IT for Etailing
It’s hardly surprising that in a sector already worth over Aï¿½50bn and rising at around 20% pa – including companies as diverse as Tesco and hundreds of niche market small businesses – that many are still developing their business model and still have big areas for improvement. Websites are being developed and refined to capture the buyer’s attention and to make the order placing process – indeed the whole purchasing experience – as easy and as enjoyable as possible. Search engine optimisation techniques are increasingly used to bring more traffic to the site and companies strive to offer the latest products at the most attractive prices.
Sadly there’s abundant evidence that many companies are still not investing and paying enough attention to what really matters to the buyer – is what I want in stock and will I get the right goods delivered on time? Recent surveys show that on-line retailers do not fully appreciate how important getting the right purchase delivered on time means to the shopper. So what’s the answer?
Established businesses who have moved into internet sales will already have an existing stock and IT based ordering procedure running their warehouse and dispatch function. However the typical Warehouse Management System (WMS) designed to distribute goods in bulk to stores may not be ideally suited to handling a high volume of small orders, usually between one and three items that may require different picking and stock management procedures.
Newer entrants to the market will have the advantage of only dealing with small order volumes, but may also have chosen simple software systems based on Microsoft Excel or standard accounting packages which in the long run will have limited capacity.
Any software stock management system selected should be designed to cope with high volume picking and collating of small orders, mainly single picks. It should also be able to efficiently handle returns, instantly update stock records and interface with the website’s software to provide timely and accurate stock information. Trying to order a product and finding it is not in stock will not enhance the company’s image in the market.
Suppliers of WMS to large warehouses and catalogue sales organisations will be familiar with the type of stock pick and management pattern that internet sales require, but many systems still focus on bulk orders and do not always lend themselves to a predominance of small volume dispatches.
The success of internet retailing will continue to attract new entrants, making the market more competitive than ever. Building customer loyalty has to be a vital strategy for success and getting deliveries right – in the eyes of the shopper – is the key to success. The key to delivery is having the right systems in place that help the supplier keep its promises.