A major way to simplify shipping is to automate repetitive tasks. In this article, we will outline the benefits of automated shipping and six key order fulfillment processes to automate to increase efficiency and allow your teams to work more effectively. Learning how to automate customer communications, searching and applying shipping rates, and label creation will help you keep efficiency high and costs low.
The Importance of Automated Shipping
Automated shipping is a great way to increase productivity in a warehouse. “Automated” doesn’t refer to automated picking robots, but rather the automation of order assignment, rate shopping, applying shipping services, order routing, delivery notifications, and other manual processes that can be complicated by human error.
Omnichannel commerce further complicates eCommerce fulfillment. The gap between eCommerce and retail shopping is narrowing. Customers don’t see the stark difference between them like they used to. As such, a dynamic solution on the merchant side is necessary to cater to evolving customer trends. And automating your shipping process—regardless of who orders—minimizes bottlenecks in the fulfillment process.
Let’s go over some common processes to automate your shipping processes to save time and money.
1. Integrating and Communicating Data with Selling Channels
Data integration is essential for companies shipping on a large scale. With different sectors and processes integrated into a tech stack, it is next to impossible to run a business without a way to automatically sync data between different platforms.
Whether you use a standard API connection or have higher-end needs like EDI integration it is impossible to automate your shipping processes unless you start by letting your sales channels, ERP systems, carrier accounts, and other workflow platforms communicate with each other.
2. Auto-Select Rates and Rate Shopping
Finding the cheapest way to ship is important for padding profit margins. And it isn’t always as static as you might think. For instance, though FedEx may offer more affordable rates for parcels over a certain weight, seasonal surcharges or fees may increase them above other carriers.
To use the most competitive rates, it’s good to continually calculate the most affordable shipping rates. While it may not always be possible to automate the service based on available rates at a given time, you can automate the service with the current lowest rate for a given package.
However, many API tools give you the ability to do so. Regardless of how you automate or determine the most affordable rates, staying in the loop about upcoming carrier changes is crucial. This is particularly true since the pandemic keeps causing more peak surcharges for many carriers.
Above all, today’s customers increasingly demand free shipping and seamless returns all year long. This has become a common practice by retailers to boost sales.
3. Automatically Apply Shipping Services
The next progression from automated rate shopping is to apply the appropriate shipping service and package type to each order. Manually applying the shipping configurations to orders takes a lot of time. Even if you know which service to apply, clicking through your orders to select the appropriate carrier from a dropdown can take a substantial amount of time for any warehouse worker.
4. Assigning Orders
Solving how to scale a growing warehouse is crucial for any large scale business. Duplicate or missed orders can happen. And it may take an angry customer’s complaint, review, or tweet to get it noticed. Order picking doesn’t need to be done on an individual order basis once you hit a certain volume. Instead, assigning orders to pickers on unique pick lists that they pull and pack themselves removes the guesswork. It not only allows picking to be better automated, it allows the assigning of orders to be automated as well.
5. Batch Print Labels
Printing labels can be a repetitive task. So, similar to automatically applying shipping services, removing the repetition of going through each of your orders and confirming that you want to generate or print a shipping label shaves a lot off your fulfillment time.
Merchants can even optimize their ERP platforms by integrating them with shipping software. Large companies use VL OMN to integrate ShipStation into their tech stack to automate the final step in the fulfillment process—label generation. Even if the vast amount of their workflow is done within an ERP, shipping can be difficult to seamlessly incorporate.
The advantage of this seamless integration between different platforms is that all the data communicates automatically. So, as you grow your tech stack to incorporate different platforms and software to perform specific tasks, the process is wholly integrated.
6. Automate Shipping Notifications
Shipping confirmation and tracking updates are important things to automate because they contain details that are vital to customers. An omnichannel strategy is ineffective without customer empowerment. This makes customers enjoy staying in your ecosystem.
In fact, shipping confirmations are far and beyond the most important email correspondence you will have with your customers. Not only do customers read shipping confirmation emails, they generally read them more than once. There are not many other emails you can say that about. Automatically sending shipping notifications when an order ships gives customers quicker insight into their order’s progress. But, it also elevates your brand’s authority with customers.
Automating your shipping workflow allows you to simplify many of the repetitive tasks that lead to delays and errors. Saving this time and automating communication with your customers provides a more efficient customer experience.
Providing real-time updates and optimizing your workflow with these automated processes increase productivity, lead to better customer reviews, increase your customer base, and have them returning to buy from you more. And as you expand into new markets both domestically and internationally, you have a way to scale your workflow along with your business without having to greatly increase your staffing.
James is a copywriter with ShipStation. Both James and ShipStation want to help teach people to simplify fulfillment so they can get on with their days and focus on more important operations in their business.