Scaling up for peak fulfillment this season

eCommerce, peak, Retail, Warehouse Labor Updated January 18th, 2023

It’s never too early to start thinking about peak preparation. Especially if your business experiences several seasonal spikes throughout the year. While most retailers tend to be hyper focused on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) sales pushes, other businesses handle fluctuating volume more frequently. These companies need to be able to scale up quickly to meet customer demand.

We all saw the shift from shopping in-store to online during the pandemic. And although e-commerce sales grew 14.2% in 2021, this growth is more on par with pre-pandemic levels as consumers are returning to in-store shopping. Omnichannel retailers must find a balance to support both in-store and online customers as shopping habits continue to change in 2022.

To be prepared for peak this year, it’s time to evaluate processes, from hiring seasonal labor to managing accurate inventory, in order to prepare for periodic spikes in fulfillment.

Flex labor to meet demand

Retailers need to add seasonal labor more often than the one time holiday sprint. This can be extremely difficult because not only is labor already scarce, but reliable labor is even harder to come by. Finding and hiring labor outside of “traditional peak” can be even more challenging. According to a recent survey by Modern Materials Handling, 60% of respondents said there were “too few candidates to interview”. This begs the question, how do you fulfill more orders with less labor?

To increase productivity and meet peak demand, operations should consider automating the picking (and replenishment) process. Speeding up fulfillment provides a competitive advantage, and enables your business to meet service level agreements (SLAs) such as same or next day delivery.

There are several technologies on the market, so when labor is hard to come by, make your existing labor force more efficient with tools that will enhance their job performance. For example, implementing barcode scanning to confirm picks will increase order accuracy. In addition, autonomous mobile robots can help attract, train and retain employees. By directing an associate directly to a pick location, the risk of human error is reduced and productivity increases, which means more orders going out the door.

Stay ahead with “just in case” inventory

Keeping inventory organized will help ensure more accurate inventory counts. With supply chain disruptions unexpectedly interfering with inventory availability, stocking additional Just In Case (JIC) inventory might be the way to go this season. Another consideration though is end of season turnover. After each season, sporting goods stores must liquidate or deeply discount products to free up storage space. To reduce the financial impact this has on an operation, be sure to look at historical data to find the sweet spot. The right amount of inventory on hand will help you avoid “out of stock” messages and can provide a competitive advantage against those less prepared.

Timing is everything. Another way to stay ahead is to consider fulfilling orders directly from stores to end users. Connectivity throughout all store locations and fulfillment warehouses will provide inventory information across your entire operation. This reduces stock outs and ultimately improves customer satisfaction.
Data Dashboards at Liberty Hardware

Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal

To keep customers coming back for more, retailers will need to provide excellent customer service in 2022. Therefore, getting orders out the door quickly and accurately is a necessity to earn repeat business. Additionally, meeting or exceeding delivery expectations and offering alternatives for pick-up such as curb side and buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) can attract new customers.

As order volume increases, so do returns. Operations need a solution to ramp up both order fulfillment and replenishment to keep up. Automation will not only benefit your business in the off season, but it will enable you to scale up quickly to manage the influx of customer orders and potential returns as well. Technology offers flexibility and scalability to meet the changing needs of your business. Using technology and labor together, will enable you to pick and putaway faster than labor alone.

Partnering with a warehouse fulfillment solution provider allows you to design your picking strategy to be flexible and scalable when you need it. Deploying autonomous mobile robots, increase efficiencies in your entire warehouse, starting with your labor force. Moving from picking to packing to putaway, AMRs can lead the way to faster fulfillment. Get ready for peak fulfillment with 6 River Systems!