Mastering In-Store Fulfillment With Voice Technology

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on May 19, 2020 8:51:29 AM

store-employee-fulfilling-order-with-headset-voice-technologyWhen the states start their respective lockdowns back in March of this year, one recurring theme we discussed internally was that businesses that had not previously developed any competency in direct online sales would have to get good at it very quickly or suffer from possibly losing all access to their customers. With almost three months under our belts in learning how to navigate this new reality, it’s clear that the concept of turning a retail space into a fulfillment center is here to stay. Whether you call it “E-Commerce”, “Click-and-Collect”, “Ship-From-Store” or “Curbside Pickup” or something else, 2020 has shown that there is both a LOT more that can be managed from your store-front AND the demand to justify it as well. According to some very recent data from VISA International, the pandemic has accelerated a growing reluctance to use cash, and in turn creating huge increases in use of online ordering previously unseen. Their data reflects this trend worldwide – with E-Commerce sales rising in the US by 49% in April (versus the baseline in March prior to most states shutting down) and in other regions like Latin America where 13 million users tried online ordering for the first time already this year.
covid-19-pandemic-switch-to-products-services-online-chartOther innovations that we’ll see more of that will also lean on technology will be the normalization of pop-ups that has become popular now, along with a speedier transition to digital technologies to bring the store experience to the shopper in more creative ways.

But how does a retail store that was designed for maximizing foot traffic and sales per square foot turn itself into a fulfillment center? There are already many ways retailers have been doing this, but today we look at some of the unique advantages that Voice Technology can play to make your retail space an efficient innovator in our new environment AND still be a welcoming place for shoppers when they return.

The Difference Between In-Store and DC Fulfillment

Unlike your typical retail environment – designed and refined over years of experience to maximize selling while also creating great customer experiences – the Distribution Center that is designed for shipping orders to customers is a much more science and data-based facility that is singularly focused on getting more packages out there door as accurately and for as little cost as possible. Retail spaces, by design, are far more unstructured with the intention to be aesthetically pleasing (and conducive to spending).


Given the rapid shift to in-store fulfillment, retail managers are being challenged to deliver results in areas in which they may have little or no experience. Even in cases of large chains who are able to bring the support of their own fulfillment managers from their DCs, applying the techniques and processes that work best in a large DC designed to ship thousands of orders every day is not easily managed.

The things that they CAN bring into the store from their DC that would help would include:

  • Technologies successfully deployed in the DC that could be leveraged in-store
  • Proven process improvements – especially in restocking and packing
  • Data analytics that can drive a continuous improvement process

One of the applications we see that meets all three of these criteria is Voice Technology. Let’s explore how it would not only bring the advantages it already provides to your DC, but some additional ones unique to the retail environment.

An Example of Voice Speeding Delivery

Honeywell recently shared some insights on the ability of Voice Technology to vastly improve the ability of stores to put together and deliver online orders using the example supermarkets, whose online orders have grown 161% during the pandemic.

In a standard click-to-collect operation, a supermarket order would typically consist of 40-50 items with an AOV of $175-$200. Working from a list on paper or even a device, it can typically require up to an hour for the order to be picked and ready for the customer.


The value of doing this in an environment where orders have spiked 161% goes beyond the immediate value of getting the orders done correctly and quickly. Going paperless with a voice system provide invaluable data for planning (especially when much of this work is done on after hours and the specific processes can be measured and evaluated without an on-site presence).

Honeywell also provides a number of other ways that Voice Technology can make not only the in-store fulfillment process more efficient and effective, but improve overall store operations and workflows as well:

  • Gap scanning: Allows workers to quickly report out of stock items by simply scanning the shelf tab to automatically create a list of items to replenishment from storage.
  • Restocking and inventory replenishment: Hands-free instruction and confirmation means you can track inventory from docks to shelves with system-driven receiving, staging, put-away and replenishment.
  • voice-technology-employee-scanning-stockOptimized Replenishment: Keep shelves stocked and minimize labor required by sorting mixed-load pallets into different carts in back that group items by their destination aisle.
  • Stock counting: Regularly scheduled cycle counts are simplified with connected workflows to handle greater SKU variety while eliminating paper document management, double data entry and other manual issues.

In short, Voice Technology is an ideal way to bring the best practices of your DC operations onto your retail floor. The current crisis is not past us yet, but even when things do settle into our “new normal”, in-store fulfillment will be a key differentiator that retail brands will be required to master in order to stay relevant as an even greater percentage of commerce will be done online.

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Topics: Voice Technology, Voice-Directed work, touchless warehouse, fulfillment

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