Top 5 Predictions in Fulfillment in 2021

Donny Salazar, Founder and CEO,  MasonHub, IncDonny Salazar, Founder and CEO
In the topsy-turvy year that was 2020, retailers experienced their greatest challenges yet, as worst-case scenarios became realities and completely new issues reared their ugly heads. From supply chains impacted in every corner of the world to staffing shortages, workplace closures and overwhelmed shipping carriers, logistics operations were pushed to the limit. The silver lining in all of this has been not only the learnings but also the innovations that occurred. As we settle into a new year, here are my predictions for fulfillment in 2021.

1) Diversifying Carrier Networks

This past Holiday season, the largest carrier networks experienced major delays because of the sheer volume of packages needing to be shipped. In order to avoid putting all your eggs in one carrier basket, think about how you can spread out shipments in order to meet the demand of your volume. For example, there are many regional carriers, and advanced fulfillment technology can determine which ones a company can use depending on their capacity at any given moment. Diversifying the risk among carriers will become a priority so no one is left stranded during peaks in volume.

2) Continued Reliance on E-Commerce

Even when the pandemic subsides, more people will be shopping online. Late adopters who began shopping online because of the pandemic have now become regulars, joining those who were already reliant on e-commerce before the pandemic. We’ll see a push in technology to create a seamless fulfillment experience, meaning features such as automated rate shopping and returns will be even more relevant.

3) Planning for Supply Chain Disruptions

If we learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that companies need to plan in advance to account for any supply chain disruptions. Three of our largest clients found themselves on back-order during the holidays. If a brand suddenly finds themselves in this position, it’s imperative that they communicate with their customers to make them aware of any delays. But you can work to avoid this by understanding what the updated lead times are for manufacturing and adding a cushion so you’re not left without inventory. Communicate with your fulfillment partner to more accurately predict when the demand is coming in. When one of our back-ordered clients suddenly ended up getting 80,000 units in one week, we worked to get every order out as quickly and accurately as possible, but all 80,000 packages can’t go out the second inventory arrives. Planning and communication goes a long way towards providing the best possible experience.

4) Splitting Shipments and Prioritizing Orders

Because of the aforementioned supply chain issues, a company can really gain an edge when it can speed up shipping. Being able to ship different parts of a single order at different times (when each item becomes available, rather than waiting to ship them all at once) can be a complicated undertaking logistically, but advanced inventory management software makes it possible. When it comes to prioritizing oldest-age orders for shipment, a superior warehouse management system can ensure that the orders that were placed first, ship first.

5) Optimizing Omnichannel

Being able to plan against all the different sales channels and make it seamless experience continues to be a challenge for many brands. Currently, there’s no universal system for companies to track across ecommerce, physical retail, and wholesale. This is a huge opportunity for technology to merge all channels and data ¬– that includes CRM and fulfillment – in one platform. But every business has a different platform architecture and growth trajectory, making it a challenge to create a one-size-fits-all solution. As smaller brands scale, they add on the products and services they need, and different business lifecycles have their own nuances. The best fulfillment partners can support every channel and work with brands to create customized and flexible solutions that not only grow with them, but also help them to scale and excel.