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Improve Consumer Experience with Smart Warehouses

4th Jan 2019
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When it comes to achieving positive business outcomes, all organizations largely work towards one end goal – improved customer experiences.

With e-commerce businesses mushrooming in all parts of the world and rapid globalization, supply chains are playing an increasingly important role in enabling smooth logistical operations. Smart warehouses are, therefore, a priority with businesses that require logistical competence.

Logistics management is crucial because it has bearings on not only business processes but also customer experiences. The last thing that a growing business wants is inventory shortage after promising a critical shipment to a customer. Also, not having adequate space to store goods for a bulk order can result in the cancellation of the order, revenue loss, and poor reviews, all of which can spell doom for customer relations.

1. The Instant-Gratification Factor

Supply-chain systems are working hard to stock and locate products smoothly for quick and precise dispatching. In the age of same-day delivery, customer expectations are soaring and traditional warehousing and supply chain systems are unable to meet them.

Modern customers look for quick delivery and expect companies to deliver without delay. In keeping with this, 67% logistics companies are expected to provide same-day delivery services by 2023.

A number of warehouses are employing “intelligent fulfillment” to mitigate the challenges that arise with increasing customer expectations. This refers to the application of technology to make warehouse processes more “intelligent” and capable of forecasting, analyzing, and adjusting inventory levels with demand.

Manufacturers, logistics providers, and retailers are continually pooling resources and adapting to changing roles to meet customers’ order fulfillment and delivery expectations. One of the most recent moves in this regard is the use of droids for timely delivery of ordered items. By 2028, 93% warehouses anticipate droids will be widely used to meet delivery expectations.

2. Technological Aids

Apart from utilizing AI-based smart warehouse management systems, warehouse employees are employing mobile devices that help with prompt and error-free inventory and cycle calculation to optimize the order fulfillment process. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technologies are a prime example of this.

Other advanced technologies such as IoT, machine learning, and robotics are also being used to automate basic manual tasks such as picking, examining and categorizing products for better efficiency and faster time-to-market. These innovations make it possible for warehouse managers to regulate inventory levels in accordance with fluctuating demand, shifting ecosystems, and anticipated challenges.

Integrating smart technology into warehouses results in well-organized order management, real-time planning, and error-free inventory monitoring, thereby enhancing customer experience.

3. Escalating Demand

Customer expectations are always going to point northward. In terms of company offerings, facilities that were once added benefits turn into basic requirements as market dynamics change.

Amazon Prime’s two-day delivery shipping facility is an example of this. Nearly 41% online shoppers said they would pay extra for same-day delivery; about 25% customers said they were willing to dig deeper into their wallets to receive their packages within one-to-two hours of ordering.

These figures prove that customer expectations will only rise with time and companies need to keep up. Many a time, retailers ship individual items (as opposed to bulk orders) directly to customers. The probability of errors and delays is high in fulfilling such orders, which is why having a potent warehouse management system in place is a must.

Well-organized and intelligent systems help you with product location maintenance and use the right customer data to optimize packaging, shipping, and delivery. The importance of using the right data cannot be emphasized upon enough as only that will enable quicker product dispatch from the warehouse and reduce errors.    

Needless to say, fewer errors will result in fewer returns, thereby easing your reverse logistics functions and bettering customer experiences.  

4. Visibility of Product’s Availability

The most common view of a warehouse’s role is to store, pack and ship products. However, there’s more to it than meets the eye. A smart warehouse plays a major role in enhancing in-store and online shopping experiences for customers.

On average, retail inventory is accurate only 63% of the time. Having a precise picture of your inventory is key to running operations smoothly, which is why improving inventory visibility is a major cause for concern in warehousing and retail industries.

The visibility of the inventory status at the time of shopping matters to the majority of customers. Information about a product’s availability should be clearly conveyed to customers to enhance their buying experience.

Another factor that comes into play at this juncture is the consistency of this information. Smart warehouse systems need to work in tandem to ensure accurate information dissemination through different channels such as in-store, mobile app, and website.

Your technologies should be integrated with your warehouse data, and e-commerce and point-of-sale processes to maintain accurate and updated inventory information. Further, your smart warehousing systems should be able to access and gain visibility of your inventory at any time from any location. These factors ensure optimal order fulfillment and flawless customer experience across channels.

5. Returns and Refunds

Around 30% of products purchased online are returned. And 92% of consumers say that they will be back to buy again if the product-return process is easy. 58% of buyers want a hassle-free “no-questions-asked” return policy.

Warehouses that are equipped with error-free processes to tackle returns, manage reverse logistics, and issue refunds will always engender positive customer experiences; and hence, always have the upper hand.

Customers return a purchased product because they’re dissatisfied with some aspect of it and they expect a quick refund without having to ask for it. A lot of organizations outsource the complex return process to third-party warehouses that test and examine the returned products. Other organizations optimize their supply chain management for better customer experiences and convenience.  

In either case, smart warehouses with an integrated product information management system can make even cross-channel and cross-country returns easier for both, shoppers and sellers. Customers can conveniently buy/return from any channel, while sellers can manage returns and refunds in a more agile and impeccable manner.   

Conclusion

Smart warehouses are called so for a reason. It is because they’re becoming increasingly capable of handling and fulfilling the never-ending customer demands. They’re amply equipped to generate positive customer experiences. With customers demanding instant gratification and expecting same-day delivery of their orders, it is imperative that warehouse processes and technologies are optimized. Prominent visibility of products’ availability information also needs to be factored into the mix. Doing so will better logistics management and enable the unhindered flow of accurate information. This, in turn, will result in the most effective order placement, fulfillment, returns, and refund processes. And this is exactly what positive customer experiences are all about.

Image Credit: Pixabay.com/iconDigital

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