In our previous blog, we explored e-commerce’s explosive growth driven by the pandemic and the resulting challenges that omni-channel retailers continue to face. Out-of-stock products, lack of automation and the need to close the physical gap between fulfillment centers and consumers are all sparking new strategies and investments from retail executives. But with great challenges come great opportunities. Part two of our Future of Fulfillment Research Report reveals the areas retailers have set their sights on to enhance their fulfillment strategies with advanced technologies like automation and customer-centric approaches.

Here are the three top fulfillment priorities of omni-channel retail executives looking to meet sky-rocketing e-commerce demands while delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Customer-Driven Commerce

Today marks the start of NRF 2021: Retail’s Big Show, and we’re helping kick off Chapter 1 by sharing our big ideas on how customer-driven commerce can ensure retailers’ fulfillment operations stand ready to meet unexpected demand while engaging key audiences. Part two of our survey sheds light on the customer experience areas omni-channel retail executives are most focused on improving. Nearly half of retailers plan to improve pricing and promotion decisions to elevate customer experiences over the next 12 months, followed by workforce management, assortment management, and real-time visibility and orchestration.

Retailers are rapidly investing in predictive, personalized digital fulfillment capabilities to transform consumer experiences both online and offline within the next year. Infusing technologies like automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) into their core operations, these retailers can deliver enhanced customer experiences at new levels of speed, scale and unmatched convenience, while instantly adapting to meet new changes in demand.

More Packages = More Automation

Great customer experiences begin with streamlined, efficient supply chain operations. But, with e-commerce volumes continuing to inundate logistics networks, maintaining profitable execution continues to prove challenging. Record-setting online orders coupled with consumers’ demand for rapid (read: instant) fulfillment has all but mandated the need for more automated fulfillment solutions.

That’s why 50% more retailers — as compared to those who are currently fully automated — plan to fully automate their fulfillment locations to be best positioned to address consumer needs in 2021. By augmenting the human workforce and removing manual processes from operations with robotics and other automated solutions, retailers can prevent congestion in their fulfillment centers and keep orders flowing seamlessly, reducing costs to ensure profitability.

Reimagined Fulfillment Options

Part one of our research report and blog highlighted retailers’ expanding fulfillment operations and logistics networks to keep up with high volumes and consumer expectations. While only 15% of retailers surveyed claimed to have leveraged micro-fulfillment centers in their logistics networks, our survey reveals that the usage of modern fulfillment options will see impressive growth in 2021 and beyond.

Over the next two to three years, the usage of pop-up DCs, micro-fulfillment centers, and dark stores by all retailers surveyed is set to nearly double in each case. These fulfillment options all lend themselves to the increased adoption of automated technologies previously mentioned, which will continue to prove necessary to any e-commerce operation needing to profitably and rapidly fulfill increased order volumes driven by the pandemic and migration to online shopping.

As fulfillment continues to be an integral part of retailers’ successful end-to-end strategies, Blue Yonder will help reorient supply chains towards customer-centricity, powering more adaptable, responsive, and intelligent commerce.

Part one and part two infographics, executive summaries and more can be found here. Tune to the Blue Yonder LinkedIn page for a Retail Live! session around part two findings on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 3:15 p.m. ET.

To better understand the challenges and future opportunities for retail and e-commerce leaders, Blue Yonder launched the Future of Fulfillment Research Report. Fielded from October 6 – 13, 2020, the report analyzed responses from 300 senior executives in omni-channel retail e-commerce with responsibility for logistics and fulfillment in the U.S. Blue Yonder released Part One of this data set in December 2020.