As the e-commerce industry continues to grow it is becoming critical to track and manage the large amounts of inventory required to keep up with demand. E-commerce is a continually changing landscape in which businesses are continuing to adapt. E-commerce has been the key for many businesses to thrive is uncertain times, as well as bring their products to new markets and customers. Yet while a business may have a great product and have a substantial demand, keeping up with that changing landscape and demand requires software solutions to manage those variables. Otherwise, expectations and goals may not be met.
When business landscapes shift, or demand grows and fluctuates, inventory management is key. This is where a solid warehouse management solution can come into play and will help your business’ fulfilment operations avoid losing out to the competition. Let’s see what type of features should be prioritized for a WMS to support e-commerce.
First and foremost, you want your WMS to be able to receive orders from your online e-commerce store platform to fulfill on orders. As well you want your WMS to be able to push information that is useful to your customers back to your e-commerce store. Think about information like order numbers, customer information for fulfilment, updating stock inventory for product on your store, sending tracking information, and more. This is where integrations come into play. A WMS can take a lot of the manual tasks involved with information updates out of the way by integrating with your e-commerce store. WAM for example can integrate with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify. When an order is placed through the online store it is created in WAM and then sent along for fulfilment by the warehouse. Information like tracking is sent back to the e-commerce store to the customer through automation and product inventory is updated so that future customers know what is available, or potentially out of stock. Even document preparation can be automated and populated from the WMS to the online store, like packing slips, or return labels. Without an integrable WMS much of this information transfer becomes manual, and e-commerce stores are taking advantage of these integrations.
Scale is probably the next major hurdle that any successful business encounters. Small now, doesn’t mean small forever. Eventually your products become so popular that there is the struggle to keep up with demand. Not being able to scale potentially costs you customers when they simply find someone else to meet their demand. A WMS that is scalable can help here. WMS’s that are scalable can be configured to create efficient processes that help alleviate the pressure. For example, a scalable WMS can be configured to help with picking processes so that staff know where to go to grab products to fulfill orders. They can also help with decision making, like inventory replenishment alerts, or if a storage location is full to capacity and suggest an alternative in advance. Akatia’s WAM is fully scalable so that businesses never have to worry about outgrowing their WMS. If scaling your business and e-commerce sales are a goal then a WMS that can support that with robust processes, automation, and efficient workflows are essential to keeping up with increased demand.
Configurability and customization to your specific needs should be prioritized and not compromised on. A good WMS solution shouldn’t attempt to fit you into a box, or force you to always implement a work around as a solution to a challenge or goal. As a WMS developer Akatia has always prioritized customization. There needs to be an understanding that not all businesses operate equally or under the same set processes. That’s not to say a business shouldn’t be open to a better way of doing things, but that better way should make your work easier, not fight against you. That said the more customization flexibility offered by a WMS the better, especially given that your business may change in the future. Remember that scale we spoke of. A WMS that can grow with your business, rather than being thrown on the junk pile after a few years, especially having spent time and investment on it, is invaluable.
This being said a WMS should keep up with changing technology or add technology to the warehouse to help with your day to day work. This is especially true for e-commerce store owners as e-commerce platforms are (or at least should) constantly providing more and more functionality to help their customers succeed. For your WMS ask questions like, how do they integrate with other platforms, do they have an API, what are some new developments that they are thinking of, or that they see being used in the warehouse space. One of the differentiators for WAM has been the ability to bring scanner technology into the warehouse by developing our own handheld scanner application that interacts live with the WAM browser application on Salesforce. This has allowed WAM users to do all their work from the handheld scanner and update inventory information in real time as they go about their daily tasks.
Finally feature sets and functionality is a big determination for any e-commerce WMS. A WMS should have some standard features out of the box, like how to manage receipts of inventory, create shipments for orders, be able to create product types (itemmasters), and beyond that features that can accommodate industry standards and help you do things more efficiently. As well it should be adaptable to unforeseen variables without having to create a work around that compromise on best practices.
E-commerce is ever changing and pushing the boundaries of customer purchasing patterns while at the same raising the level of service expectation. A good WMS that is flexible, integrable, and provides optimized features can help your business grow and successfully meet your e-commerce fulfilment challenges and goals.