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3 e‑commerce inventory hacks for growing retail businesses

Growth Secrets|15.09.2017

Growing an e‑commerce business is hard work. But one of the best ways to do it is by becoming a master of efficiency in your warehouse.

It may be more tempting to look at marketing, conversion strategy, improving your Shopify theme or opening up new sales channels. But if you’re not efficiently receiving, processing and shipping orders then you’re wasting time and resources.

The truth is that with a streamlined warehouse operation you can ship more orders, more often and with fewer errors. This means happier customers, better marketplace reviews, saved money from rectifying mistakes and, ultimately, more future sales.

So here are three systems you can use in your warehouse in order to ensure a more efficient and effective operation.

1. An effective picking system

As your business grows, you’ll obviously have more and more orders that need picking. Yet we’ve seen many businesses waste valuable time and resources in this area.

A simple ‘single order’ picking method can work well for startup retailers. But a more systematic approach is needed once those order numbers increase.

Aside from ‘single order’, there are three other picking systems typically used by e-commerce retailers. We discuss these in depth in our “Definitive Guide to Picking & Packing” ebook, but the three systems are:

Batch picking

Batch picking is where the picker will be assigned a certain number of orders to pick in one go before returning them ready for packing. This is great if you ship a high volume of orders with single or very few items in each order.

Zone picking

Zone picking is where an order would be passed through several zones in the warehouse to have its items picked by dedicated pickers in each zone.This helps to stop multiple pickers getting in each other’s way and works well to improve accuracy if you have high order volume with multiple products per order.

It’s worth noting, however, that the time it takes to pass an order through all the zones can slightly slow down shipping time.

Wave picking

Wave picking is basically zone except all items are picked at the same time. Items are then brought to a central packing desk to be consolidated and shipped. While this is a lot quicker than zone, it does come with higher labour costs due to the more time needed for the packer to combine orders.

So this is a great system to use if you have a high volume of multiple item orders and you rank speed higher than costs.

2. A digital barcode and scanning system

Despite this digital age we live in, it’s still quite typical for e-commerce warehouses to be heavily dependent on manual and paper processes. But there are huge benefits to upgrading to a digital barcode and scanning system.

The near elimination of human error all over the warehouse can be a game changer. With digital, it becomes very hard to pick and ship incorrect orders. This means less time and money spent rectifying these errors and improved customer satisfaction.

So no more printing out paper lists for tasks like picking, packing and stock takes. Instead, you can simply use a scanner or phone app to scan products and complete tasks on screen. If we go back to our picking examples from above, a scanning system will be able to:

  • Tell a picker what and how many items need to be picked.
  • Display warehouse locations of each item and most efficient route to it.
  • Confirm that all items in an order have been picked correctly.

3. An inventory management system

Having multiple sales channels can be great for business. But it can cause havoc in the warehouse if precautions aren’t taken to deal with all the orders. This is where it can be invaluable to use a high-quality inventory management system.

With a system to deal with all your orders in one place, you never miss or duplicate an order. A good quality system will also sync stock levels across sales channels, so there will be a huge reduction of overselling too. All this results in fewer warehouse staff being needed to process more orders, in less time and without sacrificing quality.

For example, Jaques of London is the UK’s oldest traditional games manufacturer and process 2,000 orders a week across six sales channels. They managed to cut order processing time by 75% with Veeqo as their management system and handled 3x as many orders on their busiest day of last year.

So these are just three of the systems we feel are a must have for streamlining your warehouse and growing your e-commerce business. 

If you want to learn more about Veeqo and discover how to grow your ecommerce business, head to www.veeqo.com to sign up for a 14 day free trial. 

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