Chasing down sales across a brand’s website, through strategic partners and on marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Etsy, creates a wide range of opportunity for multichannel retailers, but can also bring the challenge of prioritization. With expectant customers at every turn, how do you manage the process of order allocation for picking and packing to ensure you’re meeting delivery promises? What strategy should you enlist to align the capability of your warehouse operation with the efforts of your multichannel marketing? Let’s look at the options.
During the growth journey of most e-commerce brands, the decision to start selling outside your home market comes to the forefront. Going global is an exciting step and requires some detailed tactical analysis. From a logistics perspective, at least in the early stages of internationalization, you will still be shipping from your own warehouse in your home country. This means allowing extra time both in the delivery promises you make to your customers and in the time required to ship the order from the warehouse to its overseas destination, through customs/import, etc. International customers hearing about you for the first time will be curious to see if your logistics can handle overseas shipping without a hitch. To allow as much time as possible for the international transport of your goods, while reducing the delivery time frame you promise your customer, it might be a good idea to start every day/week by picking and shipping all the international orders, before focusing on the more local orders that will take less time to reach the customer once they have left the warehouse.
By shipping service:
In the case that you use more than one carrier for your shipping, it’s a smart idea to detail exactly what services each carrier provides and what time each carrier will arrive to pick shipments up from your warehouse. For example, you might have FedEx arriving at 1 p.m. every day while USPS or any other carrier comes at 6 p.m. It would be a shame for any orders coming in that morning with FedEx delivery to get behind by one day, so filtering through all the orders to pick everything for FedEx first makes sense. That way, by 1 p.m., you’ll have all those orders packaged up and ready to go, with the entire afternoon to sort the rest of the orders.
By delivery timeline:
Similar to the shipping provider, clearly you need to match up what the customer selects in terms of delivery timeframe with how the warehouse handles all the orders. Customers who pay extra for next-day delivery are obviously the priority each day! By filtering down to all the orders that need to go same day, you can be sure your more valuable customers are getting the five-star service they chose to pay a premium for. It’s not that straightforward, though: If you are constantly fulfilling next day orders, those on three- to five-day wait times can get pushed back further and further. If you then experience a huge surge in demand — for example, if one of your best influencers posts a great piece of content with a new product tagged — suddenly you could be faced with a whole new hoard of next-day orders as well as those ones you’d let slip behind. At that point, everything will have a priority of “next day,” and you’ll be in a mad rush.
By sales channel:
For Peoplevox and ChannelAdvisor’s mutual customers, this is a common and advantageous use of the joint solution. While retailers can control things like SLAs and delivery promises on their own website, if they choose to sell on marketplaces, especially ones with high expectations for customer service like Amazon, they are beholden to the service levels the marketplace promises to its customers as the intermediary. For example, if you are operating with Seller Fulfilled Prime with Amazon as a channel, alongside receiving orders on your own website, it makes sense to allocate all the orders for Amazon out to the picking team first. Amazon could potentially drop you as a merchant if you miss their target timeframes, so it pays to get ahead of the game and prioritize these orders. While ChannelAdvisor manages all of your orders across various channels and pulls them into one place to feed Peoplevox the data to create actions, by retaining information on which channel the order was placed on in the form of “tags,” ChannelAdvisor can also help Peoplevox users easily filter all the orders and select which ones to act upon first.
By item size:
Certain categories in e-commerce, such as home & garden, or sports & outdoors, create complexity around having SKUs of a wide variety of sizes and shapes. We can’t all just sell jewelry or shoes in nicely shaped, standardized boxes! Some of these items, especially the large or bulky items, require a different process to pick and transport to pack. While you might be able to get 50 orders in one cart for small items via a “pick-and-sort” method, you might also need three people and a forklift just to carry one bathtub from the top shelf over to the dispatch area. The worst-case scenario is asking one of your pickers to pick multiple large or awkward items as well as several more smaller ones. They may not know what equipment to use and will most likely have to take multiple breaks to drop things off or put things down, retracing their steps and causing backlogs or traffic jams. Not smooth, not efficient, and not optimized!
By order profile:
Our final idea for splitting up all those hundreds or even thousands of orders you might walk into on a Monday morning after a busy weekend of sales is by the number of items per order. While your marketing/merchandising teams might always be pushing for higher basket value and multi-item orders, the operations team can actually reap the rewards of efficiencies found in fulfilling single item orders. If you allocate out all the “singles” first, you can send out your team with one large cart each and get each team member to start at different points in the warehouse, picking single items into the one cart along their route. Then, at pack, with the right system in place, by scanning any of the items in the cart you can trigger the dispatch process for that item. With such a high volume of orders handled up front, you can spend the majority of the day processing the slightly more difficult multi-item orders and take your time to make sure every order is accurate, regardless of quantity.
Using one or more of these tactics to increase efficiency is going to improve your ability to serve your customers and remove a lot of stress from your operations team on a day-to-day basis. Some of our joint Peoplevox-ChannelAdvisor customers will go a step further and combine a number of these methods — for example, filtering first to all the single-item orders with next-day priority on Amazon. Learn more about how the systems integrate and what a technology stack containing the Peoplevox and ChannelAdvisor platforms could look like.