Rising consumer expectations for order speed and accuracy continue to compel ecommerce fulfillment centers to achieve greater order efficiency. Although smoother fulfillment powers more seamless delivery, on its own it’s not enough to satisfy consumers.
Today’s shopper wants visibility into the entire order fulfillment process – from accurate availability at purchase to tracking information during shipment. Fulfillment visibility is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-to-compete in ecommerce and improve your bottom line.
Consider these ways increased inventory visibility improves customer satisfaction and company revenue:
External: Give Customers What They Want
We live in an always-on, demand-driven economy where customers go from faithful to fickle in no time. They hold unprecedented power to command options: How they shop, where and when it’s delivered and whether they can score free delivery. If you can’t meet their demands, they will happily switch to a competitor that can. This customer-centricity affects every step in the order fulfillment process as all phases of your operations strive to give them what they want.
In a recent study from MetaPack and Research Now, 54% of consumers say clear, accurate tracking is an important consideration for the majority of their purchases. With strong competition from ecommerce goliaths like Amazon, inventory visibility must be up to snuff for consumers to even consider purchasing.
Additionally, faster delivery options often encourage more purchases. In the same study, 82% of U.S. shoppers said they had purchased more items or products to take advantage of a free delivery option. But when they purchase more, fulfillment centers become busier and must increase efficiency.
So, it’s easy to understand the importance of inventory visibility in the supply chain as it relates to customers. They lack the patience to wait and see whether the items they seek are in stock, take too long to arrive or come with a shipping cost.
Internal: Keep Operations in Order
On the fulfillment side, when your FC has deeper visibility into fulfillment processes and inventory levels, you can increase efficiency to provide speedier delivery and get items out the door quicker. Superior omnichannel fulfillment contributes to the bottom line by dramatically improving productivity.
Deloitte’s 2019 Retail Outlook study suggests that the supply chain is fast becoming a way to offer differentiated customer service. To do so, it must become quicker, more predictable and less expensive.
It’s imperative that fulfillment centers workers know current inventory levels and how easily items can be located. If a certain SKU is low or unavailable, can employees look into the supply chain and see when they’ll have it? Can they appropriately account for stock by SKU? Most importantly, do you have technology that increases inventory visibility, a critical factor in fulfillment success?
By improving inventory visibility, you gain a laser-focused look into stock levels, allowing you to make necessary changes so the FC team can speed up fulfillment. In addition, deeper visibility helps ensure you don’t oversell an item, allows you to examine FC layout to ensure popular items are closer to packing stations, and evaluates areas needing more attention from your fulfillment team.
Visibility Increases Productivity, Satisfies Shoppers
Today’s consumers run the retail show, and any glitch in the supply chain can be disastrous. Their shopping patterns are shifting as they order more, expect free shipping and 24/7 visibility into purchases – right down to when they’re supposed to land on the porch or at the office.
By enhancing inventory visibility, fulfillment centers can drive better results over the long term, not only by improving the bottom line but by removing friction from the shopping journey. And by keeping customers happy, they’ll likely become repeat buyers and grow the topline as well.
Chris Anton is Executive Vice President of SnapFulfil