Reshaping Fashion Retail: Online Fulfillment, Dark Stores & Data Accuracy

The unprecedented events of 2020 have seen e-commerce spending surge, hitting levels not expected to be reached for another 4-6 years and growing 77% year-over-year (Adobe Digital Economy Index, 2020). As a result, fashion retailers have been pivoting to focus on digital and looking for ways to make e-commerce order fulfilment faster and more cost effective.

And one small tool which can play a big role in picking and fulfilling online orders more efficiently? Putting smartphones in your employees hands.

Shining a light on the value of dark stores

As fashion retailers investigate different approaches to create these efficiencies in their online operations, operating dark stores is one option. While this was a practical solution during enforced closures, even as high streets have reopened some stores are remaining dark to serve growing online demand.

Dark stores have been successfully used by grocery retailers for years. They aren’t open to the public, but for fashion retailers a small number of staff can be used to support ship-from-store services and fulfil online orders.

One dark store can support several stores with a dedicated fulfillment location, increasing the efficiency of order picking and enhancing the accuracy and visibility of inventory. Dark stores can also be an option in lower rent or out of town estate locations, as footfall isn’t important. It’s also a useful contingency in the event of an e-commerce fulfilment center being affected by the virus.

Dark stores can be a win-win for retailers and customers – if your inventory data is up-to-date.

smartphone scanning your secret weapon

Accurate inventory data is the key to faster fulfilment

When it comes to online fulfillment, retail inventory accuracy is essential.

In a previous blog, we highlighted different ways that smartphones with scanning-enabled apps are resetting and reshaping in-store experiences for customers and employees, from busting queues to creating more engaging shopping journeys.

This includes engaging shoppers with augmented product information through their personal devices or empowering employees to confidently deal with questions and requests with clienteling apps. The common success factor in both of these examples? Getting the right information to the right place at the right time, especially stock and product data.

As the average retail store’s inventory accuracy is about 65% (Auburn University), there is plenty of room for improvement. Having more accurate inventory data, accessible via multiple channels, is key to driving efficiency.

And this is where smartphone scanning gives you the edge.

Ensure more accurate inventory, one scan at a time

Many retailers rely on a pool of hardware scanners to enable staff to complete tasks like picking and fulfilling orders, replenishment and inventory management.

Given the high cost of a traditional Hand-Held Scanner (HHT), most retailers never have enough devices in store, and as a result,  stock counting is often compromised. Store stock positions often remain inaccurate for the purposes of stock replenishment and fulfillment.

However, with advanced mobile scanning software, lower cost smart devices can be transformed into enterprise-grade scanners integrated with stock management systems. You can now affordably give every employee the ability to do high performance scanning with an everyday smart device as they fulfill online orders, to keep your inventory levels constantly updated in real-time.

By putting more devices in more employees’ hands, your stock levels become more accurate with every scan. Not only is it fast, intuitive and accurate – there is no need to share devices. Currently, using shared hardware scanners creates not only added risk for employees, but also extra work in continually disinfecting them.

Retailers can also take advantage of bring your own device (BYOD) strategies to allow employees to use their personal smart devices to complete operations tasks. This is especially useful for new or temporary employees to scale up for seasonal or unexpected peaks in demand.

With Scandit, it’s simple to deploy enterprise-grade scanning into existing apps and store infrastructures too. And our software delivers high performance scanning to over 20,000 smart device models. So no matter what devices you or your employees have, scanning performance is assured.

One device, greater flexibility, new capabilities

The flexibility is also key for fashion retailers. Increased visibility of inventory offers the ability to more effectively shift inventory, especially seasonal ranges from stores to e-commerce and in both directions. This also allows employees to order items online for customers when they aren’t available in store, which can help reduce lost sales.

Employees with smart devices are also equipped to handle multiple operational tasks with just one device. New efficiencies can also be unlocked by using augmented reality (AR) technology in employee apps to transform workflows.

Scandit’s MatrixScan software can quickly capture data from multiple barcodes in a single scan.

Boxes of items can be scanned and booked into the stock room in one go, reducing time on inventory management by up to 40%. Employees can use AR to scan boxes without having to open the boxes and check what is inside, as AR overlays display the item on screen. It prevents time-consuming activities such as having to open 20 boxes delivered just to check contents.

Employees picking online orders can scan the barcode of an order, then scan multiple orders on the shelf to locate the right one. It’s a real time-saver.

turn smartphones into personal shoppers

Smartphones in fashion

Fashion retailers must continue to act and adapt to the unpredictable market and smartphone scanning provides a flexible and future-proof technology that supports the focus on digital. Whether online demand levels drop, stabilize or grow as the situation evolves, the flexibility, scalability and efficiency of mobile apps and smartphones can help retail to cope and thrive.

Check out our fashion retail infographic to see more ways smartphone scanning is reshaping fashion or talk to one of our experts for more insights into how our fashion customers have embraced scanning-enabled mobile apps to overcome their challenges and digitally transform.

Posted in Retail