Partner Article by Justine Cross, Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl
With larger retailers like Amazon and Next promoting next day delivery and setting a very high bar, it can seem tough for small to mid-sized businesses to compete.
This is where smart workflows, intelligent technology and an end to manual processes can help.
1. Get to grips with cycle counts
For you to be able to compete in the realm of quick delivery, you need to ensure that your underpinning inventory levels are accurate. There’s nothing worse than promising speedy shipping, only to find that you don’t even have that item in stock!
This is where frequent stocktakes come in. But we’re not suggesting you count all of your inventory every single time. Instead, you should consider cycle counts, which are more focused lists of products to count each time.
Efficient ways to group your inventory include by supplier, by zone or by location. But there are two other highly successful cycle counts we recommend you make use of:
● High Risk: These are items that typically have had the largest discrepancies against them due to breakages and returns. Keeping an eye on these ensures you’re up to speed on risky movers!
● High Value: As the name implies, these are items that have the highest sales value or cost applied to them and are prone to theft. Keeping these items in sight ensures your most cash-intensive products are tracked well.
While we’re on the subject of inventory counts, to speed things up even further, you should invest in reliable warehouse management software that can be used with barcode scanners and that integrates fully with the rest of your business.
For example, when you update inventory, you want relevant accounting journals to also be created. Otherwise, you’ll be working with your accountant to get this done manually. And we’re after speed throughout your processes here, so an integrated WMS is the way forward.
2. Automatic order download and fulfilment
Once you know your inventory levels are accurate, you should now be in the position to speed things up throughout the rest of your order workflows.
Automatic order download is one area.
For integrated eCommerce stores, online marketplaces and point of sale, you should ensure your back office systems allow for automatic order download. Ideally, if inventory can be automatically reserved to these orders as well then this is going to give you a speedy advantage and accurate inventory availability.
Automatic order fulfilment is the next focus area.
Automation bots and tools that can be setup to automatically fulfill orders and route them to the relevant warehouse ensure one of the most time-intensive order workflows can be drastically reduced.
But this type of automation doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming to setup.
There are some great systems out there that are focusing heavily on automation as the retail environment continues to become more competitive.
3. Automatic Shipping
Alongside automatic order creation and fulfilment, automating your shipping is another key part of speeding up your end-to-end order management.
Our advice would be to find a reputable shipping solution, like Parcelhub, that can successfully integrate with your back office and speed up your shipping and carrier management.
Through integrated systems like this, you’ll save your warehouse team precious minutes from having to use multiple systems, or from manually sorting vital shipping paperwork themselves.
4. Automated Invoicing
Your end-to-end order process doesn’t end with shipping; as you know, it includes your invoicing and other associated accounting transactions.
What we find to be rather surprising is that a lot of merchants don’t seem to realise this part of the process can also be automated, resulting in real-time financial data and reports.
When investing in new back office systems, you’ll find it hugely beneficial if that system has a fully integrated accounting module that of course works in real-time.
This way, you can guarantee that as you invoice, ship and mark orders as paid, your financial reports will always be up-to-date and accurate, without the heavy lifting of manually updating your accounts.
5. Know your KPIs
As you can see, many of these best practices centre around automated processes. In a fast moving retail environment, our thoughts are that this is what is really going to set you apart from competition and keep you top of mind with customers.
But once you’ve automated all your processes, what happens next? That’s the end, right?
You need to ensure you’re continuously checking your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and fine-tuning your processes for things to remain slick and streamlined in this fast moving industry.
Some KPIs related to your order management we’d recommend you focus on first would be your:
● Perfect Order Rate
● Order Fulfilment Latency (or lead time)
● Processing Cost per Order
These KPIs are a good start in determining how fast and accurate your end-to-end order process is. And with some of these suggested changes in place, you should see significant improvements from before and after.
But as always, keep making adjustments based on what your data is telling you and make 2018 the year that you really go after those big box retailers.
Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl – a cloud-based ERP for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers by unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfilment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single system.