Build the Future of Order Fulfillment (Now) With Smart Devices

Many leading retailers are exploring using smart devices for order fulfillment tasks in response to the continuing rise in e-commerce.

As you can see below, the smartphone comes with a wide array of features. These offer the opportunity to create both accessible and durable order picking apps.

Setting up an order fulfillment system and application using smart devices might seem as straightforward as building a scanning app.

But there are a lot of pitfalls between planning and launch.

This guide aims to help you set up an order fulfillment with smart devices for your store. It covers everything from the technology the device needs to actual examples of retailers who have literally implemented it in days.

This includes:

  • Planning an app – including the implementation and testing.
  • How to create an app your store associates love to use.
  • Videos from our content library with our solutions consultants.
  • A retail product manager explaining how his organization set up an order picking system with smart devices.
  • Key learnings from the order picking demo app we created.

As the graphic below demonstrates, now is the time to get ahead in in-store order fulfillment.

The sections below show you how to cope with this rise by equipping store associates with smart devices.

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Getting ready to build the application

Smart devices make excellent order picking and click and collect tools. However, the scanning and the data capture ability need to be spot on.

Integrating this with existing systems is crucial.

Fortunately, with Scandit, you can do this in only a few weeks.

In the video clip below – taken from our webinar Get Ready for the Seasonal Surge – we outline how you can achieve this.

You drop Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK into your app, and you can make it work. The integration part for Scandit can take as little as 4 or 5 hours.

In our estimation – with our technology – integration testing takes about a week.

You will need to test how your infrastructure, back-end architecture, and any legacy systems, react to any increased demand. In week four – allowing for some last-minute changes – you can go live.

However, there are quicker ways to implement scanning without a big in-house team. For example, a product team can add our Web SDK in a matter of minutes.

While if you need native functionality, the video below outlines some plug-and-play solutions you can get through our partners.

Putting the store associate first

When planning an in-store order picking application, technology is not always the first thing to consider.

The rise in online shopping has put retail stores under increasing pressure – and it is the staff that are in the front line. The video below outlines the importance of keeping store associates onside and making their job easier.

Order picking and click and collect can be a tough job. Staff are often managing huge orders, picking in-store to a deadline while keeping out of the way of customers.

Any order picking solution needs to fit the staff first. Staffing and keeping hold of experienced store associates is a pain point for retailers.

Smartphones are an excellent way to help staff. They are instantly familiar, and their touchscreens and feedback provide an excellent interface for an order picking app.

Further down, we run through some of the ways to create an awesome app your store associates will instantly feel comfortable with.

Four different ways stores organize product picking

Despite a rise in automation, the process for fulfilling or “picking” orders is still done by people. Store associates receive a list of orders to pick and they venture into the store to retrieve them.

In 2020, writing in Forbes, retail industry writer Roger Tripp said the cost to fulfill online orders remains constant when using a store’s staff to complete an order.

He says:

“Based on my own research, and research from consulting firms that specialize in analyzing the grocery industry, the cost to pick, prepare and deliver an online grocery order is between $10 and $25, with most deliveries averaging $11 to $12.”

In 2021, there is a new challenge in the shape of employee retention. Churn rates are now as high as 50% per year and are set to increase – with training and ramp-up time becoming a significant cost driver.

So there is clearly a need to make the order fulfillment process more efficient.

Fortunately, smart devices are easily scalable and work at both ends of the spectrum. In the section below we’ll examine how to make an application that fits all use cases.

Building a productive app that store associates want to use

One of the biggest challenges in creating a data-capture application for order pickers is creating a user experience that supports the process in both an ergonomic and efficient way.

To help you build a successful In-store Picking App, we are sharing our UX best practices from our own field-tested app.

Start with clearly defined goals for the application

Here the goals break down into three priorities.

Performance

Ensure the overall picking time to pick is equal to a dedicated device. In terms of duration, the battery needs to last an 8-hour picking shift.

Process and User Interface

The picker needs to be able to see the current and following items they should pick. The picking app should include the product location, image, and other information for easy identification.

The bin number should be clearly visible once the item is scanned. Lastly, the picker should be able to see a progress indicator for that order.

Ergonomics

Take advantage of the smart device touchscreen and haptic feedback capabilities. Use haptic feedback for pickers wearing headphones or working in a loud environment.

Pickers are constantly selecting products. So they need to be able to operate the device with one hand. There should also be clear feedback to distinguish between correct and incorrect scans.

For more on this, see the video below. Or our Step by Step Guide to Creating an Intuitive Order Picking App.

Likewise, for BOPIS or Click and Collect, the same process should be used. The graphic below gives a good illustration of how a store associate will use the app, and what functionality to focus on.

Testing it out in a store-like environment

Fast ‘On-Demand’ delivery has become more competitive than ever – driven by more people wanting a Uber Eats-like experience for their shop.

As we demonstrate below, a smartphone app powered by Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK needs to work both quickly and faultlessly.

User surveys with actual pickers should form a key plank of your testing strategy.

In the videos below, we show a typical in-store testing scenario with our demo app.

BOPIS or Click and Collect are also a key part of any order fulfillment system. The video below shows a Scandit-powered app in testing.

Database for Simulating Workflow

It is crucial to connect to a product database when simulating workflow. Using Scandit, you can easily connect to your own for testing.

Another option is to simulate this using “Test Mode”. So you can test the workflow without a complex backend integration. In this case, when the app scans an item a bin number is randomly generated.

The Warehouse - order fulfillment in practice

Back in 2020 – like many retailers worldwide – New Zealand’s The Warehouse had to close its stores for lockdown. In this case, they were completely closed for a month.

After that, it was able to sell online.

In the first three days, The Warehouse was hit by a 600% increase in online orders. At this point, it was attempting to fulfill orders using a paper-based solution.

Speaking in a recent Scandit webinar, The Warehouse chapter lead devops Trevor Jones said: “Our online team is pretty capable. They’ve managed to build up a whole bunch of capacity over the years, but they’ve never really had anything quite like this.”

As a result, they built a picking app for mobile devices the staff already had. Orders would be sent directly to store associate devices.

Here is the workflow of how The Warehouse achieved this in a matter of days.

Jones added: “Thank goodness for mobile devices. One of the nice things about the user interface on my smartphone is you can display lists and scrollable lists and everybody knows how to use it.”

“The dedicated devices that we had couldn’t do that sort of thing. So we put together an app that displays a bunch of orders [so store associates can] go over the toy department and pick these things and go over to the hardware department. It just made life so easy. And we’ve been rolling that out and everybody loves it.”

Summary - fast implementation is just one benefit

There are many advantages to using smart devices for in-store order fulfillment. These include better UX for staff, the ability to increase workflow efficiencies (with the right SDK), and durability.

And with Scandit, it can also be implemented quickly.

Moreover, smart devices can be made readily available to employees throughout their shifts. This means the device can carry out numerous other back-of-store tasks.

These could range from shelf management to clienteling. Our SDK also enables you to implement advanced technologies like augmented reality to make your store associates even more productive.

Get in touch if you want to find out more about this and set up an order fulfillment system using smart devices powered by Scandit.

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