Shipping in e-commerce is acquiring products from an e-retailer and sending them directly to the customer’s doorstep. Several factors contribute to a seamless, hassle-free shipping process, and it is vital to keep them in mind. The shipping process goes through several hurdles that may incur added costs. Here the prospect of automated shipping comes in.
Technological innovation has paved a new path to implementing automation software, machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), and several business sectors. E-commerce has experienced a successful implementation of both AI and RPA, especially in shipping companies. With these advancements, the accuracy and efficiency of shipping processes have potentially increased.
In this detailed guide to automated shipping, you will learn more about logistics automation and how it works.
What is Automated Shipping?
The term shipping automation integrates technology, software, and the groundwork to streamline the fulfillment and shipping process. This new shipping model aims to minimize human error by removing manual processes. Like warehouse automation, the goal of automating shipping processes is to eliminate the requirement for skilled or unskilled manual labor.
Automated shipping processes invigorate efficiency, leading to increased productivity levels. Large-scale businesses are steadily adopting this shipping model to carry out shipping operations in less time. Automated shipping systems are labor-saving because they can replace around 15 to 20 manual stations involved in checking and parceling and avoid paying dimensional weight surcharges from small-scale parcel carriers.
How Automated Shipping Can Speed Up Growth
Shipping automation can significantly increase efficiency and productivity, enabling you to achieve and process more orders faster. Automated shipping optimizes a company’s supply chain and brings several benefits. Some are as follows:
- Repurpose resources
Automated shipping significantly reduces the need for a manual workforce in shipping operations. You can easily perform shipping operations like verification of orders and creating and printing shipping labels with the help of automation tools. You can also reduce labor costs significantly by reassigning team members to non-automated roles.
- Spend less money
Autonomous shipping potentially lessens or sometimes even replaces the need for human resources. As a business owner, you can focus more on other essential operations rather than tasks that can function without a workforce and within a shorter time frame with automation. It helps to cut down on several hidden costs associated with shipping.
- Improve efficiency
Automated shipping systems result in faster turnarounds because it optimizes time-consuming operations like packing, creating and printing shipping labels, and monitoring and managing stock levels. You can let technology do all your work and trust them to perform faster. Automated shipping streamlines this process and helps increase production and operational efficiency, bringing in more sales and generating more profit.
- Optimize your supply chain
As a business owner, you must compile your data in one place. Automating the shipping process can help you achieve that. It helps you monitor and manage tracking and inventory efficiently and even assists with data for improving demand forecasting.
Ways to Automate Your E-commerce Shipping
With the benefits of shipping automation in mind, let us delve into the processes involved:
- Integrate your fulfillment and e-commerce platforms
Leading e-commerce platforms integrate with top fulfillment services to facilitate automation in an orderly fashion. An integrated platform will provide insight into the status of orders and inventory.
- Use an ERP inventory system (optional)
ERP inventory systems automate parts of the inventory process. If your brand operates on a larger scale, you should consider using an ERP system to have all your order and inventory management requirements in one place. In addition, you will also have connections for strategizing logistics, finances, and other operations in general. An ERP system will consolidate your operations and increase automation efficiency significantly at the same time.
- Set reorder points
Reorder points will warrant that you are notified automatically when your stock levels reach a certain limit so you can estimate an average of the products you will need to order for every SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). This step is crucial because it helps businesses monitor and balances their inventory storage.
- Set up automated shipment tracking
Automated tracking systems can reduce or even mitigate the risk of human errors by eliminating the need for manual input of data. You can quickly notify customers about their shipment details during the movement process of the order package from one point to another.
What are the Advantages of E-commerce Shipping Automation?
Shipping automation is bound to give you an edge over other companies because lowering your shipping costs can potentially lower shipping costs charged from the customers. It will also increase operational speed, efficiency, and productivity, leading to an optimized customer experience. Let us look into some of the top benefits of shipping automation in e-commerce.
- Lower shipping, labor, and fulfillment costs
Automated shipping systems help companies significantly cut down on shipping and labor costs and additional fulfillment costs because automation eliminates the need for manual tasks related to the shipping process, enabling you to repurpose staff and workforce to work on other non-automated functions that might need more focus, such as optimizing the customer experience.
- Greater speed, efficiency, and productivity
Automated shipping systems are responsible for enhancing tasks that take too much time with manual operations, such as picking, packing, and sorting. It helps to perfect the fulfillment process by speeding up the turnaround time, advancing production rate, and even taking care of large-scale order volumes in much less time. Automation in this sector is indeed beneficial to sales, brand image, as well as profits.
- Improved customer experience
The ultimate goal of any business or organization is to reap maximum profits from sales and cost savings. Automation in shipping ensures that both of these factors are taken care of. Integrating shipping automation in an e-commerce venture is to make it more cost-effective and easy to receive, process, and ship an order to your customer’s doorstep. Automated shipping makes your team more efficient in their jobs while ensuring that your customers get the best shopping experience possible.
With the rising demand for same-day delivery, two-day delivery, or faster delivery systems, automated shipping systems are superior shipping options because of the ease and speed of operations.
The Challenges of the E-commerce Shipping Process
Like any other large-scale process, shipping is a process that involves several complexities that can be challenging to overcome. Automated shipping is no stranger to such hurdles. E-commerce shipping is associated with numerous business entities and comes with different strategies. Some of the challenges faced by the e-commerce shipping process have been detailed below:
- International shipping rates and procedures
It is well-known that international shipping can cost a hefty amount of money your customers might not agree to pay. This highly demotivational factor can affect your business negatively, causing sales to go down significantly. It can cause you to lose many of the worldwide consumer bases. Around 195 countries worldwide have their own import and export regulations that affect their customs fees.
Thereby, several companies stick to a country-specific list regarding shipping to keep within the geographic regions to minimize international shipping costs.
- Disorganized return process and policy
The return and refund process can be a hassle, even if e-commerce platforms use certain apps and methods to optimize it. Stringent returns might demotivate customers from purchasing products from your company. On the other hand, lax policies can enable customers to take advantage, potentially burdening your resources. Survey has shown that consumers tend to shop at places with good returns policies.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have a flexible and transparent returns policy to build customer relationships. You must streamline and organize your returns policies to avoid negative customer reviews. Disorderly returns processes tend to frustrate customers, causing you to lose them in the process.
- Miscommunication with suppliers or shipping services
In shipping processes, there are several communication issues you are likely to face. For instance, when specific instructions are passed amongst numerous groups and people, the exact instructions might not get executed because of miscommunication or misinterpretation.
Miscommunication is a common challenge that shipping services often face. A large percentage of orders usually pass from one point to another by going through approximately ten departments or more. It can leave room for lost deliveries, upset customers, and negative reviews.
- Incorrectly processed orders and inventory management
Products are lost or affected due to inaccuracies and inconsistencies in inventory records can potentially result in customers having negative shopping experiences. Once your customer orders from your website because a product is listed in stock, you need to ensure it is actually in stock. Inventories can fluctuate, and it can be challenging to maintain accuracy when counting your products. Inaccurate inventory leads to missing out on order fulfillment resulting in negative feedback.
- Unhelpful customer service
Customer service can make or break a business. A large percentage of the customer base is likely to return to a company that offers a good customer service experience. Reliable customer service is the backbone of an e-commerce company. You need to take special care and eliminate unhelpful customer service to boost sales and profit simultaneously.
- Covid-19 shipping challenges and delays
The subsequent lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have put massive pressure on online shopping platforms. With people unable to step out of their houses, the dependence on e-business has increased tenfold in only two years.
The pandemic has caused many delays and challenges in shipping. Costs have also increased considerably. For instance, importing goods from Asia to other countries has increased fourfold.
- Not using the right technology
With time, technology and trends evolve. Businesses and organizations should consider these advancements. Not using the right technology is one of the most common challenges companies face during shipping.
New-age technological tools can quickly get any complex job done within minutes. The old-school way will get you nowhere and cause unnecessary delays and mistakes in operations, leading you to incur losses.
In this cut-throat market, you cannot afford to suffer any drawbacks in your business. Therefore, you must adopt and incorporate new-age technologies in your business and shipping model to stay ahead in the ever-changing business trends.