Consumer Trends that will impact order fulfillment.

The consumer landscape is constantly changing, with new trends emerging every year. Consumer expectations continue to rise, spending is cooling due to inflation, and supply chains still have issues affecting orders. As we enter the year 2023, it’s vital to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the impact that recent consumer trends will have on order fulfillment. Here are some consumer trends we can expect this year that could significantly alter how goods are delivered to customers.

Consumer Trends that will impact order fulfillment - automation1. Increased Automation

Automation technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated, allowing companies to streamline their order fulfillment processes and reduce costs. Automation can enable companies to process orders quickly and accurately track shipment status, improving customer satisfaction. Repetitive tasks like demand planning, carrier selection, and order assignments are completed automatically using high-tech software systems. Here are a few high-level examples of areas where automation can be most helpful in the order fulfillment process.

  • Data and systems integration – integrated systems make real-time tracking, inventory levels, and reporting possible. 
  • Carrier selection – Use order fulfillment programs to select a carrier based on chosen criteria. Each carrier offers different rates, delivery speeds, and services for each order. Businesses must determine a carrier balancing cost against speed or service types to maximize customer satisfaction. Doing this manually becomes overwhelming as sales increase. Automating this selection speeds up fulfillment speed and accuracy and often saves money. Furthermore, the criteria for shipping can be set by the consumer, which improves customer personalization and satisfaction. 
  • Demand forecasting – Forecasting analyzes historical data to anticipate customers’ willingness to purchase products and services. It is a way of ensuring adequate stock quantities to avoid stockouts and limit overstocking. Automating this process using AI has had significantly higher accuracy that helps streamline supply chain issues and hit the sweet spot of product supply and demand.
  • Inventory Planningautomating inventory planning is linked to demand forecasting but also includes ensuring adequate warehousing is available, tracking real-time supply levels, and integrating inventory systems with omnichannel sales systems. Furthermore, as orders are fulfilled, inventory planning systems will initiate auto-reorders and order delays as stock runs low.

2. On-Demand Delivery

Customers increasingly demand faster and more convenient delivery options. This trend could lead to an increase in on-demand delivery services, allowing customers to receive their goods faster and with less hassle. This consumer trend is impacting order fulfillment more than any other. Companies must develop strategies to meet these demands and ensure that their delivery services are reliable and cost-effective.

The biggest challenge retailers will face is providing faster delivery without adding high costs. Many businesses are offering conditional free shipping options to meet on-demand delivery expectations. These might include a free shipping purchase threshold, offering it for particular items or products, or for a limited time. Additional strategies include delivery alternatives like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and local delivery. Creativity is required to keep customers happy and maintain healthy margins.

3. Greater Personalization

Customers increasingly expect personalized experiences from purchases. Companies must personalize their products and services to meet customer expectations. This could include customizing packaging and delivery services based on customer preferences. Consumers are influenced by brand ambassadors sharing unboxing experiences.    

Elements of personalized and memorable unboxing experiences:

  • Branded packaging – Even if the outer box is traditional, the inner box, as well as every component of the packaging material, should reflect your brand identity
  • Create a story with the unboxing – consider how you can take the customer on a journey from opening to unwrapping their product.
  • Include handwritten notes.
  • Include personalized discount codes and product add-on suggestions 
  • Encourage social shares of their experience and thoughts about your products

consumer trends that will impact order fulfillment - technology4. Increased Use of Technology

In the coming years, we can expect to see an increase in the use of technology to improve order fulfillment. This could include using AI-assisted robots to pick, pack, and ship orders and automated warehousing systems to ensure accurate and efficient order fulfillment. Some retail giants already see improved outcomes from using AI-powered bots.

The robots receive shipments and deliver them to staff, who scan items into the system. Using high-tech AI computer vision, another program uses color-coded lights to show the team where to store items. Our natural human intuition tends to place similar items next to one another. In contrast, technology has shown that using “random stow” (which means inventory bins store a variety of items – books next to sports equipment next to toys, for example) reduces errors during the picking process. This is just one of the ways that technology will continue to change how order fulfillment is accomplished.

Working with Falcon5. Partnering with a Tech-Forward 3PL

Tech-forward 3PLs are implementing most of the above trends. Many fulfillment companies have already adopted automation systems to reduce overhead, inefficiencies, and staffing needs. Furthermore, a solid 3PL will provide a broader network of carriers, lower overall shipping costs, and faster delivery. Lastly, a partnership with a 3PL can afford your business a much higher level of technology without purchasing expensive systems in-house.

FALCON FulfillmentFuture consumer trends will have a significant impact on order fulfillment. Companies must be prepared to implement and adapt their strategies to stay ahead of the competition and provide customers with a seamless and enjoyable experience. By anticipating these trends and taking the necessary steps to prepare, companies can ensure that their order fulfillment processes are ready for the future. If you are curious about how partnering with a 3PL can help your business implement these trends, get in touch with one of our agents today.

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