The importance of e-commerce capabilities is nothing new for retail, CPG, and food & beverage operations. Since before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, e-commerce fulfillment offered companies an avenue for growth as consumer purchasing behavior changed.
As the pandemic forced many businesses to close, traditional retailers that didn’t have an e-commerce solution could not take advantage of consumers making the majority of purchases online. As a result, right now, the imperative for e-commerce fulfillment capabilities has never been stronger. And, it’s an essential strategy to keep sales moving as consumers remain apprehensive about shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
E-commerce Fulfillment Success
The strength of a comprehensive e-commerce fulfillment solution is found in the warehouse. What may have been regarded as a “back-end” function of the supply chain, is now the “back-bone.” Everything that goes on in the warehouse happens behind the scenes, out of direct view with the customer. However, everything that goes on in the warehouse impacts the customer’s experience. And, that brings us to omni-channel retailing.
This evolution of multi-channel retailing concentrates more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels. Because of this, omni-channel is changing the nature of warehouse operations and capabilities. To meet consumers’ desire for immediate access to a retailer’s complete inventory and rapid fulfillment, warehouses now need the capabilities to provide around-the-clock responsiveness and be purposefully located near delivery points. This includes re-engineering the facility for smoother product flow to accurately and efficiently fulfill orders. This allows facilities to perform direct to consumer deliveries, and more frequent direct to store deliveries.
But e-commerce fulfillment doesn’t end inside the warehouse. Due in large part to the influence of online retailers that are continually raising the bar, the entire transportation management system of a modern omni-channel retailer now operates on a 24/7 delivery basis. This necessitates both internal culture changes as well as a change in how the transportation network is laid out. It also requires multiple transportation services from traditional fleets to parcel carriers and last mile delivery.
Because of the unprecedented times and a multitude of shopping options available, there isn’t a lot of time to reorganize your strategy around these changes, either. Making changes rapidly is par for the course for retailers who experience these phenomena. It’s a new game.
The game-changers often include a new or updated warehouse management system. Companies must also be sure their warehouse team members have both the experience and cultural capability to meet constant rigors of fulfilling omni-channel consumer demand. Furthermore, retailers need to become extremely agile with their warehouse management systems and practices.
Warehouses must also provide total transparency so that all providers and partners across the supply chain, as well as customers, can see what items are available, where and when. You need a glass pipeline with access to the whole supply chain from the source through the manufacturer through the ‘last mile’ to the consumer.
One example of this type of transparency throughout the supply chain, is RyderShare™ - the ultimate digital platform that connects all parties in the supply chain and gives complete visibility to all freight movements from end-to-end.
With the need to create a resilient omni-channel operation that includes e-commerce capabilities, and to overcome disruption, companies should look for a third-party logistics provider who understands the changing environment, and has the technology and talent required for simplified success.