Retailers and their supply chains had to make major changes to stay in business in 2020. With the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic hanging over their heads, consumers found new ways to shop, interact with merchants, and pick up orders, all in an attempt to stay safe. However, their demands for excellent customer experiences as purchasing journeys took them from online and mobile to curbside pickup didn’t change– they still expected consistency, speed and accuracy.
Merchants turned to their software developer partners for new features that could enhance these new types of customer engagements, but partnerships, not new development, are sometimes the best way to meet your clients’ needs.
Ravi Panjwani, VP of Brother Mobile Solutions, points out that providing grocers, retailers, and supply chain operations with optimal labeling solutions for their business can enable smoother, more efficient processes and more satisfied consumers. Labeling certainly isn’t a new concept, but some smart stand-alone, cloud-based and quick-to-deploy label printing technologies are.
New Use Cases for Labeling Solutions
Labeling solutions have become an integral part of processes in large e-commerce operations and distribution centers to route, fulfill and ship orders. Panjwani says, however, that adapting to consumer demands in 2020 demonstrated the value of labeling in several new use cases:
Brick-and-Mortar Stores Doing Business Online
Prior to the pandemic, few businesses anticipated the spike in online ordering that was to come. The Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales report from the U.S. Census Bureau states that Q3 2020 e-commerce sales rose 36.7 percent year over year. Traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses now doing an unanticipated volume of business online need solutions to manage it. “Nearly every category of retailer had to pivot in order to survive,” Panjwani comments.
Labeling solutions enable more organized operations, helping to pick, package, identify customers, ship date, and other information that keeps the process organized and accurate.
Grocers Offering Curbside Pickup
Panjawani says, “Demand for contactless or curbside pickup skyrocketed as consumers looked for a safe and easy way to grocery shop without entering the store.”
According to the Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2020 report, e-commerce grocery sales grew by more than 300 percent in the early part of 2020. Stores that only before had a small fraction of customers that took advantage of online ordering were suddenly filling, packaging and delivering groceries to customers curbside. Labeling solutions enabled employees to complete orders accurately and on time.
Micro Distribution Centers and Last-Mile Delivery
Filling online orders for local pickup or delivery create challenges for stores. Picking from retail shelves is inefficient, it can make tracking available inventory difficult, and it often leads to negative customer experiences for in-store shoppers. Those issues have driven retailers to open more micro distribution centers. Transforming a store, mall space, warehouse or other available facility, grocers or retailers can arrange items for efficient picking and fast fulfillment.
“In the burgeoning speed-of-light distribution center culture, getting inventory out the door faster, tracking it better, and minimizing the cost of doing it is what keeps an operation in the game,” Panjwani says.
Barcode labels ensure that item availability is always up to date for online shoppers and that purchasing isn’t tying up capital in inventory the business doesn’t need. Labeling solutions also provide a way for teams to professionally label packages for accurate last-mile delivery.
Small Retail Staffs Working to Keep Up with Change
Item shortages were common early in the pandemic. Retailers that were able to find alternate suppliers of paper products, cleaners, and thermometers and other health-related items needed to get them on the shelf quickly to meet demand. Offering these businesses with in-aisle next-gen labeling solutions can enable them to print shelf labels and manage price changes with speed and efficiency. These standalone solutions are particularly valuable if the business is operating with a smaller staff than usual, enabling employees to work more productively.
Value You’ll Provide to Your Customers
To sustain operations in 2020, businesses adapted to health regulations and consumer demands quickly, but not necessarily as efficiently as possible. Now they’re faced with the challenge of finding ways to make online ordering, curbside pickup, delivery and other new processes profitable and sustainable.
Labeling solutions, integrated with the solutions you provide, will result in time-savings, accuracy, and greater customer satisfaction when the right package is delivered at the right time.
“Innovative solutions will keep businesses agile as they rebuild and reboot,” Panjwani concludes.