Optimizing Distribution for Omni-Channel Retailing

Online and mobile commerce have brought more direct-to-consumer orders into the warehouse, so order fulfillment processes must be optimal

Voxware Keith Phillips Lg 2 11243561

The success of all retailers, regardless of what they sell, relies on getting the right product to the right customer in a timely manner. This efficiency and accuracy is more critical than ever before—but it is also more challenging.

As online and mobile shopping rise at a torrid pace, retailers must now address a growing number of direct-to-consumer orders, placing new demands on how they manage their distribution centers. Consumers have closer access to the products they’re looking for and their expectations on delivery are higher than ever. In fact, in a Voxware survey of consumers, nearly 30 percent of respondents would abandon shopping with a retailer altogether if they receive an incorrect order just one time, while 62 percent are much less or less likely to shop with a retailer for future purchases if an item they purchase online is not delivered within two days of the date promised.

With so many customers having high standards and competition only growing more intense in online retail, shipping correct orders on time is essential—delays and inaccuracies can have a disastrous impact on customer satisfaction, brand image and bottom lines.

It’s Time to Update the Warehouse

As online and mobile shopping have increased, retailers have responded by implementing more advanced websites and mobile apps, and by deploying new technology to optimize the online storefront. However, many retailers have not given enough attention to optimizing their supply chain for multi-channel distribution, and as a result, order fulfillment is often suboptimal. Retailers still have their existing distribution center infrastructure in place, which simply addresses order fulfillment for their traditional brick-and-mortar stores. They are trying to cope with existing resources, but these processes are insufficient for the shift that’s taking place. Orders now have to be processed differently—and there is no room for error.

Online and mobile commerce have brought significantly more direct-to-consumer orders into the warehouse, so order fulfillment processes must be optimal. At the core of order fulfillment is order selection. The vast majority of inefficiencies and errors occur in the distribution center at the moment of order selection or when an item is picked from within the warehouse to be shipped to the consumer. Order selection has the largest impact on ensuring swift, accurate customer and store order fulfillment, and that is why voice technology can bring tremendous benefits to a retail organization.

Voice Technology Can Address New Distribution Demands

Most organizations are still using paper to pick orders in the warehouse. This requires warehouse workers to hold a document at all times, and move their heads up, down and around as they read and look for items to pick. Not only is this tedious, but it’s also inefficient and can even be dangerous. Unlike other solutions, voice technology allows retail warehouse workers to remain hands-free. In addition to creating a safer working environment, a hands-free voice solution allows workers to move more quickly and process more orders. Like a guide on their shoulder, voice lets workers listen to orders coming in and send questions back up. This efficiency is especially critical during peak shopping seasons when direct-to-consumer orders escalate.

It’s great to be efficient, but it means nothing without accuracy. This creates a situation in which all voice solutions are not created equal. A voice solution’s voice recognition accuracy must be 99.9 percent, even in the noisiest of warehouse environments. Further, due to an increasingly diverse workforce, it’s essential that the software support multiple languages, as well as the ability to accurately issue multiple commands at once, thereby eliminating the need for back-and-forth one-word commands that increase time and frustration.

The accuracy of voice solutions has allowed several retailers employing the solutions to reduce or eliminate the need for order audits. Or, rather than check every order to ensure that it is correct, they simply audit a sample of all orders. Not only does this save substantial time, but it also removes the need for order checkers. By eliminating or minimizing order audits, and increasing the volume of orders that can be handled by a single operative, voice can help reduce delivery costs. Considering that many retailers are now offering free shipping, keeping these costs at a minimum has a big impact on bottom lines.

Beyond cutting costs, however, voice has an even larger impact on customer retention. The more customers get the right orders on time, the more likely they are to shop with a brand across all of its channels.

Closing Thoughts

Omni-channel retailing has forever changed warehouse distribution. Retailers cannot keep the same processes that have been in place for 20 years. It’s time to trash the paper and begin leveraging modern voice technology. Voice software enables a hands-free working environment, allowing workers to more easily receive and communicate critical information. Further, high-quality voice solutions ensure better accuracy in a world in which there is no room for mistakes or delays. Organizations would have a more productive, cost-effective warehouse, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.