Recent years, especially the last 18 months, have seen a major e-commerce boom as consumers increasingly shift from physical to online shopping owing to the pandemic’s impact on the world. In fact, India’s e-commerce market is poised to touch USD 200 billion by 2027 from its latest valuation of USD 64 billion in 2020. Given this large-scale shift, physical retail has taken a hit as online shopping is far more convenient, safe, and seamless. However, several brands have shifted to online, and many have also adopted the D2C approach – the key reason for the massive D2C wave that the country has been seeing over the past year.
Now, for the brands that have either shifted to online mediums or are just beginning to establish themselves, warehousing and fulfillment can turn out to be a challenge, especially given the way these critical functions have undergone an immense transformation and are now almost entirely driven by technology. However, efficient warehouse management and fulfillment are integral to business growth and customer satisfaction. So, how can digital brands tackle these challenges effectively? Let’s take a look.
For anyone who has been keeping track of the news, especially the e-commerce, warehousing, and logistics segments, it’s no surprise that technology has taken center stage and automation now runs the show. For online brands, system integrations and automation of processes will go a long way in aiding efficient warehouse management and fulfillment. High-quality, tested Warehouse Management Systems and Order Management Systems (WMS and OMS) are essential to keep the inventory in check with the physical inventory cycle count. This will also facilitate timely order picking and minimum TAT (Turnaround Time), resulting in a better customer experience.
Pick and pack and order processing
It is of utmost importance that while order picking needs to be quick, it also needs to be accurate. Wrong order picking and packaging will result in wrong deliveries and higher customer complaints. Besides, this can also lead to loss of the package in transit and ultimately, higher logistics charges. Ensuring accurate order picking and packing can be done through automation or availing the services of an e-commerce enabler who possesses extensive experience and has the resources to carry out efficient, error-free operations.
Moreover, order processing also needs to be done within 12-24 hours from the time the order is received to avoid clutter and chaos in the warehouses. Handing over the order to the logistics partner as quickly as possible will reduce TAT and make way for faster deliveries and a better customer experience.
Efficient return management
Although it’s best to minimize order returns as they simply increase costs and decrease customer satisfaction, if a return is initiated, checking the product first for any tampering or damage must be the first step. It is only post this that the item can be restocked in warehouses. Brands must also focus on having a seamless order return management strategy in place to save time and optimize costs.
Flexible storage cost and logistics cost advantage
It’s nearly impossible to say that the demand for any product will remain the same throughout. However, as demand fluctuates, non-flexible warehousing will only add to the expenses of a brand. Choosing a warehouse/partner offering flexibility in terms of storage cost is crucial as it offers the brand an added advantage of scaling the business as and when demand increases. For instance, during the festive season, the demand for several products soar, and during this time when brands expand their warehousing capacity, it will allow them to increase sales. Furthermore, it’s also best for online brands to choose a logistics aggregator, particularly in the initial days of the business as this brings down overall logistics cost and improves delivery processes, thereby making for a seamless, convenient customer experience.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns triggered large-scale reverse migration, leaving several companies to face a shortage in manpower. Brands need to manage their manpower efficiently and plan ahead. It’s also recommended that keeping some staff on standby will help avoid operations hitting any snags in case of unplanned extra load in any function.
As more and more brands emerge in the e-commerce space, there is cut-throat competition even as consumer demands evolve rapidly. Brands that prioritize the aforementioned aspects will be able to gain an edge to thrive as warehouse management and fulfillment lie at the core of a successful e-commerce business.