Image via Flickr by David Guo’s Master

Technology has greatly impacted the retail industry, upending the traditional model of in-store shopping and forcing retailers to re-evaluate how they conduct business. The growth of e-commerce, mobile technology, and increased social media use has been the driving force behind change in consumer behavior, habits, and expectations. The retail sector is working to meet growing consumer demands for online convenience and expedited shipping. 

Consumers Want Fast and Free Delivery Options

Consumers who are familiar with free, same-day, or express shipping options when making online purchases now expect these choices every time they shop. Having purchases delivered quickly, conveniently, and at no cost is worth skipping a visit to a store. Fast and inexpensive shipping is now a necessity, as the time-saving value can’t be quantified for the average, busy American.

In addition to shipping options, consumers want the ability to pick up their online orders directly from their local stores or choose a specific time slot for delivery. Consumers want shipping flexibility, and most will pay extra to have their purchases delivered outside of normal delivery hours. Additionally, 80 percent of consumers want to track their orders online, specifically on their mobile devices. This demand for visibility throughout the shipping process adds to the challenges that businesses face to stay competitive, even though they see it as an opportunity to retain customer loyalty.

Businesses Must Align With Consumer Shipping Demands 

A survey of 2,815 U.S. consumers found that more than 50 percent preferred free delivery of their goods, while 47 percent felt that both free delivery and speed of shipment were equally important, and 2.5 percent felt that faster shipping took precedence. Nevertheless, 90 percent of those surveyed agreed that they could wait longer for their purchases to arrive in exchange for free shipping.

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How can businesses meet consumer shipping demands logistically without cutting into profits? Those promising enough volume can negotiate discounted shipping rates from carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Partnering with Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) allows businesses to fulfill customer shipping expectations, but it reduces their ability to customize packaging. This partnership also limits opportunities to create follow-up sales with each customer. Fortunately, innovative technology is available to make this goal achievable.

Warehouse Inventory Management Software Optimizes Distribution Processes

Businesses can use warehouse inventory management software to deliver reliable, timely, and cost-effective shipping solutions. Completely integrated software provides the capability to accurately label and track packages, find the best rate options during the fulfillment process, and identify time in transit. Warehouse management software enables businesses to easily print carrier labels, packing slips, and thank-you notes at the time of shipment. This software fully integrates with business operations, reduces mistakes, and achieves greater productivity while getting shipments out the door faster.

A comprehensive offering of inventory, accounting, warehouse, automation, POS, fulfillment, and reporting tools are only some features of what warehouse management software provides. It’s what every business needs to streamline its supply chain and stand above the competition in today’s consumer marketplace.

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