To meet the challenge of balancing inventory and gaining visibility, the demands of effective and efficient online shopping, in-store pickup (BOPIS) and curbside pickup programs, retailers are turning to more and more towards automated technological solutions. They automate order and delivery flows with their product suppliers through the use of EDI (i.e. the electronic exchange of business information using a standardized format).
For example, retailers automate inventory and on-order inventory from suppliers, sending and receiving purchase orders (POs), acknowledging POs, modifying and / or posting changes to orders. PO, receiving an Advance Shipment Notice (ASN) of pending deliveries, among other tasks associated with managing their supplier relationships. This level of in-depth knowledge of the supply chain – for example, which purchase orders will be filled in completely and on time, when orders will be dispatched, how orders are packaged – gives retailers greater control over receiving, putting away and picking up their inventory, packing and shipping process, resulting in less stockouts and overstocking, better customer experience, increased sales and greater customer loyalty.
So how can retailers go about bringing automation into their supply chains, especially to help optimize operations for BOPIS and curbside pickup? To answer this question and more, Total Retail, together with cloud-based supply chain management software provider SPS Commerce, recently produced a comprehensive report on the topic. The report, Automated Order Replenishment Drives High-Level BOPIS Execution … and Customer Satisfaction, offers data, information and guidance to help retailers improve BOPIS and curbside execution through automation.
Automating the flow of information between retailers and their suppliers has several advantages, including the following:
- Faster inventory turnover, which improves business cash flow and reduces the need for safety stock
- Increased efficiency of DC / warehouse storage
- More proactive planning and expedited orders to meet demand
- Reduced reception bottlenecks, resulting in optimized staffing levels
- Real-time inventory updates for ecommerce sites
- Accurate and in-depth product content, which improves the online shopping experience, resulting in increased conversion rates
On the last point, automating inventory information throughout the supply chain, from purchase order to in-store (in-store or curbside) fulfillment, enables retailers to ” use the full capabilities of their inventory and order management systems. As a result, retailers can provide online shoppers with accurate product and inventory information in real time.
For retailers who quickly launched BOPIS and curbside pickup at the start of the pandemic, the biggest challenge they’ve encountered is the inaccuracy of real-time inventory information. Automating inventory, order, and shipping data through EDI solves this challenge.
Additionally, by automating the collection of product information from suppliers, retailers save their employees time by eliminating the need to manually update spreadsheets, send emails or skip through phone calls to collect information. Employees, whether they are in a distribution center or a store, are able to better use their time for more urgent and / or critical tasks.
Accurate and comprehensive product content, delivered by automation, is essential to improving the online shopping experience. Consumers want to make informed purchasing decisions and they rely on product descriptions and attributes to guide them. In addition to improving the likelihood that an online shopper will make a purchase, whether for home delivery, BOPIS, or curbside, accurate and detailed product information reduces the likelihood that a customer will return their product. purchase, because he is not surprised when he receives the item. (i.e. they know what they are getting from the product description on the spot).
Given the dynamic nature of today’s retail market, as well as changing consumer behaviors, speed to market is critical to future success. Inventory needs to be in the right places at the right time to serve customers however they choose to deal. Automation is accelerating the supply chain, giving retailers the ability to meet the increase in online orders, including BOPIS and curbside, that we have seen since the start of the pandemic.
However, retailers shouldn’t prioritize speed over accuracy. Automation can also help here. By eliminating the manual entry of inventory data, retailers reduce the risk of inaccurate or incomplete information entering into inventory management systems. Complete, detailed, consistent, real-time product listings on retailer websites lead to increased conversions, better customer experiences (for example, no sending customers to a store to pick up an online order that isn’t. not in stock) and, ultimately, greater loyalty.
The ability for retailers to accurately track inventory at all stages of BOPIS or the curbside journey – supplier, distribution center, in-store, and on the road among all – leads to more seamless customer experiences. With this level of knowledge, information can be communicated accurately to customers, such as when their online order is ready to be picked up in-store or curbside. There are a lot of moving parts to process online orders in physical stores; knowing when and where inventory will arrive at each step of the process helps retailers run the process better.
For more information and advice on how retailers can take advantage of automation technology to improve BOPIS and curbside pickup runtime and performance, download the full report here.