Invisible to customers, warehouses and inventories are critical to a good shopping experience.
Failure to manage them properly affects the smooth running and revenue of the whole retail operation. And even small issues can have a big knock-on effect.
The warehouse is the heart of any retail operation. It’s here that complex global supply chains, omnichannel ordering, rapid changes in product demand and ever-faster delivery expectations come together. Good warehouse management is so much more than getting everything to the right place on time. It’s about maximising productivity, constantly striving to cut timescales while keeping a close eye on costs.
So, how do you optimise transport, logistics and inventory management? Two words: digital technology. With the right technology everyone, from managers across your supply chain to delivery drivers, warehouse operatives and store assistants has accurate, up-to-date information at their fingertips. That’s why end-to-end digital transformation is so vital. It allows you to leverage inventory management across your retail operation in order to improve customer experience and boost profit margins.
Here are our five top tips for using digital technology to improve your operations.
1. Use your data to identify where you can make savings
We all know we could do things better. Working out where to begin is the tricky part. The best place to start is to mine the supply chain from the loading dock to the shop floor for data insights that will drive greater efficiencies. Deploying technology strategically is your key to achieving this. For example, if the data reveals that it’s taking warehouse operatives a long time to locate products, you can introduce smart picking glasses to speed up the process. Analysing data from your supply chain is the vital first step in identifying where you can cut costs.
2. Get smart when it comes to your warehouse
When you’ve got a significant warehouse operation, it’s vital to set it up as a digitally enabled smart warehouse. This creates a web of technology that integrates operations across transport, logistics, the warehouse and the shop floor. With connected technology, the warehouse becomes the hub of a productive and seamless experience for both customers and employees. Technology like radio-frequency identification (RFID) and barcode scanners, for example, automates inventory tracking so your staff have an exact, up-to-the-minute overview of where products are. From automation to tracking to communication, technology connects your organisation, so the right products are in the right place, at the right time. And that means you can respond faster to customer demand and speed up deliveries.
3. Drive efficiency through transport and logistics
Part of creating a smart warehouse also means making the most of technology to build more accurate and effective delivery and distribution chains. The right technology can help plan the shortest delivery routes, workforce scheduling (to fine-tune rotas and shift transitions) and yard and terminal management. With convenience key to customer satisfaction, well-planned transport operations mean customers aren’t left waiting — something that could encourage them to look elsewhere.
4. Create a reputation for great service
The value of great customer experience can’t be overstated. Customers are more savvy and less forgiving than ever before. Give them a poor experience and they’ll be off to a competitor before you can find out what they’re after. Digital technology can help you change that. The omnichannel nature of retail means it’s vital to provide a consistently high level of service across many platforms, from smart phones to the physical store itself. The shopping experience should be seamless, and your inventory operation should make sure products are there when a customer wants them, regardless of how they choose to shop.
5. Get ahead of loss prevention
Inventory management isn’t just about keeping items in the right place. It’s also about making sure they stay there. Technology can really help you keep a handle on loss and shrinkage. It can give you a comprehensive, real-time overview of all products and it can prompt you to act at key moments such as when stock needs replenishing or when products are abandoned or spoiled. Devices like RFID solutions and advanced sensor technology can automatically sense and record the locations and movement of virtually anything in a shop, while cameras linked to your network can help to monitor high-risk areas and cut the number of products going missing.
It’s time to get your store in order
The right technology helps create a responsive operation that runs smoothly. It means customers get what they want, when they want it, without you having to radically expand your workforce.
Take a look at our recent whitepaper to find out more about how an integrated technology platform can help you be more efficient and competitive. And keep an eye out for our next blog post, which reveals how digital technology can transform your in-store experience into a brand-differentiator.