While e-commerce was projected to grow long before COVID-19 hit, many companies didn’t realize that the pandemic would accelerate online shopping by several years. As consumer spending shifted toward goods needed for the new home-based lifestyle, including groceries, furnishings and electronics, many of these purchases originated online, creating a slew of challenges for traditional retailers.
Already facing an ongoing labor shortage and warehouse operations designed for store distribution and replenishment, many retailers found themselves struggling to cater to the changing shopping habits. Here are three areas companies can optimize to improve efficiency and ensure an optimal customer experience:
- Distributed Logistics: Instead of designing distribution networks to reduce costs, today’s supply chains need to focus on maximizing profits in the areas that matter to consumers, such as rapid deliveries. Utilizing a network of facilities located closer to consumers, including micro-fulfillment centers, third-party logistics (3PL) providers or brick-and-mortar stores, will enable companies to increase delivery speeds while also reducing transportation costs.
- Inventory Management: While it’s impossible to stock every SKU at the right facility, companies can improve inventory deployment by storing a selection of popular products at forward stocking locations. Environment-conscious consumers will even opt to consolidate shipments when offered the opportunity, even if that results in a slightly delayed delivery.
- Fulfillment Processes: When consumers shifted shopping from stores to online, many companies experienced challenges when implementing new pickup and delivery methods, including order accuracy, increased volumes and more. Savvy retailers have now learned that tools such as distributed order management, artificial intelligence and machine learning can utilize consumer data to improve fulfillment strategies and ensure satisfaction.
While the pandemic will eventually subside, e-commerce is here to stay. Retailers that employ smart network, inventory and order fulfillment strategies will position themselves to overcome future disruptions and achieve long-term profitable growth.
A version of this article originally appeared in SupplyChainBrain.