Ged Cairns, Head of Auto-ID business unit at Brother UK, explains how the print IT sector can support retailers as they race to shorten delivery times amid the boom in online sales
Retailers’ battle to get products to customers as fast as possible is escalating quickly. Major brands like Asda and Screwfix have recently launched express delivery services, where goods are delivered in as little as half an hour in a bid to generate a new level of convenience.
Dubbed by some as the ‘Amazon effect’, this race to the bottom has been accelerated by the boom in online orders that has re-shaped consumer expectations on delivery times. According to Citizens Advice research, 96 per cent of UK consumers ordered products online since March last year and 47 per cent have had issues with delivery.
And while this poses a challenge for retailers, it creates a huge opportunity for suppliers of print IT technology to support the sector in cutting delivery times and improving fulfilment and stock management systems.
Rise in Auto-ID
The latter is increasingly reliant on Auto-ID solutions to ensure stock is managed correctly, and that packages are tracked throughout the delivery journey to minimise the likeliness of parcels going missing.
Revenue for these systems is forecast to increase by 14 per cent this year alone, according to research from technology market consultancy VDC – a reflection of the high demand expected for this technology from retailers. And label printers are a crucial component of any Auto-ID system.
We’re seeing increased demand for wireless labelling solutions, like our RJ series, which provide warehouse staff with a mobile print solution for location labels that enables them to pick, pack and label in the aisle without returning to the print room or a station at the aisle end.
Big retailers with major fulfilment operations require industrial-grade printers capable of running labels out at pace to help process thousands of parcels daily, a need that our new TJ range is designed to meet.
Retailers also require devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to allow staff to move around the warehouse or stockroom rather than being tied to a fixed LAN location. Bluetooth devices, such as handheld terminals or tablets, also benefit from local comms, helping to keep workers on the move and productivity high.
Enhanced connectivity options support integration with wider systems to make them interoperable via other devices for easily changing label formats, variable data and command languages. This includes BarTender and NiceLabel software which make it faster and easier to design and print durable labels and barcodes when using Brother’s specialist thermal printers.
While the print IT sector has the right devices, it faces two key challenges when tapping into this market opportunity.
Busy retail IT decision-makers want suppliers to consult on their full system needs, rather than on individual components like label printers. Retailers’ balance sheets are also still in recovery after the pandemic, with tightened budgets suppressing some demand from companies looking to buy new systems outright.
These challenges are driving demand among retailers for managed services, and systems delivered under hardware-as-a-service platforms (HaaS).
We’re pivoting to meet this demand alongside our partners with the introduction of Managed Label Services (MLS). This provides our reseller partners with a platform to provide a subscription model for full Auto-ID systems. This gives businesses the option of spreading costs for Brother label printers, third party hardware and software, over an affordable monthly payment plan.
We’ve also recently partnered with Datalogic, a global leader in automatic data capture, which has now made its solutions – including the scanning devices used in many Auto-ID systems – available to customers via MLS.
Vendors working side-by-side can help partners meet the demand for Auto-ID systems, by providing considered guidance and expertise of how technology can work as part of a full system. This helps resellers when consulting with their customers, while providing better, joined-up after sales technical support.
Looking to the future
Retail’s shift to e-commerce will supply vendors and partners with opportunities for years to come – as businesses continue to formalise and improve their fulfilment processes to win over customers.
And we’ll be by the side of partners as they tap into this opportunity, providing the right consultancy, technology, and payment options, which can help retailers to maximise efficiency in their fulfilment processes.