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Ship From Store – Why Proper Processes are Important

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
Ship From Store - Why Proper Processes are Important to Retail Fulfillment Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.  Most retail businesses have got the process of picking in a warehouse down. The accuracy rates are generally pretty high. Mistakes are rare. But stores present retailers with a new challenge in retail fulfillment. Specifically, when you fulfill online orders. Products are not necessarily neatly arranged or stored. Even the best-arranged store at the start of the day can descend into a mess. Customers try on clothes. They move products and change arrangements. Most retail stores probably can’t tell where mistakes are occurring in their ship from store program. So where is the issue?

Current Ship from Store = Paper Based Picking

This is a bit like stepping back into the eCommerce picking world of distribution centers in the 1990s. The process here is to print off a packing slip. Then send out your staff member into the wide world of the physical stores to search for a product. You can imagine the problems facing the staff. Even if they can find the product’s storage area quickly, they are then faced with searching through rails of clothes looking for exactly the correct design and size. The packing slip might have an image – but it’s not going to show enough detail. The packing slip may even have the barcode of the product. But, how easy is it to make a mistake with a 13 digit number. That is if it shows the number at all. It can be hard enough as an average shopper to find the right products. Imagine that now the store associate is going to be under pressure to find the right products quickly to fulfil orders. How is this likely to impact your store fulfillment metrics on the delivery times of getting an order to a customer? For retailers following a ship from store model, the error rate has crept back up. This against current fulfillment center picking practices. To make things worse, most retailers also lack insight into their returns process. So they may not even know where the items were picked in the first place. All the while, retailers are questioning whether store based picking is really worth the hassle, given the error rates. From a customer experience perspective, will it hinder or help to get a product into a shopper's hands - faster? Fortunately, there is a solution …

New World for Stores – Mobile Devices and Barcode Scanning

Mobile devices have been prevalent in stores for many years for stock-taking, to reconcile products and to do putaway tasks. But using mobile devices for picking ship from store orders is still largely a rarity. Providing your store associate with the right tools to pick accurately is important. And it’s important to provide more information than you would in a warehouse. For example – in a warehouse, a detailed picture is unlikely to be necessary. Just provide a bin location and a size. Yet in a store, a picture is vital to distinguish between the variants of the product. Equally the device must allow the store associate to confirm they’ve picked up the right item through a barcode scan. Simply put, if fast and efficient retail fulfillment is a priority, then you need to be able to handle these basics. Technology doesn’t need to be the blocker here. Using a SaaS web-based picking system will ensure that all retailers need to deploy is a tablet and a Bluetooth enabled barcode scanner. Picking accuracy rates will improve dramatically. And analytics over the picking process will improve impressively. Of course – to drive better results from your ship from store strategy you do need a system that provides the proper workflows for in-store picking. That technology needs to enable a workflow with minimal technology disruption. It must also be able to do so with a simple interface. That is a step up for your brick and mortar stores as minimal training is needed. Don't settle for less.   Author:   Michael Hazelden, former Chief Product Officer at OrderDynamics, has over 15 years experience working in retail markets, with firms like eCommera, Ocado, and OrderDynamics. He has implemented systems and provided solutions for large scale international retailers such as Walmart, House of Fraser, Clarins, Tempur-Pedic International and Fitflop.  
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