E-commerce, Food Logistics, FulfillmentOnline grocery shopping has morphed from a temporary necessity to a new way of life. Retailers with the best order fulfillment process and the highest-quality customer service will gain the upper hand.Mark Wheeler, Director of Supply Chain Solutions, Zebra Technologies, 262-960-6108Without the right technology, e-fulfillment is doomed to slowdowns and inventory problems that impact the entire supply chain and negatively affect a brand's reputation. Here's how end-to-end retail technology solutions can make online grocery shopping easier—not just for the consumer, but for back-end fulfillment as well.Fast and StreamlinedTake the click-and-collect use case. A customer places an online order, which needs to be routed to an associate so the order can be fulfilled and picked up by the consumer. With the right technology solution in place, the entire click-and-collect workflow runs smoothly.For example, associates equipped with multiuse mobile devices can speed and streamline their processes. Once an order is placed, the device alerts the associate to fulfill, or "pick," that order. Images of the ordered items help the associate pick correctly. After the order is picked and bagged, the associate uses a mobile printer to label the order for the customer. When the customer arrives, another notification alerts the associate to bring out the order. The device can also be used to process payments, scan coupons, and print receipts, helping to shorten curbside pickup times.Order fulfillment isn't the only process that benefits from technology. Inventory management becomes simpler, too. When associates pick orders, inventory updates occur in real time. Grocers can then see which goods are selling in high volumes and with high velocity so they can automate the reordering of those goods and ensure they're in stock.Analytics also help grocers identify shopper behaviors to better meet consumer needs and expectations during the shopping and ordering experience.However, without technology, challenges can pile up and fulfillment can quickly fall apart. Manual, paper-based efforts lead to wasted time, errors, and inventory issues. For example, when a consumer order is completed online, it takes time to print a copy of the order and find the associate who can fulfill it.The associate has to then pick the order using only a paper list and doesn't have access to images to find specific items, which increases the risk of mistakes. The inventory doesn't get updated right away, which means an item may be out of stock the next time an order is fulfilled.When delays, errors, and out-of-stocks compound, consumers can quickly lose patience and take their business elsewhere.Current and future strategiesIt's hard to predict how the next crisis will affect grocery retailers. But with social distancing at the forefront of shopping behavior, it's a good idea for grocers to implement a strategy that helps them capitalize on online shopping while streamlining the supply chain.With the right technology solution, grocers can speed fulfillment workflows to ensure orders are fulfilled quickly. By providing associates with the tools to confidently and correctly pick items and complete the order process while getting real-time information that helps keep inventory replenished to avoid out-of-stock items, grocers will be well-positioned for success.With seamless fulfillment workflows, there's little difference between a physical and digital store for customers.
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