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Smart Merchandising Technology Warehouse Management

How D2C Brands Can Scale Exponentially with New-Age Inventory And Warehouse Management Solution

D2C e-commerce is growing leaps and bounds, aided by factors like increasing penetration of mobile and internet services, and the mushrooming growth of 3PL companies, especially in the urban areas. D2C offers a number of benefits such as cost-cutting, greater control of the supply chain, better quality management, and more efficient returns management. It is thus a forward integration of sorts, wherein the brand takes care of its order fulfillment processes. 

All of this requires automated support in terms of inventory storage, order management, packaging, and logistics. This is where a new-age Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) plays a crucial role in inventory management for D2C businesses.

Inventory management and merchandise planning for e-commerce

As soon as brands take charge of their supply chain, a number of technical areas would require their attention. Foremost of these is optimizing the space of the warehouse to expedite order picking and smoothen overall order processing. Synchronizing incoming orders and inventory, establishing the best possible floor plans, and picking rules, are some of the prime functions of a new-age WMS. 

Maintaining inventory accuracy with unique piece barcoding assigned to each incoming piece in the warehouse is critical. Hand-held devices used for order picking, synchronizes with the WMS and display complete product information on scanning the barcodes. The barcodes capture individual product details that help detect their exact location within the warehouse. It increases accountability by recording details of every action performed on the item within the warehouse, and also ensures order picking efficiency, enhances accuracy, and prevents errors. 

Packaging is another important area that must be managed accurately. With an automated WMS, you can simply map your SKUs to the packaging material, allowing you to pack correctly and ship quickly.

Assortment planning, space management, and in-season planning are some aspects of inventory management orchestrated by an automated inventory management solution. These solutions make use of analytics and algorithms to ensure inventory planning is aligned with the long-term strategy of a brand for a given customer segment.

Managing returns and rapid re-commerce

Returns can be a serious challenge for growing D2C brands on a high-volume trajectory. To keep returns under check and the cost of re-commerce under control, D2C returns management requires an automated solution.

An automated WMS helps brands accept incoming orders, merge them with the inventory, and ship them as soon as possible. It helps trace returns, avoids delays, streamlines return management, and reduces the cost of return logistics. Products spending too much time on their way back to the warehouse are at a greater risk of getting damaged. Returns management solution finds the shortest route back, enabling brands to expose the stock for resale as soon as possible. It sorts products into categories such as refurbished, resalable, and unsaleable, based on which it disperses them in the value chain. As D2C brands seek to gain complete control of their supply chain, a comprehensive returns management policy is necessary and must be centered on automated returns management software.

Dynamic markdowns for D2C brands

D2C pricing could be a daunting task for brands due to many reasons. For starters, brands never like to undercut their retailers selling the products at a certain price. Going too low could affect their relationship with their retailers and also confuse customers about the authenticity or quality consistency of the products. Dynamic pricing, based on data-driven algorithms, takes into account a diverse set of factors like competitors’ prices, demand-and-supply dynamic, and levels of inventory. Dynamic pricing in e-commerce helps brands keep their pricing aligned with their channel strategy in a given marketplace.

Demand-based inventory distribution

For brands expanding over larger geographies, distributing inventory to multiple warehouses, so that the products are located closest to the customers, is the best way to reduce costs and ensure quick fulfillment. As brands expand their businesses, it becomes more expensive to ship products from a single warehouse as compared to renting out space at multiple locations. Tools such as Increff Distributed Inventory Optimization tool ensures brands and retailers have the right levels of inventory as close to their customers as possible. The tool is completely web-based and performs millions of computations within minutes to find the right level and style of stock for each fulfillment center. 

D2C poses a number of challenges for brands but automation offsets these by providing sharp insights, precise allocation, and efficient handling. This makes brands highly competitive by keeping a check on delays, costs, labor overheads, and space or stock wastage.

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Technology Warehouse Management

How To Choose The Best WMS For Your E-Commerce Business To Maximize Revenue?

With the increasing digitization of inventory records, product codes, and warehouse registers, human intervention in warehouse management has decreased drastically. To ensure seamless inventory management, a cutting-edge e-commerce Warehouse Management System (WMS) is essential.

Formidable challenges like planning and tracking inventory, minimizing delays in fulfillment, and holding minimum possible inventory can be effectively tackled by having only the best e-commerce WMS in place. Having a water-tight strategy for e-commerce order fulfillment and warehouse management can significantly boost your customer experience and loyalty, which will subsequently translate into improved revenues and profitability in the long run.

How to choose the right WMS

There are a number of factors to consider while choosing the right WMS. Here are the main ones:

  • Accuracy: An inaccurate or misplaced entry can create huge, unnecessary complexities across business functions. Precision is one of the most essential features of a WMS to avoid inexplicable losses and complications.
  • Scalability: As the e-commerce business grows and expands, the WMS must also be able to catch up. New-age This requires a predetermined understanding with the supplier in terms of integrations and technology upgrades.
  • ROI: It is important to consider all the costs that come with a WMS, including the hidden costs of training, integrations and upgrades. A seemingly cheaper WMS can often carry higher hidden costs. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, keeping your requirements in mind, is essential.
  • Integrations: Rather than spending extra on writing integrations, it is better to have a WMS that has a catalogue of existing off-the-shelf integrations. Integrations make your WMS more flexible by allowing it to interface with other ERP solutions seamlessly.
  • Cloud vs. On-site: Having a cloud-based WMS is often cost-effective in terms of upgrades and maintenance since the vendor is responsible for both. Cloud-based solutions also allow you to avoid any equipment-based expenditure.
  • Ease-of-use and training: Having an intuitive and user-friendly WMS allows your employees to adopt it without any training overheads and errors. This is especially important when you hire an ad hoc workforce in times of peak demand.

What to expect from an ideal WMS for online commerce? 

E-commerce Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) can help streamline processes by tracking the inventory within the warehouse and improving e-commerce warehousing significantly. Let’s look at some benefits that an ideal e-commerce WMS software provides:

  • An efficient inventory management system streamlined through automation
  • Optimal inventory visibility and tracking of diverse styles and quantities through a fully digitized process
  • Reduced inventory holding by selling more stock through 100% inventory exposure
  • Reduced operational costs due to minimal manual work required
  • System of automated alerts for soon-to-expire items ahead of time
  • Minimized delay and loss because of computerized inventory with no room for human error
  • Increased scalability and flexibility for your business with no audit delays
  • Faster e-commerce order processing and online order fulfilment 
  • Maximum sales captured with no minimum holding required 
  • Increased revenue for your business through more efficient business processes

How can efficient warehousing help e-commerce brands capture maximum sales and increase revenues?

E-commerce WMS helps enhance customer experience, retention, and loyalty by providing the following benefits:

  • User-friendly and intuitive WMS is great for online retail warehouse staff. The WMS comes with a simple-to-use dashboard customized as per the stakeholder’s level and requirement. With Increff WMS, inter-warehouse transfer of stock is also possible.
  • An ideal e-commerce WMS solution simplifies order picking and packing and ensures accuracy through serialization. It greatly improves inventory visibility and helps ensure correct shipment, complete and accurate order fulfilment, and a shorter cycle time overall. It also reduces the inventory holding period and makes upscaling your e-commerce business more feasible. Being completely automated, the entire process is paperless, uses little manpower, and eliminates the chance of human error.
  • A WMS provides a single view of inventory across the marketplace and a seamless order-inventory sync in less than 30 seconds. You can switch to such a system in as little as under 7 days without overhauling your entire warehousing system. The process of transition itself is also hassle-free. For instance, the time taken to train new users to switch to Increff’s Assure WMS solution is only 5 minutes. Besides, no data is lost in transition or system downtime. 
  • Best warehouse management systems for online retailers can guarantee 100% e-commerce order fulfilment. It ensures minimized lead time and logistical costs due to optimal inventory management. This contributes substantially to higher sales and revenue, thus positioning your e-commerce business as a strong contender amidst competing brands.

A great WMS solution thus lies at the very heart of modern e-commerce warehouses, enabling brands to reach out to their customers more efficiently and helping them excel in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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Regional Utilization Technology

How Demand-Based Inventory Distribution Helps Future-Proof Your E-Commerce Business

As competition intensifies across the e-commerce space, brands must offer faster deliveries and efficient order fulfillment to stay competitive. Being able to project demand accurately and maintain inventory levels according to customer expectations is crucial.

A major factor influencing customers’ perception of a brand is the time taken by a retailer to deliver an item to their doorstep. Efficient and accurate order fulfillment has become key to building a strong e-commerce customer base, and it is equally critical for small and large businesses. While global brands/large businesses need to maintain their brand reputation and customer base, smaller brands need to build their customer base with perfect order fulfillment.

These trends are closely linked to demand-based inventory distribution and help brands create more efficient supply chains, ensuring better customer retention, brand loyalty, and soaring revenues.

The need for optimized demand-based inventory distribution

Optimized, demand-based inventory distribution allows brands to not just save on unnecessary logistical costs, but also avoid frustrating delays. It has helped brands save 10-12% on logistics and enhance overall margins by 30%. There are four main ways in which maximum regional utilization supports demand-based distribution:

  1. Faster deliveries: E-commerce customers these days expect same-day deliveries from brands. Storing items in the warehouse closest to the customers enables brands to fulfill orders quickly and maintain faster delivery cycles.
  2. Low rate of returns: Fulfilment delays are one of the major factors behind order returns. Demand-based inventory distribution ensures delivery of items within SLAs and reduces the rate of returns significantly.
  3. Splitting inventory smartly: Regional utilization allows brands to split inventory amongst warehouses in such a way that demand is always fulfilled from the nearest warehouses. Demand analysis is conducted at the pin code level and helps reduce order transit time, mishandling or damage in transit, and lower shipping costs.
  4. Cutting down on logistics costs: SKUs suggested by smart RU solutions are based on the best possible Pincode level warehouse-products mapping. The algorithm runs by processing data such as regional demand, warehouse capacity, and seasonality.

Tools to optimize regional utilization

Increff Distributed Inventory Optimization tool helps distribute inventory in a smart way to enable faster shipments at lower shipping costs. It enables brands and retailers to optimize Regional Utilization (RU) at the pin-code level in a hassle-free way. Since inventory placement services can be quite complex for brands with a high number of SKUs and low depth, constant demand analysis, and in-depth logistics planning are required. With this module, brands can leverage smart inventory allocation across multiple warehouses, and achieve higher regional utilization by warehouse fulfillment outsourcing locally. 

The role of distributed warehousing in demand-based inventory distribution

Distributed warehousing also known as cloud warehousing, allows brands to partner with third-party logistics (3PL) service providers, and rent warehouse space in different locations to stock inventory based on local demand. This provides several advantages to e-commerce brands including increased efficiency, reduced long-term rent, storage costs, shipping costs, and faster order fulfillment.

  • Distributed warehousing helps brands minimize risks in case of local emergencies such as fire or natural catastrophe. Having products located at various locations helps insure against such risks.
  • Distributed warehousing also allows you to enter new markets rather than be restricted to one region. As your capacity for fulfillment increases in a new market, all that is required is a marketing effort to establish a new customer base.
  • When a product is located closest to the customer, it is very likely that it appears with the highest ranking on a marketplace. This is because the speed of delivery is one of the heaviest weighted parameters for product ranking.
  • As you expand and start selling higher volumes across regions, the shipping costs from a single warehouse will exceed the cost of an additional e-commerce warehouse. Expansion across regions, therefore, necessitates distributed warehousing.

How cloud warehousing helps e-commerce businesses?

It helps brands avail outsourced warehouse distribution across geographies and benefit from higher visibility on the marketplace. Increff’s Cloud Warehousing service, for example, is an outsourced warehouse distribution service. This lies at the heart of smart inventory placement services through which brands can distribute stock to multiple 3PL warehouses across the country for better delivery to the end-consumer. 

Warehouse outsourcing benefits brands in ways beyond just reducing logistical costs and minimizing delays. It offers the flexibility to switch from CapEx to OpEx model of operations and ensures efficient management of warehousing without additional operational bandwidth. It can be implemented within 7 days, and a pay-per-use model, resulting in immediately reduced lead time, inventory holding, logistics, and overall costs, leading to increased customer satisfaction, sales, and profitability margins.

As competition intensifies in the e-commerce space, brands are expected to be more responsive and proactive towards their markets. With the help of demand-based inventory distribution, you can future-proof your e-commerce business against fluctuating demand, stay competitive, and grow steadily. 

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Technology Warehouse Management

How to Choose a Warehouse Management System

A warehouse management software is vital to the successful management of the warehouse. Research shows that it can improve warehouse efficiency by 27% by facilitating timely order fulfillment, packing, and picking. Owing to that it is essential to know how to choose a warehouse management system from the different types of WMS available.

When used correctly, WMS can propel your warehouse to unprecedented levels of success. Some benefits of using a WMS system include:

  • Efficient labor management
  • Accurate inventory and management
  • Reduced paperwork
    So, what factors must you consider when choosing a warehouse management system? Here is your complete guide on how to choose a warehouse management system.

Analyze Your Need for a WMS

One cannot emphasize just how big a commitment getting a WMS is. Not only do you have to spend money on the technology, but you also need to train your employees to use it and acquire the hardware and infrastructure you need to make it functional.

Therefore, it is critical that you thoroughly analyze your need for the system. Otherwise, a lot of time, effort, and resources will go down the drain unnecessarily.

Size is one of the biggest influencers in installing a WMS. If you have a big warehouse with multiple floors and endless storage units, it goes without saying that managing it can be quite a challenge. In such a scenario, a WMS will prove invaluable. But this is not to say that smaller warehouses cannot benefit from WMS. If your warehouse’s storage and removal processes are complex, you also stand to gain a lot from WMS.
For instance, if you store products for an e-commerce store, you may find that packaging requires more attention to detail. This is because you have to pack each customer’s order individually, ensuring that you do not mix up their purchases.
By contrast, if you deal with a business that generally requires items in bulk, packaging and shipping are relatively straightforward. Therefore, with the e-commerce store, investing in a WMS makes good economic sense.
Additionally, if products require specific conditions for shipping, this can add a layer of complexity to the packing process. For instance, if some goods require refrigeration during shipping, while others need to be frozen, you need to take extra care to ensure that they reach the destination in good condition. For this, a WMS can come in real handy.

Budget For Warehouse Management System

Another critical consideration when choosing a WMS is your budget. You don’t want to invest in an expensive system only for you to discover one year later that it does little to boost your business efficiency.
Warehouse management systems typically come in three tiers. The cheapest tier, usually known as a Tier 3 WMS, performs the most basic warehouse management functions. These include confirming and tracking inventory and stock.
A Tier 2 WMS performs more complex functions, including:

  • Managing customer portals
  • Reporting
  • Providing restocking, receiving, and storage guidelines

The most expensive systems (Tier 1 WMS) can perform more complicated tasks like assigning work to employees, guiding them to the correct location of the goods they want, forecasting, and improving response times.

Another way to gauge the cost of a WMS is by listing down the price of each item. For instance, you need to consider the licensing, training, development and upgrading, and support costs. For this, you should have a candid conversation with your provider to get an accurate figure on the cost of the system.

While discussing the costs with your provider, beware of hidden charges. These may include seemingly small expenses like travel costs that accumulate to outrageous sums over time. Additionally, comparing WMS costs can help you negotiate the pricing better.

When creating a budget for your WMS, the final tip is to consider the 5-year cost of using the system, inclusive of the hardware and infrastructure costs. If the figure makes business sense and you will get worthwhile returns, acquire the system by all means.

Ensure Seamless Integration with Existing Systems

Supply chains stretch beyond the confines of a business and encompass 3rd party services. While an ERP might be able to unify the internal business, the logistics aspects of a business need to be handled efficiently with a specialized WMS. The relationship that your business has with your ERP vendor will impact the success of a WMS. You need to communicate and have a good working relationship from the start. The integration needs to allow for seamless data communication between both systems.

This is critical when the information is used for internal work and communicated with internal or external partners. Both systems can speak the same language, so new data does not have to be re-entered daily. This causes errors and isn’t good for business.

Request for Information on How to Choose a Warehouse Management System

You have already settled on whether you need a WMS system and how much you can spend on it by this point in your decision-making journey. Now it is time to contact vendors for offers.
The best way to do this is to create a Request for Information or RFI form. This form is a questionnaire to help you obtain the requisite information.
Start by describing your business, what it does, your vision for it, and how the WMS fits into your business. You should also discuss your warehouse at length, providing pertinent details such as:

  • The number of loading bays
  • Picking and packing locations
  • The average number of transactions in a day
  • The primary users of the system, like pickers, packers, forklift users, or management
     

Then, create a list of questions you wish your provider to answer. For instance, you may request information about:

  • Their area of specialization and expertise
  • Owner of the system’s source code
  • WMS features
  • Average size of their clients
  • Number of clients and sites using their product
  • Ease with which you can connect multiple warehouses
  • Ease of integrating the WMS to your ERP,
  • Availability of pre-built marketplace integrations
  • Level of support you can expect from them
  • Estimated cost of using their product
     

When creating your RFI, it is best to refrain from describing how you intend the product to work. This is because you may cloud the ingenuity of your provider, thus blocking out more efficient and possibly cheaper options that would be the best fit for your business.

The Provider’s Commitment

The final consideration for choosing a WMS is the provider’s commitment to your company. The relationship you develop with your provider can be critical to the success or failure of your business.
You can gauge a provider’s commitment to your business on their enthusiasm and response to your concerns regarding the systems. A committed warehouse management system provider will always look for the most efficient solution to your issues and point out a cause of action that best serves your needs.

The Final Word on How to Choose a Warehouse Management System

No doubt choosing the perfect warehouse management system from the different types of WMS available can be complicated. However, there are numerous factors to consider settling for a well-serving warehouse management system as mentioned above.
If you are looking for a reliable WMS provider, look no further from our company. We will guide you extensively on how to choose a warehouse management system that best fits your needs. So, contact us today to start the conversation on the best options of WMS for your business.

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Smart Merchandising Technology

How retail stores can plan their merchandise accurately during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sale

Merchandise planning is an intensive process that gets more complicated around the holiday and discount season. Black Friday discount, which started as a one-day event spread to Cyber Monday, its digital version. In 2020, U.S. shoppers spent a record $34.36 billion on retail websites over the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, up from $28.49 billion last year. 

A crucial change that was established over the years is that these discount days evolved from being one-day events to longer durations as their popularity increased. Retailers were finding it extremely difficult to manage the serpentine queues, hordes of people, chaos on the store floors, and high volume of sales on these two days. Now, discounts and deals are starting earlier than ever to meet the increase in demand while also easing the supply chain and shipping worries of the retailers. This change has enabled the retailers to sell more products in a shorter duration without experiencing pandemonium at the stores.

Merchandise Planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

To make the most of this sales event, retailers have to plan meticulously to ensure that the customer demands are met and their infrastructure doesn’t succumb to pressure. Efficient merchandise planning is done so customers can find what they want and purchase it without experiencing stockouts. Mismanagement can be catastrophic during the actual sales period especially because bargain hunters are quick to switch to competition and spread the negative word if they are dissatisfied with the experience.      

Avoiding chaos during discount season 

So how does a retailer avoid chaos on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? By planning each aspect to the finest detail, using smart merchandising and inventory management solutions such as Increff Merchandising Solution. It provides granular insights and in-depth store-style level analysis based on individual store performance and supports decision-making with concrete data. 

For existing stores, the focus needs to be on planning the display and distribution of the products to utilize available store space effectively. This can be done using planograms, a visual merchandising tool that formulates the store layout to maximize visual appeal and facilitate maximum sales. Increff Smart Merchandising Solution provides in-depth details of the products that are in demand to make these planograms more effective in encouraging sales. When the knowledge of current demand patterns is combined with scientific methods used in the creation of planograms, the stores can make maximum use of their resources such as display areas and shelves.

As many stores have had to relocate due to the pandemic and many new stores have had the opportunity to launch during this time, planning the right merchandise for each store is of extreme importance to ensure success. 

Here are some ways in which Increff Merchandising Solution can help during Black Friday sales. 

Analyze existing sales for pre-season and in-season merchandise planning

Traditionally, discount days were designed to get rid of overstock inventory to avoid deadstock but the magnitude of Black Friday sales demands analysis and anticipation. Evaluating existing sales is step one for all retailers as it provides a proper indication of products that are in demand. A new-age merchandising solution can identify top sellers or core styles, and low performing styles through trend analysis. It provides a base and direction to the inventory planning process as it helps determine what goods to stock, in what quantity, and which styles to markdown. It also helps determine which styles are suited for which stores so retailers can re-distribute existing inventory to maximize sales. 

Variable discounting as per store-level demand

As a retailer, this is an opportunity to earn higher profits and margins considering the volume of sales that takes place during this period. When customers are expecting heavily discounted products, it is unwise to use the same discounting strategy across all products as each has its own sales history based on customer preferences. Additionally, discounts often fluctuate depending on the demand at a particular location. A blanket discounting strategy could lead to losses. Merchandising planning software uses smart algorithms to determine appropriate discounts considering factors such as ageing of the style, past performance, True ROS, and cost margins. These analytics can help you avoid excess liquidation and losses. 

Optimize inventory distribution      

For a retailer to effectively plan for the sales season, it is important to consider complete inventory across stores and various channels of sale. To present the maximum amount of stock for sale, it is crucial to have a holistic strategy.  An automated merchandising solution can generate a dynamic store-style ranking to optimize inventory distribution. Event-based allocation of inventory can help ensure the right styles and products are present as per demand trends. This analysis can enable inter-store transfers and stock cover can be optimized across all stores, reducing chances of stockouts. 

Auto-replenishment and replacement 

Discount days such as Black Friday are the days when stocks fly off the shelves. An immediate need is to reorder and restock in time to ensure that stockouts don’t affect profitability. As this is also the time when retailers are getting rid of deadstock, it is important to ensure that the right products and SKUs are reordered. A smart merchandise planning software can automate reordering while maintaining checks and balances to ensure lead time is considered for every style at the time of reordering. Based on the auto-replenishment feature, stores can continue functioning seamlessly even during the peak sales period. 

Due to the pandemic, stores have to manage operations with less staff, and supply chains are stretched too thin trying to meet the unprecedented increase in demand. Irrespective of this, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are events that customers look forward to, which means they are offering an opportunity for retailers to maximize their earnings and profits in a short duration. Make the most of this receptive and favourable time by providing your customers with the best shopping experience.

Categories
Technology Warehouse Management

How Fast-Growing Fashion Brands can Scale E-Commerce Fulfillment with new-age WMS

From the catwalk, straight to the customer’s closet in less than a few weeks. Fashion trends, subsequently the fashion industry, have evolved rapidly in the last few years. Earlier, the turn of the season was a process that took weeks and months of planning. Now trends change with each fashion show and celebrity outing. 

Main challenges faced by the fashion industry

As fashion influencers and celebrities document their every look on social media, inspiration is available in abundance. These looks are recreated and brought to the shops in record time. Here lie two of the biggest challenges of fashion retail – short-lived trends and fluctuating demand.  

Rapidly changing trends leave older stock out of fashion. To avoid turning this into deadstock, it has to be sold at discounted prices which lower the profitability. Fashion, especially the apparel industry, is subject to immense demand uncertainty. This is mostly because fashion sales are highly influenced by external factors. With social media taking center stage, these trends change in the blink of an eye. For a retailer, being able to roughly ascertain demand and push the stock to convert it into sales in time is a massive advantage. 

Finding an advantage 

As the catalyst of change here is technology, the answer to these challenges is also technology. Just as the fashion industry is adapting to this new fast-paced way of operating at the backend, the retailers must also keep up and integrate technology to ensure that they aren’t left behind. 

At the order fulfillment level, a new-age Warehouse Management System (WMS) can solve many of these problems. Let’s take a look at the order fulfillment process and some ways in which a modern WMS  can help retailers function optimally. 

  • Receiving Goods – The stock received at the warehouse undergoes a quality check before it can be made live on marketplaces and made available for sale. At this stage, each piece is assigned a serial number/barcode, that captures all product attributes including a picture for better searchability during tracking. Automated warehousing helps optimize space in the warehouse by allowing storage of multiple SKUs at the nearest available location. The system keeps a record of the location and maps them during order picking so no piece is lost or misplaced.
  • Order Processing –  Once an order is placed, the automated WMS assigns priority to the picking process based on the delivery date committed to the customer at the time of sale and the channel of sale. Priorities are allotted to orders from across channels, ensuring order fulfillment is completed within stipulated time irrespective of the geographical source of the order. An automated picklist is created and scan-based picking ensures error-free first-time-right operations. Visual cues like the images linked to a barcode, guarantee flawless picking. When the barcode/serial number on an item is scanned, all the details of the item are displayed. This minimizes the chances of errors in order processing and improves efficiency. Consolidated packing at the pigeonhole reduces the number of shipments to the customer while saving the retailer additional logistics and packing costs. A priority-based fulfillment process eliminates the possibility of late deliveries
  • Returns – According to Invespcro, around 23% of the orders are returned due to incorrect product delivery to the customer. Increff WMS can help make the returns process efficient with serialization. Barcode mapping helps in tracking the item through the entire return and quality check process. If the item matches quality expectations, it can be made available for sale immediately, saving time and avoiding loss in sales opportunities.  

Serialization helps in obtaining 100% stock visibility across all channels of sale at all times. Real-time inventory-order sync reduces the chances of order cancellations due to overbooking.

Increff WMS is equipped to effectively manage products that have an expiration date by triggering an alert when the sell-by date is approaching. It also has an auto-replenishment feature which raises an alert when the quantity of stocks reaches a designated par level. This allows for the uninterrupted and smooth functioning of the warehouse without any delay in orders or deadstock piling up.

Investing in an intelligent WMS provides retailers the potential for scalability. An increase in demand can be extremely unprecedented in the fashion industry. With its many features, a WMS can optimize storage space, escalate the processing of orders, and prepare for a surge in demand without additional investments. 

Increff WMS is designed keeping in mind the challenges of integrating a new system into the existing infrastructure, and it is equipped to merge with the existing ERPs without roadblocks and downtime. Deployment and onboarding can be done in less than 7 days without disruptions to everyday operations. The intuitive and simple interface makes it possible for everyone to adapt to it quickly and workers can be trained in less than 5 days. To face the constant challenges presented by the fashion industry, it is important to have technology and preparedness on your side as a retailer. Elevate your efforts with the foundation of future-ready technology to match the pace of the fashion industry by investing in a WMS. 

Categories
Technology

Reduce logistics costs and improve delivery time with Increff Regional Utilization

The phenomenal rise of e-commerce is hardly unprecedented. Over the last few years, the growing internet penetration, affordable data prices, persistent efforts of e-commerce companies, and the global pandemic, compelled the digital revolution on even the most unwilling customers and companies. It was an evolve or get left behind situation for many companies and the bottom line is that e-commerce is here to thrive. In fact, many companies embraced this change, transforming or launching their businesses to be direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. 

Roadblocks in the success story of e-commerce

E-commerce’s exceptional growth hasn’t been without hurdles. One of the biggest challenges faced by online retailers is logistics and the cost associated with it. Considering the length and breadth of the country, combined with various terrains and inadequate infrastructure, digital retailers had to start from scratch. 

Though initial hiccups are out of the way, there is still a ton of room for improvement as the current logistics costs are still quite significant. While retailers are catching up, customer demands are already evolving. Faster deliveries, as fast as one-day or same-day delivery, are quickly becoming a norm as customers are willing to incur a cost to get their purchases. This is a testament to how e-commerce has grown from a discounted marketplace to the preferred choice of customers. 

Changing customer demands 

This change in customer behaviour and demand has set a new challenge for e-commerce retailing. To be able to offer faster delivery speed, the products being sold have to be physically close to the final delivery destination or the seller should be able to transport them in time. Goods are primarily transported from warehouses through the surface (road/rail) or air. As an increasing number of orders are from tier II and tier III cities, processing these orders in the stipulated time is becoming a challenge. Air transfers are costly and unsustainable in the long run. Many of these locations are not connected by air, therefore surface shipments are feasible but may delay deliveries. It is entirely possible that while solving this dilemma, the seller might lose out on the customer due to delivery time. 

Making inventory more accessible 

How do e-commerce retailers and sellers solve this perpetual problem? The need of the hour is a better strategy when it comes to the distribution of inventory. Optimizing inventory distribution through distributed warehousing can reduce delivery time and logistics costs while keeping customers satisfied. The answer lies in making use of Regional Utilization often also referred to as smart inventory distribution or smart warehouse distribution.

Based on customer pin code level demand pattern, rate of sale, days on hand cover, and festivities and seasonalities, Increff Regional Utilization’s algorithms ascertain where to place your inventory. If your inventory is already close to the customer, order fulfillment becomes quicker and more cost-efficient. 

Some more benefits of Regional Utilization include – 

  • Reduction in the number of returns due to late delivery
  • Increase in sales as customer satisfaction scores increase 
  • Lesser deadstock due to highly streamlined inventory distribution
  • Sustainable deliveries with lower impact on the environment 

Having data and insights about operation-wide customer demands can also help the business expand. Understanding the demand, warehouses can be placed at strategic locations and goods can be diverted to locations with higher demand. This data can also aid in the creation of localized products, offers, and promotions.  

Increff Regional Utilization is a web-based, self-serve SaaS tool that uses patent-pending algorithms to provide proportionate inventory allocation across warehouses and new style distribution based on attribute group performance.

Results of implementing distributed warehousing result in the conversion of up to 70% air shipments to surface shipments, a significant uptick in delivery times, and up to 12% savings in logistics cost. It can be deployed in a matter of minutes for all types of businesses, making it a quick yet valuable long-term investment. 

Optimizing delivery times for SMEs 

As many SME’s are also embracing e-commerce to sell their products, their challenges when it comes to distribution and supply chain are different from the established players. These businesses don’t have their own warehouses which can often mean longer delivery times. To optimize their operations, such businesses can use Cloud Warehousing / Warehouse Management Outsourcing to be closer to the customers. 

Increff partners with third-party (3PL) logistics players to provide warehouse outsourcing and inventory management services to businesses through Cloud Warehousing.  This service reduces investment costs as payment is based on the usage of space and services at the warehouse. Businesses incur no capital costs, but only operational charges of using cloud warehousing. For SMEs, this can not only reduce delivery times but also solve the problem of efficient distribution and inventory management.

Categories
Technology Warehouse Management

Perfect Warehousing Solution for Higher Efficiency and Inventory Management

Warehousing is an integral part of the supply chain where retailers can reduce costs by optimizing inventory, minimizing overheads, and speeding up the delivery time. Digitization and automation of processes help maximize space utilization, streamline operations through accurate inventory tracking, and promote productivity among workers to save time and money. 

Increff’s comprehensive WMS and OMS platform, recognized by Gartner and Forrester Research, is a cloud-based solution specialized for B2B and B2C e-commerce warehouse management and order fulfillment. It is designed to scale with the increasing demand of online sales and guarantees 100% inventory tracking by assigning a UPB (Unique Piece Barcode) to individual pieces, just like the IMEI number in phones, to boost efficiency in inventory management. Mobile barcode scanners create a low-cost, low-risk path for preventing human errors and capturing critical warehouse performance data for actionable insights. 

E-commerce-focused WMS and OMS – Increff WMS allows retailers to do more with less manual effort and thrive under increasing demand scenarios like peak sales season. It allows channel and/or SLA prioritization for faster picking and order fulfillment. The system generates picklists keeping in mind linear pick paths to avoid delays and allows smooth operations that can continue even during cycle count and inventory audits, without losing on sales opportunities. The live-inventory-order sync feature facilitates instant inventory updates to avoid order cancellations due to overbooking. Brands can expose 100% of inventory simultaneously across all sales channels and eliminate the need for safety stock thus keeping the inventory lean.

Benefits of serialization in inventory management

Built for 100% inventory accuracy, UPB captures every action on an individual item thus reducing the need for cycle counting or chances of inventory getting lost or misplaced.

  • Optimizing space utilization in the warehouse: Designed for a high level of inventory accuracy and order fulfillment, serialization allows easy storage of multiple SKUs in a single location, thus optimizing space utilization. Retailers can stock items at the nearest possible location and the system maps them during order picking so no piece is lost or misplaced.
  • Managing limited shelf-life products efficiently: Products that have an expiration date present unique challenges affecting efficiency, performance, and cost of operations. Mismanagement of expirable items can lead to loss or obsolescence. With Increff WMS’s expiry feature, retailers can trigger alert notifications for batches approaching their sell-by-date. It helps retailers push items in a FEFO (First Expiry First Out) manner to appropriate sales channels for faster sales. 
  • Auto-replenishment of fast-movers: Increff WMS’s auto-replenishment feature helps identify top seller SKUs and raises an alert notification when their quantity reaches a designated par level. It allows brands to maintain a steady stream of inventory without the risk of backorder pilling up or goods sitting for too long and incurring unnecessary carrying costs or loss due to spoilage and theft. 
  • Optimizing labour efficiency: Automated picklists can be generated to prevent mistakes and improve picking efficiency. Inventory serialization reduces travel time by suggesting linear pick paths and streamlining picking by embracing chaos and complete randomness. Barcodes direct warehouse pickers to locations, reducing walking and searching of items, and help in consolidating multi piece orders. It prevents human errors in high pick-volume situations through scan-based checks at order and box level. Image-based visual cues, at the time of scanning, ensure accurate picking. The automatic inventory update feature prevents manual intervention and multiple steps like counting, QC, and Bin putaway are consolidated in a single step which makes the inwarding process faster.   
  • Training and Development: Handheld devices and barcodes lower operational overhead costs by 20-25%, with less dependency on skilled labour. Increff WMS is easy to deploy and has a simple UX-UI design that facilitates training in less than 5 mins so employees can be highly productive starting from day one. 

Future-focused retailing is all about agility and flexibility in execution and data-driven decision-making. Technology solutions like Increff WMS reduce clutter by organizing processes to give a high level of clarity on business performance. It has helped brands achieve a 2-3x increase in sales and capitalize on increasing demand effortlessly. Handheld devices and serialization optimize processes and reduce errors by increasing accountability and a better trained, trusted workforce empowered with real-time data and analytics. Handle the increasing margin pressure in retail and excel in this hypercompetitive environment with the new-age warehousing solution. 

Categories
Smart Merchandising Technology

Intelligent inventory management of Apparel, Seasonal, & Short Life Cycle Products with Increff Iris X

Increff named as a Representative Vendor in the 2021 Gartner Market Guide for Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA): Short Life Cycle Products

Covid 19 exposed inefficiencies in processes and systems, highlighting the need for preparedness and resilience through digitization. In the report, Gartner predicted that “by 2024, Tier 1 retailers in North America and Europe will reduce inventory carrying costs by 30%, dramatically improving free cash flow for digital investment, while revamping balance sheets. Much of this reduction will be effected in seasonal, short life and apparel categories where manual processes and gut feel are no longer enough”. The report further states, “Customer’s expectations of a unified retail commerce experience continue to challenge multichannel retailers to pursue digital business transformation”. 

Accurate merchandising requires complex orchestration across all processes such as assortment planning, in-season analysis, space management, allocation, pricing, replenishment, and supply chain. Modern cloud-based solutions, like Iris X, incorporate advanced algorithms to create location-specific assortment to drive transformation through better customer understanding and alignment to limit excess inventory. Shortened product life cycles are due to fast-changing customer preferences e.g. in fashion, or rapid technology innovation e.g. consumer electronics. For such products, production and procurement decisions need to be made fairly in advance, or JIT (Just-In-Time) so production can start as soon as an order is received so no finished goods are stocked. 

Task automation enhances speed and shifting from excel to purpose-built applications augments human activity. Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA) for omnichannel brands are foundational for modernizing merchandising processes and form an integral part of the core merchandising application suite. Using big data, both historical and near real-time, with advanced analytics and algorithms helps create store-specific assortments aligned to specific customer behaviour segments. 

Increff Iris X considers the uniqueness of each store up to ‘segment of 1’ for managing merchandising processes accurately.  

  • Assortment & PlanningRight assortment planning is critical to achieving a competitive edge in the industry by reducing carbon footprint and wastage of resources. Iris X helps determine and allocate the right set of inventory to the right sales channels. It closes the gap between financial planning and store planning by determining the optimal mix that makes stores more attractive for local shoppers thus improving profitability and sales efficiency. It provides the ability to plan complexities in a user-friendly, cost-effective manner that maintains in-season and new-season inventory freshness, event-based allocation, and proper markdowns during liquidation scenarios for maximizing sales
  • Automation – Increff Iris X is an algorithm-driven SaaS platform that leverages scientific decision-making to determine the right store-wise allocation, based on real-time data analysis of 17 layers of attributes. It considered factors like style attributes, True ROS™, in-store style health, etc, to increase gross margin and maximize return on investment through item-level visibility and granular data analysis. It facilitates the automation of buying cycle by setting benchmark indicators to signal when a style’s quantity is depleting and requires reordering considering the lead-time. It allows auto-replenishment and replacement by identifying non-moving dead styles to suggest pullback to the warehouse. 
  • Inventory ManagementRegional Utilization and inter-store transfers bring brands closer to customers by intelligently distributing, and re-distributing, inventory according to the local demand. It improves stock health, optimizes inventory, helps in efficient order fulfillment, and prevents extra buying by utilizing the existing inventory to the fullest. Fulfilling orders from the nearest store or warehouse helps brands experience significant savings in logistics costs and manage faster deliveries efficiently. Timely order fulfillment reduces the rate of returns and increases customer loyalty. 
  • Reporting and Analytics – Increff Iris X’s customizable BI dashboards are capable of generating 50+ analytical reports that provide a highly visual, end-to-end workflow and detailed review of business performance to take focused action on improving traffic conversion and increasing demand fulfillment. Brands can analyze Target vs Achievement, month-on-month store performance for managing operations efficiently, and customize viewability of dashboards based on stakeholders for Category performance reports by calculating sell-through-rate, Planogram adherence, Top seller, and Deadstock. 

Know more about our smart merchandising tool Increff Iris. Contact us to get started. 

Gartner, “Market Guide for Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA): Short Life Cycle Products”, Robert Hetu, May 28, 2021.

“GARTNER is registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and are used herein with permission. All rights reserved.”

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Categories
Technology

The Fair, Flawed, and Fouled E-commerce Returns

Returns aren’t just lost sales, they put customer relationships and inventory investment at risk unless managed accurately. They are an important part of the inventory and should be optimized to promote healthy cash flow. Returns denote friction in the shopping experience and present an opportunity for brands to convert disappointed customers into lifetime buyers. 

E-commerce returns vary between industries, often ranging between 15% – 40%; the lowest being for tech accessories and the highest for clothing. Online sales are expected to reach 21.8% of all retail sales by 2024, and considering nearly a third of all products end up being returned to the retailer, the need for controlling it is now, more than ever. It is time to scrutinize the reasons by using smart technologies and execute healthy practices to treat the fair, the flawed, and the fouled returns in the right fashion for higher customer satisfaction. 

Fair returns highlight loopholes in processes and help improve product quality and customer service. 

The damaged, faulty items are extremely harmful to business, and cause huge dents in profits. They are controllable returns that convey where the supplier or retailer went wrong. It could be:

  • Poor packaging and usage of old unfit boxes or fewer packing materials to cut costs. 
  • Courier mishandling and missing important instructions in the rush to expedite deliveries. E.g. fragile packages kept beneath heavy parcels.
  • Improper packaging, making items susceptible to damage due to adverse weather conditions like heat, humidity, snow, etc.
  • Poor warehousing facility or inadequate location that is prone to theft, infestation or natural disasters like floods and tornadoes.
  • Bad rugged roads or unfit lorries for last-mile deliveries damaged boxes en route.
  • Human errors in packaging or sorting items leading to accidents.   

These returns are very costly and must be addressed urgently. They waste resources, time, and effort, loads of dollars on marketing and logistics, and bring disgruntled customers.  

Flawed returns are defective items that lose the opportunity to sell at full price due to an in-built fault. 

Defective, refurbishable items can be mended but their chances of being as good as new are not guaranteed. These are also controllable as the defects may have been overlooked by the supplier or manufacturer, e.g. quality or manufacturing glitch, or caused due to mishandling by the retailer. If the defects cannot be restored, retailers have an option to sell them in the secondary market at a discounted price. Considering many brands and customers are choosing sustainable retailing, there are separate sites where refurbished items can be bought and sold, e.g. eBay Certified refurbished, Amazon renewed, thredUp, etc. Defective items have now become a part of regular trading and the global secondhand market is projected to double in the next 5 years, reaching $77B

A thorough quality check before shipping the orders can add value by reducing logistics expense, manpower cost, and the chances of losing a valuable customer due to negligence. Such returns must be resolved by speaking to the customer and convincing them of better service in the future.   

The fouled returns happen when perfect items get returned, thus negating a good sale.

These returns can be prevented to some extent but are unavoidable. They constitute the 19% of customers who deliberately order multiple variations of an item (different colors & sizes) so that they can choose what suits them best. Right technology support, and appropriate analytical tools, can help brands investigate the reasons to prevent frauds like “Wardrobing”, or take corrective measures to improve service, in cases like: 

  • The product in hand does not match its description – It could be a quality issue or some piece in the set is missing. Adding detailed descriptions, high-quality images, the right size chart, customer reviews, and a product video can help customers make more informed decisions. If quality is an issue, then the supplier must be informed to take corrective measures and prevent future returns.
  • Incorrect order delivery – Color or size mismatch can happen due to a lapse in warehousing operations. This can be prevented by using the right WMS and OMS solution, that helps automate processes, facilitate 100% inventory-order accuracy and 100%  inventory traceability. 
  • Late delivery- Distributed warehousing improves operations and ensures timely dispatch of items from the warehouse. Partnerships with trusted 3PLs can help deliver orders safely within the promised time. 
  • Product dissatisfaction – This is an individual choice and difficult to manage unless the customer specifies what they did not like about the purchase. An open feedback mechanism can help understand the customer’s point of view better. 

Returns are a constant problem that will only increase with the growth in online shopping. Manual returns processing is error-prone, slow, and cumbersome, hence the need for returns management software that can simplify and improve the buyer and seller experience. Ultimately, the goal isn’t just to reduce the number of returns but also to optimize the process for higher profits. Build greater trust with customers, understand them well to guarantee quality and give them a reason to keep coming back.