If you have an online store, you may be faced with the challenge of keeping customers coming back, especially since the holidays are long behind us. And unless you’re up to speed with Amazon, you may need some tips on how to enhance your e-commerce fulfillment services in Toronto. There are many tips that can help you update your processes to meet customer expectations, save money, boost productivity and efficiency in the warehouse, and improve communications with your shipper and suppliers. The following tips will get you started towards growing your business and gaining more customers.
Seamless Integration with the Supplier
In most cases, products sold online are sourced from distributors, drop ship suppliers, and sometimes the brand itself. In each scenario, a seamless connection between your order management system (OMS) and your suppliers is crucial. There are programs and software designed to make this communication seamless, so investing in the programs or working with an outsourced order fulfillment services company will make this possible.
Higher Order Visibility and Tracking Process
Can you, your suppliers, and your customers see the items available through your online store? Higher visibility across this channel will allow you to provide more products to your customers, plus you will be better able to track inventory as well. End-to-end visibility of your orders, combined with the ability to track them from start to finish, is key to a successful supply chain. This gives you more control over your inventory and lets you assist orders that get stuck anywhere in the system. Higher visibility also lets you know when an item is low in stock so you can contact your suppliers for more.
Exception-Based Order Management
One order management strategy is to tell customers their orders will be delivered late and then try to make up for the bad user experience. A better way to handle a situation like this is to upgrade delayed shipments to faster shipping so you can still meet the original delivery date stated upon the customer’s purchase. This will cost you more to fulfill the order, but you won’t have to risk losing a customer from a bumpy shopping experience. Good business the first time increases the chances of repeat business going ahead. Exception-based order management ensures that your processes go as planned, and when there is a risk of a delayed or misplaced order, you get an alert. With this system on hand, your process will run smoothly and you will be able to handle situations well when there are issues.
To speed up the order fulfillment process, you should implement the use of automation. This doesn’t have to mean investing in robots to perform manual processes, but it does mean that you can better track what comes in and out of inventory in real time. High-quality scanners make this possible, and software presents users with a dashboard so they can keep track of items. There are also apps that can be downloaded onto tablets and smartphones which also allow for automation.
Intelligent Warehousing Strategies
Since “Amazon Prime” is one of the leading standards of shipping today, online shoppers expect two-day deliveries as a standard feature. Some customers are even prepared to pay extra for next-day or same-day shipments. This may require products to be shipped by air, or from a warehouse that is located closer to the shopper’s location. Unless your business is large enough to have multiple warehouse locations, a third-party logistics partner (3PL) provider may be your next best option to meet customer expectations. This way, you can achieve the same results at a fraction of the cost.
Choosing the Right Shipper
With your back-end processes running smoothly, you can become very successful with your online venture. However, if your shipper is not up to speed, it won’t matter how good the relationship is that you have with your supplier. If your deliveries are sent out on time, but because of the shipper arrive late or are delayed, lost, forgotten, or damaged, you need to make some changes. Choosing a shipping service that continuously meets your standards is equally as important as your visibility and communication with your suppliers.
Keep Customers Informed
In e-commerce, the order fulfillment process begins when the customer completes a transaction. Every step of your process, from supplier coordination to dispatching and delivery, occurs while the customer waits at the other end. Keeping your customers informed and engaged by sharing details and updates about their order will strengthen and improve your relationship with them. A good order management system will update the customer when their order was received from the supplier, dispatched to their address, where it is along the route, and when it arrives to their doorstep. You can update your customer with e-mail notifications, which will keep them satisfied and encourage repeat business.
Smooth Return Policy
Even though your customer has received their order, you may still have work to do if there is something wrong with it. Many times, this results in returns, which can end up as refunds instead of replacements. About 30% of e-commerce orders turn into returns, whereas brick-and-mortar stores have only a return rate of nine percent. If you have an efficient process in place that makes refunds simple and easy, you may win your customers back and end up with repeat business. What does this look like? The term used for these situations is “reverse logistics,” and if you work with a 3PL provider, you will benefit from this service. You should also collaborate with suppliers who accept returns, refunds, and replacements. If you want to pave the way for repeat purchases from customers, provide a minimum 30-day return window, free return shipping, and zero restocking fees.
Thorough Staff Training
Ensuring that your staff is fully trained is crucial to a smooth product fulfillment process. Staff should be aware of as much as possible in terms of what they will encounter in their work, and what your expectations are for them. Training new employees is valuable, as are refresher training sessions for when new technology or processes are brought in.
Outsource Your Order Fulfillment Process with 3PL Provider Lean Supply Solutions
As mentioned, a 3PL provider can help you manage your operations so you can focus on making your business and brand more accessible to your online shoppers. They can help you with most of the jobs mentioned above so you save time and money and speed up your success and revenue. If you’re looking for the right company to partner with, Lean Supply Solutions is the answer. We arise to the challenge of meeting our clients’ needs through our services, which include product fulfillment, warehousing and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse pick and pack, and order fulfillment. Lean Supply Solutions can offer consistent, accurate, and quality results. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team, or to ask any questions, contact us at 905-482-2590.
Artificial intelligence (AI) in supply chain management has been highly beneficial to many businesses. Over the past few years alone there have been considerable advancements in the field, and many people believe it is the next step in the digital revolution with its potential for total automation and error-free processes. Some believe AI should always be regulated to ensure there are no security or safety risks. Whether companies are feeling positive about AI or not, it is creeping into industrial processes through technology and the devices we use. Manufacturing sectors are noticing this change and have begun making investments in AI to improve business and supply chain functions. If you want to know how AI will affect the supply chain, here’s some important information to consider.
Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain Planning
AI is created by machines that operate similarly to human minds—with free thought. When a machine makes its own decisions based on historical collected data, it can achieve a goal. This process is known as AI. AI can be classified as being part of the fields of robotics, software programming, image recognition, transportation, and much more. It is generally organized into two categories, which are explained below.
- Augmentation: AI that helps humans with daily tasks without having complete control of the output. Some examples of augmentation include virtual assistants, data analysis, and software solutions. Augmentation is generally used to reduce errors that occur due to human bias.
- Automation: AI that works completely on its own in any field without any human intervention. Robots that perform key process steps in manufacturing plants are an example of automation.
Increase in Productivity and Profits
By reducing the cost of processes and saving time on them, AI has made the supply chain more productive and profitable for businesses. Services like Amazon Prime have used AI to streamline processes and manage customer expectations. For example, they send customers automated messages to update them on product tracking. This manages their expectations, which means repeat business, and it simultaneously boosts productivity. AI can handle trivial supply chain tasks without error in a shorter period of time. For example, dealing with invoice exceptions, discrepancies, and errors or responding to supplier inquiries are duties that can take hours and days. Now, AI can handle these manual processes.
AI can adapt to changing scenarios and handle the entire supply chain process. Using historical data and trends, AI can streamline every aspect from demand to inventory to supply and meet the needs of the market. With minimal human input, time saved, and reduced errors, AI provides a variety of benefits to manufacturers. Also, since AI has vast memory options available, it can learn from past mistakes and adapt to ensure there are fewer errors going forward.
Predictive algorithms can allow AI systems to shorten delivery times and improve efficiency. These algorithms predict demand before a request order is placed. Global supply chain managers can use AI systems to detect risks in trade shipping lanes, and tools like shock-detecting sensors can make them aware of potential damage to cargo. Using this data, managers can take corrective action to minimize operational delays. Machine-learning systems may also be able to recognize customer behaviour through common scenarios and trends, allowing for items to be pre-picked and packed before orders are made. This allows for better productivity and efficiency in the supply chain.
AI for Global Supply Chain Management
Planning, optimization, and demand forecasting is a challenge in the global supply chain. AI may be essential to identifying and predicting problems and finding potential solutions. Supply chain managers need to absorb more data than any person can possibly process, and since this is such a difficult feat, many companies do not understand the full depth of their supply chain risks. Being unprepared to respond efficiently or effectively can cause disruptions in the supply chain. This is where AI comes in. These programs can absorb a high volume of data, organize it efficiently, and extract the necessary insights to suggest or make informed decisions. AI can also gather and analyze external data from multiple sources, including newsfeeds, social media, weather reports, and historical data.
Chatbots for Procurement Process
Chatbots provide automation and augmentation, which can streamline the procurement process. These bots can perform daily tasks such as:
- Speaking to suppliers during trivial conversations
- Placing purchasing requests
- Researching and answering internal questions about procurement functionalities
- Receiving, filing, and documenting invoices and payments and placing order requests
Warehouse Management with Machine Learning
AI can use algorithms and data streams to make predictions about various processes in the supply chain. This endless loop of forecasting is also self-improving, which could reshape warehouse management for the better.
Self-Driving and Unmanned Vehicle Technology
AI can be used for the internal, data-crunching aspects of the supply chain, but it can also be used for mechanical processes. Aside from production machinery, AI can also optimize transportation. Automotive and tech companies like Tesla and Google have been testing driverless cars for several years now and have produced impressive results. If this technology can be fully developed, it will drive product transportation and shipments. AI could help improve accuracy, decrease lead times, and reduce transportation and human labour costs.
Get Logistics and Warehouse Robotics Support at LSS
Lean Supply Solutions can help you if you are looking for a third-party logistics company with the latest technology in artificial intelligence. We always strive to stay up to date on the rising trends in e-commerce warehouses. We commit to being aware of our clients’ operational challenges as they arise and helping them get the most out of their processes. Our third-party logistics, packaging, and supply chain management can streamline your processes for better success, and by striving to ensure that the right products are provided to the right customers at the right time, we can offer consistent, accurate, and quality results. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team, or to ask any questions, contact us today.