For retail stores, the ability to efficiently get products from a supplier to your warehouse than from the warehouse to your customers is one of the most important keys to success. However, logistics in the retail business also presents plenty of considerable challenges - especially today when both the demand and price of shipping services are at all-time highs.
To help you develop a retail logistics management strategy that will ensure smooth operations and happy customers, let's look at everything you need to know about logistics in the retail industry, including the challenges, best practices, and benefits of partnering with a retail logistics service.
What is Retail Logistics Management?
Logistics management in the retail industry entails all the inbound and outbound processes involved with getting goods from a business to its end customers. This includes product procurement, warehouse receiving, inventory management, order fulfillment, and shipping.
The Challenges of Logistics Management in Retail
Logistics management is something that every retail business must optimize, but the various processes that it involves can present several challenges. Today, the top challenges associated with logistics in the retail business include:
1) Supply Chain Cost Reduction
For a retail business to keep its margins at an acceptable level, reducing the cost of supply chain expenses is a crucial objective. When prices rise across the board, this is often easier said than done. Developing an optimized supply chain that eliminates waste and ensures the most efficient and affordable delivery and storage of goods is the key to keeping supply chain costs as low as possible, no matter what headwinds a retail business faces.
2) Driver and Labor Shortage
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the transportation industry has seen serious labor shortages , including scarcity of drivers, rail workers, port workers, and more. At the same time, a boom in online ordering has ramped up demand for shipping services. These labor shortages coupled with record demand have made it increasingly difficult for retailers to secure capacity for their shipments — and securing affordable capacity has become even more difficult.
3) Undergoing a Digital Transformation
Transforming to digital logistics is one of the best retail logistics solutions, but it is also a challenge in its own right. Manual data collection and analysis are far too tedious and error-prone to allow for efficient logistics operations. Digital logistics offers plenty of advantages (more on those later), but without the help of the right retail logistics services, choosing the right tech stack and completing the digital transformation can be a big undertaking for many retail stores.
4) Achieving End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility
Managers in all facets of the supply chain strive for greater visibility. With end-to-end supply chain visibility, retail stores can:
- Track their shipments in real-time and provide that data to their customers.
- Anticipate and respond to exceptions more quickly.
- Form more accurate predictive models for improved inventory management, and more.
Like completing a digital transformation, achieving supply chain visibility isn't always so simple and requires the right combination of technology and processes.
What Are the Functions of Retail Logistics?
Logistics management in the retail industry involves six primary functions:
Inventory procurement entails sourcing products from suppliers and is the initial stage of retail logistics management. When you can fully understand your procurement process and source products efficiently, creating a more sustainable and reliable supply chain further down the line becomes much easier.
Receiving and Processing Inventory
Once you procure products to resell, you will need to receive and process them. This involves unloading incoming inventory, checking it for quality assurance, and documenting it before arranging storage.
If your retail business utilizes a single warehouse, then you will be able to skip this step. Today, however, most retail companies distribute inventory to multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers to get products to customers more quickly and affordably by shipping from the nearest center. To distribute products to various fulfillment centers, you must use predictive analytics to determine how much inventory each center should store.
Order fulfillment entails picking and packing inventory when a customer places an order. If you have distributed stock to multiple fulfillment centers, this will be done at the fulfillment center closest to the customer.
Tracking Inventory and Orders
Now more than ever, retail customers expect the ability to track the location and status of their orders. Along with helping you meet customer expectations, tracking inventory and orders in real-time will also enable you to anticipate expectations as they happen and quickly respond to prevent delays.
The final step in retail logistics management is shipping the order to the customer. While this is often the simplest phase of retail logistics, it's also one of the most important to get right. The best shipping strategies often combine multiple methods and collaboration with various carriers to ensure swift and cost-effective delivery.
What's the Best Retail Logistics Management Strategy?
A lot goes into an effective retail logistics management strategy, from choosing the right partners to building the right tech stack to optimizing all of your individual processes for maximum cost-effectiveness and efficiency. With that said, the three best practices that can help most retail companies drastically improve their retail logistics management strategy include:
Transforming to Digital Logistics
Transforming to digital logistics means optimizing traditional supply chain management processes via software solutions for automation, data analytics, and AI learning. Software solutions such as digital inventory systems and warehouse automation systems can improve supply chain efficiency by enabling you to automate many receptive tasks, track your inventory more accurately, and leverage your available data to its full benefit.
Consolidating Your Tech Stack
Building the right tech stack is key to transforming to digital logistics, but you don't want to adopt so many new tools that you end up making your processes even more muddled and confusing. Consolidating your tech stack by choosing a few well-rounded tools capable of integrating with one another is the key to success.
Outsourcing to Logistics Experts
One of the best ways retail stores can optimize their logistics management strategy is to outsource their logistics management needs to a reliable logistics expert. At Wicker Park Logistics, we provide industry-leading retail logistics services such as warehousing and distribution, transportation management, cross-border shipping, and first-and-last-mile contract logistics. These services allow retail stores to focus on growing their business while ensuring that their logistics operations are handled in the most advantageous way possible.
Benefits of Third-Party Retail Logistics Providers
Outsourcing logistics management to experienced retail logistics providers offers retail stores numerous benefits. Some of the top advantages of partnering with a retail logistics service provider such as Wicker Park Logistics include:
- Improved Inventory Management: With improved inventory tracking and demand forecasting, retailers can ensure that they always have an optimum supply of inventory available.
- Shorter Transit Times: Route optimization tools and real-time tracking solutions reduce transit times for improved customer satisfaction.
- Supply Chain Optimization: The logistics experts at Wicker Park Logistics can identify ways to streamline a retailer's supply chain for improved efficiency and savings.
- Enhanced Supply Chain Visibility: Supply chain visibility solutions allow retailers to comprehensively view their supply chain and identify where their inventory is located at all times.
- Minimization of Risk: Improved supply chain visibility and reliability reduces the risk of disruption, delays, and errors.
Optimize Your Retail Logistics Management With Help From Wicker Park Logistics
If you would like to develop an optimized supply chain for your retail store that is tech-driven, transparent, and streamlined, the retail logistics experts at Wicker Park Logistics can help. To learn more about the many advantages of partnering with Wicker Park Logistics for your retail logistics management needs, contact us today!