The Forrester Wave™: Order Management Systems, Q2 2023

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7 Ways to Boost Your In-Store Pick and Pack Process

Consider these tips to optimize in-store pick and pack

Effective picking and packing are essential to ensure these services meet customer demands.

Reviewed By Michelle Soriano

May 1, 2024

Few businesses experience the effects of changing consumer demands like retailers.Retailers can pat themselves on the back, though. Recent years have proven their resilience, with events like the COVID-19 pandemic permanently reshaping consumer behavior. Innovative solutions like curbside pickup and ship-from-store enabled many retailers to stay afloat. However, there are some processes that retailers seek to improve, such as the pick and pack process.

Unlike distribution centers, which are designed to optimize picking and packing, retail floors are designed to maximize sales. Similarly, sales staff often don’t have the same packing and logistics knowledge as distribution center or warehouse staff. Here’s the dilemma. Retailers want to offer services like curbside/in-store pickup and ship-from-store to stay competitive. Effective picking and packing are essential to ensure these services meet customer demands. What can you do to enhance these processes? Consider these tips to optimize in-store pick and pack.

1. Speed up in-store picking

Speed is a key differentiator for retailers with happy customers. One study finds that speed may be more important than price in some cases. 50% of customers say they’re less likely to choose a company that takes longer to respond. For retailers, “responding” is usually fulfilling customer orders.

It can be harder to achieve efficiency with in-store pick and pack. Many retailers don’t have designated pickers in store. However, the right approach can promote a speedy process.

The first concern is inventory. There’s generally a much more limited supply of stock in-store than in a warehouse, for example. So, team members need to verify items are in stock. Then, they need to secure the item from the sales floor quickly, before an in-store shopper grabs it. Otherwise, you’ll have to cancel the order. Another concern is customer service. Team members handling in-store pick and pack still need to help customers at the store.

Retailers need a solution that expedites in-store pick and pack without overwhelming team members. One strategy is picking items during off hours, such as before the store opens. Staff have more time for order picking when they don’t have to help customers.

Another shortcut is to bypass scanning. Scanning is common for warehouse picking, but in-store teams can skip this step. Instead, they can enter data for short picks. This reduces the time spent with each pick, freeing up time for customer service tasks.

In addition to promoting efficiency, short pick data offers another benefit. Retailers can use data to improve replenishment strategies and stock accuracy. It also helps in evaluating demand trends.

2. Hire dedicated packers

You won’t need separate staff for in-store picking. This task is best left to sales associates. These skilled team members already know your products and their location. Their knowledge can help reduce picking errors and travel time. Packing is different.

Packing orders requires special skills. Packers must know the most effective ways to pack to reduce the chance of product damage during shipment. It’s also necessary when storing completed orders in pickup areas.

If you don’t have packers to spare from warehouses or distribution centers, consider hiring new people. It can be easier to train employees in packing, as this role doesn’t require detailed product knowledge or sales skills. What’s more, these team members won’t transfer between the sales floor and the backroom like sales associates. They focus their time and efforts on optimizing packing.

3. Develop a picking system

Consider how large retailers optimize warehouse operations. A major focus is facilitating smoother navigation of the warehouse to reduce travel time. Why not apply the same logic to in-store pick and pack? Consider these two picking methods:

Automated location picks

Automated location picks involve picking similar items from different orders for each task. So, a single pick task might include picking several ordered items from one area of the store. The team member makes fewer trips to that zone in the store for order picking.

Operate with greater efficiency by assigning team members to different areas of the store. For instance, a team member in the electronics department picks all these items for orders. This picking method is called warehouse zone picking, but who says it can’t apply in-store?

Still, retailers might need a more enhanced solution for large picks. Automated location picks are still possible. You can explore software solutions that enable pick-run optimization. This function sorts pick lists to guide pickers on the most efficient path throughout the store.

Manual location picks

Whereas automated location picks are ideal for larger retailers, manual location picks suit smaller stores. This strategy involves listing a product’s location on the picklist, so team members know where to go. It also shows which items are in the same aisles, reducing pick times.

Whether automated or manual location pick is best depends on your store and customer’s needs. Ultimately, your goal should be to save in-store staff time so they can be as productive as possible.

4. Bypass staging location step

Multiple locations for inventory are necessary for warehouses. The typical warehouse process involves scanning inventory as it moves off shelves and into different zones. Compare this with inventory locations in retail stores. It’s not just that in-store inventory locations – or staging locations – don’t have barcodes for scanning. In-store sales staff also know these staging locations well and label them clearly.

As such, transitioning orders to a staging location shouldn’t be required for in-store processes. Once a single order – or group of orders – is picked and packed, team members can input that orders are ready into the system. Then, customers receive a notification that their orders are ready. Removing the extra step of moving orders to staging locations further enhances efficiency.

5. Track inventory in special in-store locations

Coordination, organization, and attention to detail. All three are vital to efficient pick and pack processes. Numbering aisles and shelves are commonplace, but don’t forget backrooms and special display areas, which also contain inventory.

Retailers can make in-store picking and packing even faster by helping them find items not in the typical location. One solution is creating special codes that appear on picklists. These codes direct team members to an item’s location, whether in its usual spot on the shelf or featured as part of a display. You’ll not only boost picking efficiency – it also decreases the likelihood of short picks.

6. Account for packing slip mishaps

Retailers know how busy it can get on the sales floor. At peak times, it’s rare for a sales associate to complete one task in a single effort. While completing a pick, several store customers may require help. One task that might get interrupted is creating packing slips and assigning them to the right orders. With the busyness of retail environments, packing slips can be misplaced.

A lost packing slip or label might not seem like a big deal. However, it can lead to significant issues. For example, it can cause order errors and cancellations that diminish customer satisfaction. So, retailers want to ensure their processes account for these possibilities. Then, they want to provide the flexibility to reprint packing slips and labels quickly to preserve efficiency.

7. Set up in-store fulfillment centers

Customers may find curbside/in-store pickup and ship-from-store beneficial, but retailers must justify these offerings. In other words, do their benefits outweigh their costs? In most cases, they will. However, retailers that rely on traditional in-store personnel for picking and packing often struggle to achieve the same level of efficiency that they experience at the warehouse.

One solution many retailers have implemented to increase efficiency is assigning some locations as fulfillment hubs. These hub stores are like other locations, except they have additional inventory, space, and skilled personnel for online order fulfillment processes.

One well-known brand utilizing this solution is Target, with its stores-as-hubs strategy. The retail chain recognizes that delivering a great customer experience involves locations that serve dual purposes. Target stores are favorite locations for in-store shopping and ideal hubs for ecommerce fulfillment. You can expect more stores-as-hubs from Target, as the brand plans to invest $100 million into this strategy.

With such an influential corporation acknowledging the importance of in-store fulfillment centers, you can expect more brands to follow suit. This approach offers several benefits outside of maintaining efficiency. It allows you to ship from a store location closer to customers, speeding up delivery and reducing delivery costs. Plus, when stock levels dwindle in the fulfillment center, staff can take from the store’s inventory to fulfill orders and prevent cancellations.

Find the (software) solution to optimized in-store pick and pack

Increased interest in ecommerce and alternatives like buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) weren’t just temporary adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some retailers were offering them before, and those that didn’t surely do now. An efficient in-store pick and pack process will only become more essential. Retailers need a reliable and flexible order management system that empowers better in-store picking and packing.

You have numerous solutions to consider, as the preceding tips indicate. However, one that enables a better overall system is in-store pick and pack software. Discover the advantages of Fluent Order Management for in-store pick and pack. Schedule a demo today to optimize your store fulfillment.

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