Businesses are selling online more than ever before. With all the changes we saw during the pandemic it is becoming clear that some changes are temporary, while others are here to stay.
We can safely assume that e-commerce and online shopping, which predated the pandemic, has ramped up exponentially and is definitely here to stay. One of the biggest differences the past few years has seen is the rise of the necessity for retailers of all sizes to get on board with e-commerce or risk fizzling out forever.
Adapting to the fast-paced world of e-commerce has been quick and dirty for many manufacturers and retailers. That is to say, many have had to leapfrog into e-commerce, larger-scale production, delivery, and warehousing before putting in place the logistics to automate and manage the chain of supply.
For this reason, businesses of all kinds need to learn more about automated logistics for e-commerce. Automated logistics provides all the technology to support businesses and industries from the production floor, to storage, transportation, and delivery. When these systems are in disarray, it causes massive upset.
The main challenges of e-commerce companies who have not upgraded to automated logistics can include:
- Slow delivery speeds: This is when customers are given unreliable delivery times and will often become upset with the company. It does not take much time to scroll through product reviews to see just how many irate customers leave a horrible review because the product did not arrive when expected.
- Online versus offline realities do not align: When the technology is not sufficient or sufficiently calibrated to accurately keep up in real-time with warehouse stores. There is also asynchrony between the e-tailer and an ability to establish a foothold with reliable local shipping options.
- Lack of logistics for delivery planning: Struggles or failure to connect with local delivery systems means further delays and extra costs on the last mile. Delivery and couriers should be planned and thought through in advance for the most efficient and effective routes.
Automated logistics can help in a variety of different ways. In fact, automated logistics can really transform a business from struggling to star-performing. Some of the ways automated logistics can help an e-commerce company are as follows.
Provide Pathways for Alternate Delivery Options
Automated logistics can provide shoppers with multiple options for picking up their products. Many people prefer to pick up packages themselves in order to waive delivery fees or because they are not home often enough to receive the package on the deliverer’s schedule.
More recent options for package pick-up include centralized hubs with lockers where multiple customers can essentially meet the delivery halfway. These are especially useful in automating the chain of delivery because delivery drivers need only make one stop – to the hub – rather than stopping at every house.
Alleviate Worker Shortages
Labor shortages have been a massive issue recently. Automation can take pressure off existing workers by having less to decide and monitor, but it will also make systems run much more smoothly, which means a happier workforce. A happy workforce means higher staff retention rates at the end of the day.
Boost to Client Satisfaction
Many small e-tailers have no means of communicating with clients during the ordering process. Customers are expecting more from their online shopping experiences these days, including personalization and pathways to provide feedback.
With automated logistics, customers can be included in the flow of communication and kept up-to-date on the estimated delivery time. Keeping customers apprised of delivery timelines increases customer satisfaction. Even if there are delays, customers prefer to be informed.
Automation can also help to provide better customer support. If there are issues with the received order or warehouse delays, 24/7 access to customer support is a possibility.
Route Planning and Performance Monitoring
Depending on the size of the business, it is possible that there will be many deliveries per day that need to be processed with precision. Automated delivery logistics means that delivery routes can be optimized and even improved upon with time as the system gathers data.
Route planning and performance monitoring can be scaled to the size of the business and can grow with the business. Logistics data can even be leveraged for real-time accuracy by monitoring traffic and weather conditions which could affect delivery times.
The returns component can also be built-in with better-planned routes and delivery performance. When customers return items, they sometimes get lost in the system and even in the mail, which can present real losses. As well, being able to provide free returns can provide a major boost to sales since customers can have more consumer confidence in their purchase.
Return routes can only be optimized if the rest of the system is operating at peak efficiency. Automated return routes can track the package to be received at a hub location and returned to warehouses in bulk rather than one at a time. This will reduce product and financial loss.
Automate Product Listings
Automated product listings mean that products can be counted down by the system, and when there is a limited supply, management will be alerted. On the customer-facing side, this feature also presents the option to say things like “only one of these items left,” which can nudge consumers into choosing to buy the item since it is near to selling out.
Automated product listings also help with warehouse organization, especially if there are multiple storage facilities. The faster the order can be processed, the faster the delivery can be made, so a lot is riding on the product being able to make it into transit quickly.
Automated logistics options are also customizable to clients so that each package is ostensibly nothing alike. This article has focused on e-commerce, but the reality is that all online businesses benefit from automated logistics, whether e-commerce, food, pharmaceutical, third party, retail, transportation, or postal.