4 Ways Data-Driven Automation Enhances Merchandise Distribution

Data analytics has become especially valuable for automating merchandise shipping, so more ecommerce merchants are relying on it.
AI in ecommerce
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Andrey_Popov

The supply-chain analytics market is projected to be worth over $16.8 billion by 2027. This is largely due to the benefits of using data analytics to improve automation in merchandise distribution.

As a retailer or manufacturer selling via e-commerce platforms, you already know the importance of using big data to improve automation. While some jobs must be performed by actual humans, many can be performed just as well through algorithms, machines, and other technologies. This ultimately saves your business money, time, and lots of headaches. This wouldn’t be possible without massive advances in big data technology.

So far, most automation in this realm has been employed in the manufacturing process, but now, an increasing number of retailers are automating shipping too. They have found that using big data can make it easier to streamline their business models and improve their overall ROI. This shift has ultimately been positive for the e-commerce industry. However, there have been a few drawbacks.

Naturally, automation of any process within your business comes with risks, even when you use the most sophisticated data-driven capabilities to develop a strong competitive edge. You are unable to oversee every aspect of automated processes, and as a result, it’s possible you’ll miss something that could cause a backlash when your product reaches a customer or client.

For this reason, you’ve got to be smart if you choose to help your business grow through shipping automation. The following is a list of key ways that smart automation via well integrated data analytics tools can help your merchandise get shipped safely and soundly.

Before we dive in, however, let’s talk about what automated shipping actually looks like.

What Is Automated Shipping and How Does Big Data Come into Play?

If you have a large inventory, chances are you’ve already been employing certain elements of automated shipping. You already have an extensive array of data sets to manage your inventory, so you can capitalize off of it to improve the supply-chain.

Perhaps you’re using it to speed up fulfillment, pack up boxes, or track packages. Basically, automated shipping is the process of speeding up inventory, fulfillment, and shipping through the use of machinery and new technologies.

Top Ways to Use Shipping Automation to Help Your Business Grow

Whether you’re a manufacturer, an influencer, a small business, or a large retailer, here are a few ways you can use automation to improve your shipping processes with sound data analytics strategies in place.

#1 – Automate your emails.

Data analytics is particularly valuable when it comes to email marketing. Many businesses have already done this, but if you haven’t yet, it’s time to get on board.

Customers and clients want to know that orders they’ve placed have indeed been accepted and are on their way to being processed, fulfilled, and shipped. This means that minutes (if not seconds) after they’ve placed their orders (usually online), they should get an automated email response summarizing their order, delivery method, address, payment method, etc.

If you’re still new to automated shipping, automation of emails should be your first step.

#2 – Use an inventory tracking system.

Let’s say you sell place settings, including dishes and silverware. As orders come in for your items, it’s important that you know the items you’re selling are in fact in inventory. This is an even more important application of data analytics in your supply chain.

Instead of having a worker check every time an order gets placed, however, you should integrate your inventory system with your real-time inventory (items not sold yet) online via reliable data analytics protocols. That way, you’ll never be able to sell an item that you don’t actually have in stock.

Furthermore, you’ll reduce the need for workers who would otherwise have to tally inventory by hand. Performing manual inventory leaves a bigger margin for error, especially when you’re dealing with large, frequent orders and returns. If you accidentally sell an item that you don’t have in stock, you’ll likely take a big hit customer service-wise. Customers may decide not to return to your store, and you’ll certainly want to do something to compensate for their loss, which will lose you money as well.

#3 – Ensure safe transport with RFID tracking.

Another area in which customer service can take a big hit is shipping. You can use predictive analytics to anticipate shipping needs, but there are even more rudimentary applications that you can take advantage of with data analytics.

It’s all too common for customers to receive boxes and packages they’ve ordered, only to find that they have been mishandled and that what’s inside is broken or damaged. This is a common cause of anger and frustration among customers, especially when they’re ordering breakable and delicate items.

However, from the manufacturers’ and retailers’ points of view, in some cases, no amount of safe handling can prevent the breakage of certain items. The right data-driven RFID tracking system can minimize these issues.

For this reason, it may be wise to at least know about package mishandling beforehand. You can achieve this by investing in RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.

RFID tracking tags attach to shipped boxes and can actually alert you when a shipped item has been potentially mishandled.

In effect, the small tags turn red (from green) when they’ve been dropped or heavily jolted. This tells the seller (or shipper) that the box should be inspected for breakage just in case.

#4 – Ensure automated shipment tracking for each shipment.

Naturally, basic shipment tracking is another important way to up your business’s automation. You’ll want to ensure you get tracking numbers whenever you ship with FedEx, UPS, USPS, or DHL. These numbers should then be attached to your automated shipping emails so that customers can track when they will receive their items.

Big Data is Essential for Automating Your Shipping Needs

There are a number of great ways to use big data in your supply chain. You can use the aforementioned benefits to automate your shipping needs more easily.

Look for other ways that your business’s shipping processes can be automated. In the end, many of these updates will not only save you money, but they’ll enhance your customer service experience in ways you didn’t expect.

Matt Bertram
MATT BERTRAM, C.P.C., is the Co-Host of the most popular SEO podcast on iTunes. He is the Lead Digital Marketing Strategist and CEO at eWebResults, a top internet marketing agency since 1999 focused on driving traffic though multi-channel marketing built on Organic SEO as the backbone.