Blog Posts Fulfilling Online Orders for Food or Beverages? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Key Takeaways

  • Food and beverage shoppers continue to move online.
  • Supporting an ecommerce sales channel can be challenging for retailers and brands accustomed to B2B fulfillment.
  • Network optimization, a single view of inventory, technology upgrades, scalable space and staffing, and postponement strategies can help improve fulfillment operations.

Shoppers got a taste for buying food and beverages online during the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re hungry for more. Today, Food and Beverage is one of the fastest-growing product categories in ecommerce with approximately 20% growth expected this year.

Fulfilling online orders can be challenging for grocery retailers and food and beverage brands, however. Unpredictable demand, labor-intensive processes, faster delivery expectations, and the need to provide seamless service across multiple sales channels are just a few common pain points.

Food and Beverage is one of the fastest-growing product categories in ecommerce with approximately 20% growth expected this year.

Source: Insider Intelligence

Saddle Creek’s Food and Beverage Ecommerce Fulfillment Guide offers hints to help operations better accommodate online orders. Following is an excerpt…

5 Strategies for Effective Ecommerce Fulfillment

  1. Optimize Distribution Network

For effective ecommerce fulfillment, products should be positioned as close to the consumer as possible. Strategically located distribution centers can help to minimize transit time and cost. Utilizing two or more centrally located DCs can help to meet consumers’ delivery expectations – often using two-day ground service.

Some grocery retailers handle order fulfillment from stores; however, many are opting for micro-fulfillment centers or dark distribution centers in order to avoid causing congestion and diminishing the customer experience in physical stores.

  1. Maintain a Single View of Inventory

With inventory distributed across multiple locations, it is critical to understand where products are and how they’re moving. This requires a comprehensive view of inventory across all fulfillment locations, including physical stores, warehouses, vendors, in transit and available to promise.

Since inventory must be readily available and accessible, it is important to identify fast-moving items in order to prevent stock outs and back-ordered items that could cause consumers to abandon their shopping carts. Also, if a product is out of stock in one location, having a single view of inventory helps to determine another potential source from which to fulfill orders.

  1. Upgrade Technology

Ecommerce fulfillment operations generally require more sophisticated systems and automation than traditional warehousing operations tend to use.

To provide the single view of inventory mentioned above for improved visibility, consider utilizing an order management system. An OMS, along with a warehouse management system (WMS), can help process orders faster and more efficiently. Automated fulfillment solutions also can help to increase order processing velocity.

Technologies like RFID and bar-coding help to ensure order accuracy, while software such as parcel analytics and rating shopping can help to identify the most efficient and cost-effective transportation options.

  1. Anticipate Space and Staffing Needs

Ecommerce order fulfillment typically requires three times the labor of traditional warehousing operations, according to commercial real estate firm JLL. Plan accordingly to ensure capacity for maximum potential volume. Providing responsive service is the fastest way to build customer loyalty in a new sales channel. Online shoppers, particularly those purchasing groceries for the first time, will have little patience for service failures.

To process a high volume of orders efficiently, close attention to facility design is also important. An ecommerce-friendly solution may incorporate narrow or very narrow aisles and custom racking and shelving solutions. Allow sufficient space to accommodate peak order processing needs.

  1. Leverage Postponement Strategies

Food and beverage products often require some degree of customization – from tagging and labeling to assembling rainbow packs and gift sets. Moving these value-added functions closer to the consumer allows for greater responsiveness to customer demands.

Building “to order” instead of “to stock” enables companies to provide more personalized service – and build customer loyalty – while keeping fewer SKUs in inventory.

Implementing strategies like these can help to boost the performance of your food and beverage fulfillment operations.

To learn more, read our Food and Beverage Ecommerce Fulfillment Guide.


Related to: Food & Beverage, Omnichannel, Selling Online