In one of the most popular early video games, Pitfall!, the objective was to run, leap, and swing through a jungle full of tar pits, crocodiles, and quicksand. Along their route, players would attempt to collect money, gold, and diamonds. They needed only to avoid all of the various dangers located just up ahead.
Many merchants have a similar experience as their eCommerce company begins to grow. Fueled by extensive knowledge and boundless enthusiasm, marketing and selling their products may come naturally. Developing and executing an effective eCommerce fulfillment strategy is another challenge altogether.
At SkuNexus, we see and hear about the pitfalls of eCommerce fulfillment across the entire retail spectrum. From ice cream to eyewear, brands encounter problems they didn’t anticipate.
Order fulfillment is not simple stuff, quite the contrary. It comprises many different processes and can present a myriad of obstacles. These obstacles must be cleared if a brand is to reap the rewards of eCommerce success.
Let’s take a look at several of the most common trouble spots encountered by merchants. We'll also discuss how SkuNexus management software can help you safely navigate the jungle that is eCommerce fulfillment.
This may be the most common problem area for online retailers. Significant time, energy, and effort are spent developing the front end. Most merchants aim for a well-designed eCommerce website and an eCommerce platform that provides an immersive customer experience. However, major issues can lie elsewhere, undetected.
Seamless integration and communication between front-end and backend software systems are critical for fulfillment operations. When breakdowns occur, they are often the result of outdated, inflexible, or misaligned software.
Examples of this can include:
- Multiple systems being used for different locations and processes that don’t sync properly.
- “Light touch” software that cannot perform multiple broad processes.
- For example, inventory management without shipping management.
- Software constrained by languages, numbers of users, or lacking mobile capability.
- Your team members, warehouses, and customers can be anywhere - so should your software.
- Software that is not able to handle complex processes like RMA, BOPIS, dropshipping, or demand planning.
- Software that does not allow access to all who need it or have roles/authority in mind in its design.
- Systems that are integrated, but update at different speeds and need to be connected manually.
- Inflexible software that doesn't allow for unique configuration out of the box or more sophisticated customization down the line.
- Incapable of managing growth in order volume, an expanded number of communication/order channels, and/or addition of a new warehouse.
SkuNexus is designed to:
- Connect seamlessly with eCommerce solutions for use both in warehouses and brick-and-mortar stores.
- Provide a full suite of management across the entire eCommerce fulfillment spectrum.
- Be usable by an unlimited number of users with translations in over 100 languages.
- Provide full desktop, tablet, and mobile capability.
- Allow for orders to be imported automatically from any channel, with unlimited flexibility to accommodate growth in any area.
- Handle complex processes like return merchandise authorization (RMA), buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), dropshipping, or demand planning.
- Allow for out-of-the-box configuration.
- Expand for growth across any number of factors (orders, channels, fulfillment locations, et al).
These problems arise on countless occasions. Even if operations on a merchant’s end are sailing along smoothly, issues relating to outside vendors can cause significant disruptions. Considering how important those relationships can be, solutions are crucial, yet often difficult to achieve.
The hurdles can come in many forms. For example:
- Communication back-and-forth is disjointed and highly time-consuming - voicemails and emails, over and over.
- Vendors lack insights into both what you need now and will need going forward.
- Dropshipped products require manual sourcing/purchase orders.
SkuNexus has a dedicated vendor management system (VMS) that allows you to:
- Manage vendors in a single location and connect with their platforms.
- Grant them access to yours to manage incoming goods and forecast future product requirements.
- Automatically generate POs using rule sets that you create.
The ways in which inventory management problems can disrupt eCommerce fulfillment could fill a warehouse (pun intended). The ripple effect of issues here is felt throughout a brand’s entire eCommerce business.
- Manual tracking procedures result in a lack of control which yields inaccuracy. Where stock is, and in what quantity, can become a tiresome guessing game.
- Incorrect data reflected in the eCommerce platform means shoppers may purchase items that do not exist in inventory.
- Overstocks and stockouts cost time, money, and often the loss of customers.
SkuNexus addresses inventory management by:
- Tracking inventory from receiving to putaway to picking to shipping. At all times, SkuNexus tells you every item in stock and the controlled barcode location(s) where it is stored.
- Updating inventory counts in real-time from all sources to all channels - everyone can see exactly what’s in stock.
- Providing data and insights to maintain and forecast correct inventory levels.
The problems that can arise out of poorly managed, manual warehouse operations do not just impact the fulfillment process. Issues in pick, pack, and ship can affect inventory counts, increase labor costs, and ultimately send the wrong items to your customers.
- Manual picking (as opposed to directed) can result in an increase in errors (wrong items, wrong numbers of items, etc.).
- Time is wasted when pickers search for items. Instead, they should be told exactly what items they need and where they are located.
- Efficient, coordinated picking processes (batch, zone, wave) are extremely difficult to achieve without proper management systems.
The SkuNexus warehouse management system (WMS):
- Provides employees with precisely the information they need to ensure accurate picking.
- Issues optimized routes for pickers to take through the warehouse.
- Can help create and coordinate extremely involved and specific picks customized for any number of criteria.
Inefficient, manual shipping management can result in significant material waste, overpayment for delivery services, and late deliveries. Automation here can have a profound impact across the entire process.
- Manual packing involves guesswork. The wrong parcels, packing materials (and amounts), will be used.
- Employees making shipping carrier decisions based on incomplete information means less expensive options will be overlooked.
- Errors are made re: the shipping method a customer may have requested and paid for vs. the one selected.
SkuNexus shipping management:
- Automates packing processes. Standardized parcels and materials entered into the system will eliminate waste and trim excess.
- Employs rate shopping tools to automate selection. The optimal carrier and delivery method, based on a range of inputs, will be chosen.
- Removes the risk of manual decision-making causing an order to be shipped via the incorrect class.
There will always be pitfalls to contend with in any operation. The merchant who thinks everything is perfect is clearly not paying enough attention. Still, management software (like SkuNexus) can transform your eCommerce fulfillment into a well-running engine. It will help power the continued growth and success of your business.
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If you’d like to understand how SkuNexus would augment your operations, please book a demo.