Smarter warehousing and logistics can support eCommerce brands in lean times

Smarter warehousing and logistics can support eCommerce brands in lean times

Against a challenging economic backdrop, more eCommerce brands are scrutinising their warehousing and logistics operations to improve efficiency and cut costs while maintaining the quality of service provided to their customers. The pressure is on fulfilment providers to rise to the challenge and drive through sweeping changes to how they operate – from better use of technology to running a more sustainable fulfilment network.

So what three things should eCommerce brands prioritise from their fulfilment in 2023?

1) For excellent service: The human touch.

In the current climate, eCommerce brands need to pursue growth wherever it takes them while doing everything in their power to retain existing customers and keep them happy. This means that they are more likely than ever to want to speak to other humans about their fulfilment operations – whether to help them test a new sales channel or troubleshoot an urgent problem.

The problem is that across much of the fulfilment industry, employees have been steadily disempowered by the shift towards automating everything in the warehouse. In too many cases, they’re subservient to machines and given very little training to do their jobs well. This leaves brands dealing with customer service staff that don’t understand their business or customers, or worse, are unable to speak to a human warehouse team member.

A depersonalised, rigid approach to fulfilment won’t cut it when eCommerce brands have to use every ounce of creativity and ingenuity to keep their businesses growing. The human touch is needed.

2) For agility: Tech and data innovation.

Of course, humans are much better at their jobs when they have great technology supporting them. In recent years we have seen the steady adoption of promising new technologies across many aspects of warehousing and logistics operations.

 

Earlier this year, Amazon announced its ‘first fully autonomous mobile robot,’ able to move large carts around the warehouse and safe enough to work directly alongside human workers. It’s not just Amazon introducing this sophisticated tech into its operations – the larger fulfilment companies are also using robots to maximise warehouse efficiency, manage workloads, and reduce costs.

Over the past two years, warehouse drones have become commonplace for undertaking highly-accurate stock management. Their ability to undertake out-of-hours work means that critical inventory data can be shared with workers first thing each morning – flagging up concerns or anomalies that need to be acted on. And as drone capabilities grow and safety standards improve, it won’t be long until we start seeing the tech being used more widely – for example, to pick orders or even move stock.

Warehouses that employ technology which genuinely helps humans better manage workloads and give more time to customer service will deliver more value to eCommerce brands in the year ahead.

“eCommerce brands need to pursue growth wherever it takes them while doing everything in their power to retain existing customers and keep them happy.”

Just as important is the role of warehousing data. This complements marketplace data – for example, from Shopify or from the brand’s D2C website – to provide practical insights on how much stock each brand should hold, how they can generate extra momentum for popular products, or where certain products should be stored on the warehouse floor to optimise the picking and packing process.

3) For everyone: A sustainability-first mindset.

With sustainability still high on the agenda for the end customer, eCommerce brands will continue to come under pressure to improve their sustainability credentials in 2023, especially when selling to younger audiences.

From solar-powered fulfilment centres to fleets of electric vehicles delivering last-mile services, eCommerce brands should seek out fulfilment companies that help them to reduce their environmental impact without charging a premium for the sustainability-first mindset. However, brands must look beyond the marketing collateral and check that their providers are true to their word – by asking to see their sustainability impact reporting or taking a warehouse tour to see the sustainability measures for themselves.

Taking logistics and warehousing off the worries list.

With the UK facing a challenging economic outlook for the year ahead, eCommerce brands need to spend as much time as possible on sales and marketing to keep their businesses growing.

Fulfilment – which, even at its most basic level, includes stock management, picking and packing, delivery and returns – can quickly become a full-time operation, leaving little space for growth-generating activities.

Enlisting the help of a third-party logistics partner is more important than ever when times are hard, but it’s clear that not all fulfilment companies are made equal. Brands must seek out nimble, tech-enabled and people-centric partners that can alleviate the fulfilment burden and keep their overheads low while freeing them up to focus on the big picture.

 

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