Fulfillment Strategies for this Holiday Season

Fulfillment Strategies for this Holiday Season

In the recent months, retailers and suppliers have done everything in their control to help stabilize the global supply chain as we approach this holiday season.  With many countries still shut down due to Covid restrictions and parts shortages for a wide range of products, it’s no wonder there are delays throughout the entire supply chain process worldwide.  

Biden announced the White House’s plan to help ease supply chain bottlenecks in the US by funding key West Coast ports to stay open 24/7, as well as ramping up nighttime operations for freight railroads in warehouse and shipping hubs. 

FedEx and UPS were first to announce expanded-hours operation plans to assist with delivering the backlog of packages that sit in the long line of cargo ships down the west coast. As this plan moves closer to execution, many other larger retailers have since joined together to help solve this crisis. 

The holidays are the most lucrative time of year for businesses.  As we enter this crunch season over the next ten weeks, and hopefully more products begin hitting store shelves, supplier warehouses, and online inventories, here are a few key fulfillment strategies to focus on to thrive this holiday season.

Effective Warehouse Management
It is key to quickly and efficiently receive the goods, process them and send them back out to the correct address on time.  eCommerce businesses that succeed typically implement a software solution that helps automate and streamline daily operations.  It simplifies and directs the team to know what to pick, pack and ship.  

Warehouse layout is also a critical component to efficiency.  After the summer and fall rushes, it is important to see what is working and what needs to be adjusted so that the holiday season can run smoothly.

Trained Employees
The holiday season is like the eCommerce championship games in sports and not the time to train new employees for their first game.  Everywhere we look there’s help wanted signs and those fortunate enough to snag talented employees need to focus on keeping everyone motivated and engaged so that they are content and not looking for other opportunities.

It is critical to walk new employees through the entire fulfillment process — from inventory to order management to the picking and packing process. Partnering new employees with seasoned employees will help keep the flow and speed needed each day, reduce common errors that are both expensive and timely, and provide on the job training to new employees.

Efficient Shipping Strategy
Consumers have high expectations and many believe the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.  Many online retailers promote two-day shipping and provide online guarantees for shipping before December 24th.  No matter what the size of your ecommerce business, it can be daunting with all of the shipping delays across the country. Having a plan in place and communicating with your retailers will be critical during this time.

 

Any normal year would have retailers and ecommerce businesses ready to officially launch the holiday season at Black Friday, but with shortages and shipping delays, consumers started shopping much earlier than expected this year.  Reducing costly errors through efficient warehouse management, training employees and efficient shipping strategies will help as we enter this holiday shopping season.     

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management | Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your small to mid-sized to enterprise business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world.  

As your eCommerce business looks to optimize fulfillment processes, OPAL is here to assist you in each of the strategies above with a significant Return on Investment outcome.

To learn more about how to make your eCommerce business scalable with OPAL, click here!

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!

Are You Prepared for the Drop Shipping Frenzy Ahead?

Are You Prepared for the Drop Shipping Frenzy Ahead?

Drop shipping came to the rescue for the eCommerce industry and consumers during this era of Covid – with the quick shift from large shipments sent to retailers to have on hand, to suppliers carrying the brunt and drop shipping to consumers across the world. 

Unfortunately, this holiday season is expected to come with its own set of challenges, but suppliers have inventory stacked high and shoppers are quickly preparing their lists for holiday gifts this season. With labor shortages and Covid outbreaks in other parts of the world, suppliers who are not ahead of the game may not fair well this extended holiday season.

With holiday sales expected to be an at an all-time high and grow at least 7% compared with last year, is your business prepared for the drop shipping frenzy ahead?

Drops Shipping Challenges
In eCommerce, customer service is paramount and there are numerous challenges suppliers will have to deal with as they approach this extended holiday season.

1. Speedy Delivery Expectations

The customer experience is top of mind for retailers and partnering with suppliers who are able to deliver on this gold standard is key to both being successful.  

 

Quick and efficient delivery relies upon inventory systems, order processing, and minimizing errors to name just a few.  Every portion of the process relies on accuracy to get the correct product to the correct consumer in the quickest time possible.

 

2. Delayed Shipping Challenges

USPS just announced that they will begin to implement new service standards for first class mail and is expected to slow its target delivery time by approximately 30%. And for those going cross-country, its expected to increase delivery time even more drastically. 

 

Ports, railway and airlines have all been impacted by increased covid cases around the world and worker shortages in the US, making it even more challenging for suppliers to get products into the country and to both consumers and retailers.

 

3. Tight Profit Margins

The expected quick turnaround time leaves little to no room for errors on the supplier’s part.  Simple errors like pulling the incorrect product or shipping to a wrong address could be the difference between having the product and not having the product this holiday season with such high demand and limited supply.

 

Increased shipments for suppliers could also potentially mean additional EDI expenses if it is not included in the price of your software solutions, decreasing your profit margin even more.

 

Importance of Software Solutions

Software solutions and self-driving automation can impact your business drastically when seeking to simplify your order management and warehouse management processes – increasing capacity for additional customer orders with no additional cost and without having to hire or train new staff.  

Not only does self-driving automation allow your business to reach additional customers, but you are able to build trust and prove dependability with your many retailers.

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management |Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world 

Implementing OPAL software into your businesses’ warehouse is proven to increase productivity by as much as 50%, significantly improving your chances for keeping up with the ever-increasing demand for eCommerce products this upcoming holiday season. 

 

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world.  To learn more, click here

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!

Chaos Ahead This Holiday Season

Chaos Ahead This Holiday Season

Many suppliers and retailers refer to the 2020 holiday season as a peak on top of a peak, with ecommerce sales surging even more for the holiday season after growing at unprecedented levels for the majority of the year.  But the 2021 holiday season comes with its own set of challenges.  

Many states are open and vaccinated consumers are ready to shop, both online and in person, but the world is still struggling with reopening after this pandemic, causing many logistical nightmares as we approach this holiday. 

A recent survey shows that many suppliers and retailers have worked hard to secure inventory now, in the third quarter, by ordering additional quantities from current suppliers and roughly a third are venturing to order from new suppliers just to bulk up inventory to handle the holiday season.

As your ecommerce business approaches this holiday season, here are several challenges that are ahead.

Labor & Supply Chain


Unfortunately, most of us have felt the impact of labor shortages lately – whether ordering dinner at a local restaurant, standing in long lines at the grocery or retail store, or waiting an extraordinary amount of time for online purchases to arrive at home. This labor shortage continues to strain customer patience as well as suppliers and retailers’ ability to provide products and services today.

With consumer demand at an all-time high and labor shortages only continuing to increase, finding adequate help this busy holiday season may prove to be quite challenging.

Supply chain challenges also continue to grow.  Ports across the world have idle ships with containers waiting for shipment, but due to constraints at the port, whether covid or shortage of workers related, products are slow to move. In many cases, railways are the busiest they have been in decades and in many areas of the country infrastructure upgrades are required to handle additional demand.

Shipping & Surcharges


USPS and other small parcel carriers like FedEx and UPS have been at and above capacity since March of 2020.  The current normal shipping environment is already providing several challenges to get products from online suppliers to consumers.  

With everything from delays due to illness closing down a facility, to a shortage of truck drivers across country, to a shortage of delivery trucks and drivers, consumers and eCommerce are in for a bumpy ride this holiday season.

Availability of Products


News media is prepping consumers for massive shortages this holiday season and encouraged many to begin shopping early.  This extended holiday season will exhaust both inventory and people, but may make it borderline impossible for those last minute shoppers.

 

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management | Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your small to mid-sized to enterprise business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world.  

As your eCommerce business looks to optimize fulfillment processes and excel this holiday season, OPAL is here to assist you in each of these constraints and challenges.

To learn more about how to make your eCommerce business scalable with OPAL, click here!

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!

Is Your Software Slowing You Down?

Is Your Software Slowing You Down?

In the quest to simplify, many eCommerce businesses add process after process until the bottleneck quickly becomes the sheer volume of software solutions that have been implemented for each individual area of the business—negating the simplification of automation.

With the upcoming holiday season at the forefront of every eCommerce business’ mind, many of the make-or-break moments start with the decisions made today.  Consumers are eager to return to normal, but with the Delta variant cases spiking globally, this means another extended online shopping period to meet holiday demands with many shipping and distribution issues in sight.

If your software solutions are lacking an overarching system that allows everything to work and meet this upcoming holiday season of shoppers, where should your business start?

Simplify
As businesses continue to grow, it’s normal to implement one software application to support one area of the business.  As time goes on, however, you may find that you’ve grown to have an accounting software, shipping software, inventory management software, and many others that manage the critical components of your business – but nothing that helps tie it all together.

Similar to a supplier of pet greens and an OPAL fanatic, their system was cumbersome to use and expensive to maintain, but more importantly was not providing the results and simplicity they needed. 

By implementing one overarching system that integrated across multiple platforms, their business was able grow in a more cost-effective manner.  Not only were the reporting functions more robust, but EDI decreased, fulfillment errors decreased and the business grew exponentially because they were ready for the increased volume.

Reduce Bottlenecks
In this era of Covid, changes in eCommerce happen FAST and businesses that think ahead and are prepared for the bumps, are the ones who succeed.  In this small lull between end of summer, back to school and the upcoming holiday season – now’s the time to quickly review processes and identify slow points so that you may integrate solutions for success in the coming months.

Similar to a supplier of kitchen fixtures and OPAL fanatic, after assessing the processes in place the team identified the large backlog of orders at the end of the day was due to separate shipping and packing stations.  It was also difficult to identify data on the number of orders packed per packer or orders left unpacked at the end of the day because the data was not accurately captured in each of the siloed areas’ processes.

By streamlining with OPAL, they were able to increase productivity and reduce the bottlenecks in each of the siloed areas through automation with one software.  

Reduce Costs
In the shift over the past few years from pallet shipping to retailers to thousands upon thousands of shipments directly to individual consumers, eCommerce businesses have been left to foot the increased cost of EDI. 

Similar to a supplier of home furnishings and OPAL fanatic, time and cost were the two largest expenses with prior EDI services.  EDI is typically charged per transaction and a timely process if manual intervention is required, so finding a solution to reduce this was essential. 

In addition to free EDI, OPAL focuses on order management, warehouse management and shipping – all with the same software platform that allows businesses to reduce costs across all processes – not just EDI. To learn more about EDI and why it’s still relevant, click here.

 

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management |Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world 

Implementing OPAL software into your business will reduce the cost of multiple software packages needed and provide the overarching platform support needed to bring each of the individual processes together for success this upcoming holiday season.

To learn more about how OPAL can improve your business, click here!

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!

Warehouse Efficiencies During Covid Are Critical

Warehouse Efficiencies During Covid Are Critical

With the global rise of Covid cases and social distancing mandates again, or in some cases as extreme as lockdowns, many companies are planning for this next surge in eCommerce dependency. 

The first few months of global lockdowns in 2020 when some businesses were left holding excess inventory they couldn’t ship and others were at a standstill because the shipments were not coming in, have led businesses to adjust to challenges and make less lean-business focused decisions.  

The “logistical imbalance” as it’s called, has seen the cost of shipping containers climb five-fold and take an additional week to two weeks to deliver to businesses. If they have the ability, many businesses now have additional inventory on hand with the longer shipping times to ensure they have product to sell at peak times this fall and winter.  

This constant growth over the last two years has also left business owners with little to no other option than to upgrade manual processes to more efficient automated processes. Automation of processes ensures the business keeps up with the ever-increasing volume and makes profit. It also ensures employees can pick, pack and ship faster, at much higher volumes and with fewer errors in packing or shipping.

As your business approaches the upcoming holiday season, is your warehouse prepared for the challenges ahead?

Ongoing Social Distancing:  Safety of employees is a key concern of most businesses and it now looks like workers spaced out, sanitization stations throughout, one-way traffic aisles and area wipe downs to help ensure the safety of employees as Covid cases may rise in your area.

Increasing Use of Automation Software: Gaining popularity in recent years, Covid has helped to escalate the priority of simplifying through automation.  Warehouses are coping with additional inventory on hand with longer and less reliable shipping timeframes, as well as increased orders with more online shopping than ever.  

Increasing Warehouse Capacity: With inventory shortages and sporadic global lockdowns, most businesses are choosing to keep excess inventory on hand to meet the increased need and requires additional space.  In addition to inventory, social distancing requires that employees are spread out and common areas like packing and shipping provide enough space for everyone to work safely.

Relying on 3PL Distribution Networks and Decentralizing Warehouses: With so many challenges around the transportation of products, many businesses are looking to leverage the existing distribution networks of 3PLs. Many are automated and efficient, allowing businesses an additional alternative for growth.

Another option some are considering is more local or decentralized warehouses, preventing operations from halting completely if one warehouse has an outbreak.  This also could benefit shipping time to consumers with ever-increasing USPS and other carrier delivery times. 

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management |Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world 

Implementing OPAL software into your businesses’ warehouse is proven to increase productivity by as much as 50%, significantly improving your chances for keeping up with the ever-increases demand for eCommerce products and this upcoming holiday season. 

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world.  To learn more, click here!

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!

Excelling With a Hybrid Workforce

Excelling With a Hybrid Workforce

Running a business in an era of labor shortages where employees are willing to quit instead of giving up working from home is challenging.  

Employees have grown to appreciate the many perks and flexibility that come with remote work – no commute, reduced Covid exposure, accessibility to family or pets, and reductions in cost of child care and gas bills. According to Bloomberg, a recent survey showed that 49% of people polled would consider quitting if their employers were not flexible about remote work.  That puts a lot of pressure on employers to remain competitive, especially during a time with labor shortages.

As a small business, you may relate to the 77% of professionals who believe they’re equally if not more effective when remote, and that 86% of employers plan to continue remote work in some form or fashion after the pandemic ends. 

A Hybrid Work Environment Approach

The eCommerce business model is unique and has a somewhat hybrid approach already. In this Covid- era, most eCommerce businesses have had to work on balancing incredible growth with scaling back employees in the office or warehouse to minimize exposure and risk of them getting sick.

Some employees can work from home for the majority of the process, whether its accounting or marketing with website updates, or sales positions.  This comes with the added benefit of limiting exposure to Covid for your teams and possibly still abiding by state mandates where there’s staff limitations in offices – also possible with this next wave of pandemic shutdowns.  

However, when it comes time to pick, pack and ship – a team member will need to be present in your warehouse or facility.  How you choose to structure it will hopefully help you to keep your team safe with reduced exposure and provide some level of flexibility so that you can retain your top talent.

A Comprehensive Software Approach in a Hybrid Work Environment

A critical component to success with balancing the hybrid approach, with some remote and others present in the office or warehouse, is a comprehensive software solution that optimizes processes and syncs everything efficiently – reducing the friction, complexity and errors that occur because not everyone is working in close proximity to one another.

Self-Driving Automation
One, self-driving, automated software solution for your EDI, order management, warehouse management and shipping processes allows your employees to be synced, efficient and working together, even when they’re apart.  It also reduces costs by consolidating multiple software packages into one, as well as driving labor costs down to fulfill growing order volumes immediately without ever again having to hire and train new staff.

Pick, Pack & Ship
Pick, pack and ship still requires someone to be present in the warehouse.  However, optimized pick, pack and shipping processes increases warehouse productivity, enabling you to increase the number of shipments per day and meet those ever shorter delivery deadlines that your retailers are asking of you.  

Strengthening Relationships

One self-driving automated software solution also proves to your retailers that your eCommerce business is accurate and efficient so they come to view you are a trusted supplier on their platform.  

As retailers continue to pursue new avenues of reaching consumers online, automation allows your business to grow with them and be ready to go for various opportunities like live branding that require automatically updated and accurate inventory levels, as well as consistent shipping on time to customers. 

Simplify with OPAL’s 4-in-1 Software Solution
EDI | Order Management | Warehouse Management | Shipping

OPAL is the innovative solution to simplify your small to mid-sized to enterprise business fulfillment needs in today’s rapidly transforming retail world. 

With OPAL, automating your order processing will allow you to not only reach additional customers to sell more product, but prosper well through this labor shortage.

To learn more about how OPAL can help your business simplify your order processing, click here!

Click here to book your customized demo today.  We are here to support you through this time of change and are here to help you innovate and thrive!