September 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

The Customer is King

(Page 2 of 2)

UPS worked with Allen Edmonds to deploy UPS Returns on the Web, which lets customers print out a return shipping label. The UPS application also integrates with an online order management system where customers enter their personal information and special requests. As worn shoes arrive back in Port Washington for rebuilding, workers scan the shipping label barcode on each package to automatically record the order in a production management system, where they can view order instructions on a computer screen. The automated process saves about a minute or more per order, amounting to be about five man-hours per day, Hall says.

The increased efficiency of that system helps Allen Edmonds to maintain its high volume of orders, which over the long term will help the company continue negotiating terms with UPS that enable it to afford free shipping, he adds.

Reaching rural areas

Dick Blick, which ships about 4,000 small parcels a day to customers, also relies on increasingly efficient shipping management systems to maintain a high level of customer service, Polillo says.

With Kewill’s Flagship system in the middle, he adds, Dick Blick was able to add to its shipping services this year FedEx SmartPost, which ships small parcels to residential addresses throughout the U.S. and Canada, while also keeping his shipping management system integrated with other carriers. Because FedEx and UPS each have their own rate structures and surcharges for reaching rural areas, Dick Blick finds it best to employ both of them in addition to some regional carriers tied into the Flagship application.

When Dick Blick processes orders for shipment, the Flagship system integrates with the retailer’s order management system and RedPrairie warehouse management system to print out shipping labels for any of its carriers at nine Flagship workstations.

Combining information on package weight and dimensions, the destination address and the customer’s chosen level of shipping service, the system can print out the appropriate shipping label, matching packages with carriers at a clip that can handle more than 5,000 package shipments per day, Polillo says.

Same-day shipments

Other retailers are also finding ways to upgrade their level of shipping to suit their needs. Shopko Stores Operating Co. LLC, a mass merchant retailer that recently launched its first e-commerce site at, is using order fulfillment as well as e-commerce technology from SpeedFC that will enable the retailer to get off to a good start with online shoppers with the ability to accept orders as late as 3 p.m. for same-day shipment, instead of the more common 2 p.m.

“We’re confident in SpeedFC’s ability to handle our push into e-commerce,” Shopko CEO Paul Jones says.

Sometimes shipping improvements come in unexpected ways, such as in dealing with orders with different bill-to and ship-to addresses-which many online retailers view as a possible sign of fraud, leading them to examine those orders more closely. Urban Outfitters Inc. has realized that using its Accertify fraud management system reduces by 93% the number of orders held for manual review, helping to get more orders out on time, says Bryan Whitney, manager of the retailer’s call center.

“In the past many of these orders that had requested expedited shipment would not ship in time,” he says, “so we would have to provide a product discount and give them back their shipping fee.”

Shipping orders out on time isn’t the easiest chore in retailing, but with the right combination of technology and service, retailers can turn shipping into a means of keeping their customers coming back.

Click Here for the Delivery/Fulfillment Products & Services Guide

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