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Top 5 Takeaways from Operations Summit 2016

by Liz Vinson on 2016-04-21 14:58:24

This year’s Operations Summit, presented by MultiChannel Merchant, was held in Cincinnati, OH. It featured many top ranked direct to consumer companies, allowing for the various vendors, exhibitors, and internet retailers in attendance to obtain valuable contacts and information. The goal of Operations Summit was to ensure their attendees’ operations organizations – warehousing, order management, shipping, inventory management, systems and contact center team – become the best they can be. Here are a few takeaways from the event, in case you were unable to attend. 

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  1. The Importance of Automation- Imagine a distribution center with 400 employees who manually handle pick-and-pack processes and use tangible paper spreadsheets to organize deliveries. This particular facility is both a breeding ground for human error and is incredibly expensive to maintain.While well thought-out distribution strategies contribute to a supply chain’s success, automated tools have become a necessity. Using smart, intelligent software to organize tasks is one thing, but integrating machinery into your operation adds a whole different dimension. The quicker and more accurate the support, the better your warehouses can expedite the shipping process.

  1. Locationis Everything– In order to obtain the best shipping costs, your company will have to first focus on finding the ideal locations for shipping your products. In order to pick the perfect spot for your distribution center, you will need to analyze your customer base and discover where most of them are located. Then, you will be able to open your distribution centers in areas that will allow for the shortest transit times. Keep in mind as you grow you might need to open more distribution centers, or build a new larger facility in a better location.

  1. Hassle with Hassle-free Returns –The return process for many retailers can create a tremendous amount of hassle especially if you are making the returns process too simple for your customers.  At Operations Summit it was interesting to see how many companies are not making it so simple for customers to return products.  In a session, BootBarn.com mentioned that they actually charge customers for returns.  They do this because they don’t want customers ordering different sizes just to return.  This seems to be more and more common especially with companies that are not just competing on price. 

  1. Free/Affordable Shippingis Key-Shipping things is a necessary evil for most internet retailers. As much as people like buying things cheaper online, they don't like waiting to get them, especially if shipping costs significantly increase the final cost. Consumers have begun to expect free shipping to be available at many retail sites, but the question is whether or not that is realistic for your business. Days of profiting from shipping are long gone, but you do not necessarily want to eat the entire cost of shipping on every order. You could offer the customers free standard shipping (at a cost of five dollars to you), or expedited shipping for eight dollars (saving you a few bucks), so you are losing less money at the end of the day. It is all about finding a balance that is right for your company and for your customers.

  1. OmnichannelCustomer Experience- An omnichannel customer experience also stands for the ability of your customer to be in contact with your company via a variety of channels and to essentially be able to pick up where they left off on one channel and continue the conversation on another. There are two basic challenges with input: First and foremost, companies have a responsibility to make sure to respond: to respond quickly, helpfully and humanly to input from customers, regardless of the channel it comes in on.  But a secondary business need, one that is necessary to achieve true, sustainable omnichannel communication as part of an omnichannel customer experience is to learn how these channels come together to create the customer experience.

This year’s Operations Summit was filled with an insurmountable number of takeaways, but we felt that these were some of the most frequently recurring and important messages. Hopefully they can provide you with the same insight we gained from them and help your company to achieve success.

If you have any questions on ecommerce order fulfillment, are looking for a full supply chain solution, or have interest in attending next year’s Operations Summit, contact us today!

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