Time to Take Ownership of Your Order Fulfillment

Sometimes there is such as thing as too many customers.

This could have been the case in early-2020 for a well-known US grocery delivery brand when the pandemic led to an x3 increase in orders.

People rushed to buy groceries online – many for the first time – so the company needed to hire thousands of new order pickers.

Sometimes this sort of unprecedented demand can spell trouble for any business. But the company was able to do more than hire the extra workers – it quickly gave them the right technology to get the job done. And it kept those new customers happy too.

The solution that made this happen was smartphone scanning.

Sudden rise in grocery e-commerce

But before going into how the delivery company made this happen, it’s worth looking at how far online grocery shopping has come in the last 18 months. As trends go, the pre-2020 shift towards online grocery was predictable enough.

Back then grocery retail was handling a steady increase in e-commerce and slowly ramping up existing services and staff as time and demand dictated.

But during the lockdown, Covid led many customers who had barely ordered online before to shift to online ordering overnight. As a result, retailers have had to deal quickly with these sudden changes.

The numbers bear this out.

In 2019, only 4% of US customers ordered groceries for in-store pickup, according to Forrester. However, by May 2020, 16% of adults were ordering groceries online for the first time.

While in Europe – outside the UK – online grocery delivery is under-developed. According to McKinsey, in Italy, France, and Germany, only 13 to 16 percent of respondents feel very satisfied with their online grocery.

And as a result, grocers have been forced to recalibrate their order fulfillment operations. To capably deal with the influx of orders, many stores turned to third-party delivery companies like the one above.

Why stores should take control of order fulfillment

Third-party delivery is an effective solution for grocery delivery and the ability to instantly scale up or down is just one benefit. Yet, there are also advantages to taking order fulfillment in-house.

For the customers, order fulfillment and delivery is a crucial part of the shopping experience. If there is an issue on the customer’s doorstep, that problem will reflect on the brand.

So stores need to get it right. Or hope their delivery company does.

Using a third-party delivery service comes with other disadvantages besides the loss of a direct customer relationship. There are also operational issues like limited control of pricing and cost.

At the same time, the evolution of order fulfillment looks set to continue, many stores are now looking to offer 1-hour delivery slots.

According to Forrester in its Digital Experience Review, there are a growing number of fulfillment choices for online orders, including curbside pickup and same-day delivery.

It said: “Best-in-class brands assist tactical shopping through consideration of the end-to-end experience, including localized product availability and easy selection of preferred fulfillment options.”

These are adding new friction points that put operations under pressure. Fortunately, there is a way to quickly scale up an order fulfillment strategy using Scandit’s computer vision technology.

Building an order fulfillment system with smartphone scanning

Barcode scanning devices are nothing new to retail. Stores are full of them. And they are used for many different tasks.

Smartphone scanning effectively means the whole order fulfillment process – order pickup, in-store picking, and packing – can be handled on one device.

All on one device – given to each store associate.

Scandit’s barcode scanner SDK ensures the scanning application’s performance is on par with the many dedicated scanning devices sitting around the store.

You can see this in the video below.

See how Scandit handles surface glare and warped barcodes.

And there is another positive effect. There is ample evidence to show staff are more comfortable using a smartphone app. They are also used to using them outside of work and prefer the UX and workflow.

Flexibility is key as order fulfillment changes post-Pandemic

Getting back to the grocery delivery example. Smartphone scanning was able to help the company bring 1000s of new order pickers – effectively doubling the workforce.

Scandit’s ability to seamlessly perform on over 20,000 different devices meant the delivery firm could bring new staff hires on board with a BYOD (Bring your own device) strategy.

The company has to scale quickly, doubling its workforce by hiring 100,000 new employees. That meant enabling high-performance scanning on any smart device, including contractor-owned. Unfortunately, the open-source scanning software it tested couldn’t deliver that.

Scanning is an essential function for the company’s shoppers, who need a fast, error-free solution. However, it also had to be capable of capturing proof of delivery from customers on receipt of the goods.

This flexibility extends to dark stores, which are popping up everywhere. But there is a question mark over the larger stores and whether they need that amount of space.

With online sales on the rise, a retailer can quickly close down a large part of the shop floor and turn it into a dark store. All the while keeping the main part of the supermarket still running.

In short, we can see there is a rethink of how store space is used and how the retail staff work within it.

Order fulfillment will be a crucial part of brand experience

According to Forrester in its Digital Experience Review, there are a growing number of fulfillment choices for online orders, including curbside pickup and same-day delivery.

Order fulfillment is becoming a crucial part of the retail brand experience as customers expect more and faster delivery options.

It is why stores should look to take control of their order fulfillment. But they must do so in a way that is scalable and flexible with the store operations overall.

Smartphone scanning is the solution. Moreover, as well as giving every store associate access to the right tools to process and deliver orders, that same device can be used across many other tasks.