with extra room in the back have become extremely valuable for brands seeking to cut down on last-mile logistics.
In addition to quicker delivery, MFCs also facilitate the option of in-store pick ups, giving nearby customers the ability to bypass the delivery process entirely. Not only does this provide a more satisfying customer experience, but also works to cut down on the workload of your warehouse and carrier operations.
Utilizing New Warehouse Technology
While partnering with reliable and innovative carriers is important for efficient shipping, those deliveries are only as dependable as the warehouses they’re shipped from. It might be tempting to invest in new integrations to get your small business shipping back on track. But the best supply chain solutions might come from focusing on the factors you can directly control inside your fulfillment center.
One of the most common barriers to scale for eCommerce brands is the price of labor, and those costs continue to increase as online shopping becomes the norm. For a sustainable fulfillment operation that can handle a growing pool of customers, many brands have invested in warehouse robotics.
With this new technology automating some of the more time consuming aspects of fulfillment, your existing warehouse staff gets increased capacity to focus on the timeliness and accuracy of orders.
While robotics might come with a high upfront cost, avoiding shipping errors and inventory shortages commonly brought on by manual fulfillment processes can be valuable for long-term and sustainable growth.
Outsourced Fulfillment Service Providers
For an alternative supply chain solution, a top-tier fulfillment service provider might be the answer. With inventory shortages slowing down deliveries, a proper shipping 3PL can help your brand stay ahead of those issues before they impact consumers.
In addition to a smoother buying experience, the secure estimates of inventory and delivery times that a high-visibility fulfillment provider can provide highlights where your fulfillment operation is falling short. This added awareness is essential to building an optimized delivery process that can handle an influx of orders during peak shipping season.
Inventory Management Strategies
Inventory shortages have become an unfortunate reality for eCommerce brands in recent years. No matter the size of your company, what products you offer or how many customers you work with, peak season can quickly put a strain on your fulfillment operations.
Let’s take a look at some of the strategies brands have adopted to stay on top of their inventory levels and work around shortages before they can spoil the customer’s buying experience.
Inventory shortages can mean big trouble for emerging eCommerce brands. This common issue limits the amount of sales you’re able to make. It can also turn away potential customers due to lack of supply, and they might be less inclined to return to your store in the future.
Peak season, although it may be challenging, offers an opportunity to build greater trust between you and your customers. By prioritizing visibility in your warehouse, you’ll be able to flag out-of-stock items on your site, or alert customers when inventories are low before they begin the purchasing process.
Allowing Room for Scale
Opening up your brand to multiple channels lays a solid foundation for scalability. By integrating with multiple eCommerce channels, such as Amazon, Shopify, Etsy and others, you increase your capacity for an expanding customer base while providing those customers with the ability to make purchases using the platforms they prefer.
In addition to opening up these new sales channels, prioritizing automation in your fulfillment processes can allow your brand to scale while curbing inventory issues before they arise. Outdated workflows like offline spreadsheets, unintegrated tools and manual tracking just can’t provide the efficiency and flexibility that’s required for a modernized supply chain.
Once you’ve opened your brand to new sales channels and optimized your warehouse, it’s essential to keep tabs on all facets of your business to identify potential shortfalls in delivery and inventory management.
A major visibility issue brands run into has to do with integrations. If you’re working with multiple data and carrier platforms, a lack of alignment between these tools can make it difficult to understand true inventory levels, leading to confusion for both you and your customers.
Inventory shortages and congested supply chains might be the new norm for eCommerce brands, but that doesn’t mean those problems can’t be solved. With the emergence of alternative delivery methods like micro fulfillment centers and new warehouse optimization tools, your brand is faced with an opportunity to rethink how deliveries are made and be better prepared when peak season rolls around again.
If you’re looking for a partner to help your eCommerce scale to new heights, contact the Fulfillment Experts at ShipHero today.
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Ryan Bennet Vice President Sales, Fulfillment
About the author: Ryan Bennett is the Vice President of Fulfillment Sales at ShipHero. He is responsible for the overall growth of ShipHero Fulfillment by managing the fulfillment sales team. Bennett’s strengths come from being able to relate to anyone and embracing new challenges, as well as an unrelenting sense of determination and the ability to resist rejection. As a leader at ShipHero, he believes that an outstanding leader should be the #1 cheerleader for their team and try to highlight each team members’ unique skills. Plus, he believes in leading by example and being involved on the ground floor. Ryan’s passion for business comes from solving logistical problems, learning about clients’ unique businesses and meeting new and interesting people. Other areas of interest include start-ups, equality, the environment and painting.