New research has suggested a need for online retailers to incorporate greater automation into their warehouse operations in order to meet demand during peak periods and improve customer service.

The independent market research from Conveyor Networks surveyed the views of over one hundred mid-tier online retailers and found that 83 percent believe that automation will drive future online retail growth.

According to the study, respondents identified that an increase in orders during peak periods led to a higher chance of warehousing and delivery errors occurring, with online retailers revealing that they are facing more pressure to deliver on time.

Almost half of the online retailers surveyed identified a lack of staff to fulfil orders and order errors as key challenges to meeting delivery schedules, however, almost three-quarters have less than half of their warehouse management processes automated.

Tracy Simmons, Business Manager of bricks and mortar retailer Parkgate Mobility, discussed with THIIS the need for correct infrastructure to reduce the potential for human error which help deliver great customer service.

The mobility retailer is currently undergoing a process of changing its entire infrastructure across the organisation, installing Assistive Partner’s iRetailer system.

“A strapline we are working towards incorporating throughout the business is, ‘if we do not get you mobile in 24 hours, we’ll do the job free of charge.’ The reason we are investing so much money and time into our infrastructure is so that we can confidently make and stand by that claim in the future,” commented Tracy.

The research highlighted that that almost half (49 percent) of online retailers questioned plan to further reduce manual warehouse processes before their next peak spell.

“Online retailers can no longer suffer order delays or errors, or difficult ordering and returns processes because shoppers will take their business elsewhere.” David Carroll

The majority of online retailers claimed that customer expectations on delivery have risen significantly over the last five years, with 59 percent admitting that meeting these expectations is the biggest challenge they face.

And with the UK a forerunner in online spend per household, retailers are keen to ensure that the customer ordering experience is seamless.

Almost three-quarters of online retailers believe that increased warehouse automation will help them improve their customer service capabilities, with just under half planning to change their order fulfilment processes in the future.

Commenting on the research, David Carroll, Managing Director of Conveyor Networks, said: “Today’s savvy online shoppers have high expectations when it comes to deliveries. They want to receive their goods quickly and conveniently and if they don’t want to keep them, return them just as easily.

“As a result, online retailers can no longer suffer order delays or errors, or difficult ordering and returns processes because shoppers will take their business elsewhere.

“Many are also concerned about the impact of customers leaving negative comments on their social media channels if they’ve received bad service, so many are working hard to ensure all parts of the order and delivery process are as seamless as possible.

“By increasing automation- from mobile devices such as handheld scanners to help the pick process, to using a fully automated bagging line in packing–a range of slow, laborious and error-prone manual processes in the warehouse can be made much more efficient. Retailers can meet delivery promises more effectively, process orders more efficiently during peak periods, and reduce the number of returns due to incorrect orders.”

Founded in 2009, Conveyor Networks provides warehouse software and automation solutions to retail and e-commerce businesses. The research was conducted by Sapio Research in February 2018, surveying 100+ online retailers, employing more than 250 people across a variety of retail sectors.

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