How Augmented Reality Is Making E-Commerce Fulfillment More Efficient

Augmented reality (AR) is making waves in e-commerce circles because of the visual impact it’s having on customers. While shoppers can use AR to “try on” clothing or experience a service, e-commerce businesses are also seeing benefits through their supply chains, especially in fulfillment.

AR tech, such as light guide systems and AR glasses with head-up displays are being implemented into warehouse workers’ everyday processes with incredibly positive initial results. In this way, AR is helping streamline fulfillment processes which is leading to smoother operations.

Here are five ways augmented reality is making e-commerce fulfillment more efficient.

Easy to Use and Implement

Many e-commerce warehouses have year-round employees, then hire additional help around the holidays or when shipping volume increases. While the regular employees are trained and have experience, seasonal workers walk into a foreign operation. This can lead to picking, packing and shipping errors.

According to Flexe, AR can be used to overlay boxes in the warehouse to show contents that need to be picked and reduce the time it takes to manually identify items. Once a package is ready for shipping, AR tools can be used to reveal order shipping times and handling instructions for when carriers arrive.

Limits Packaging Materials

Packing is a part of the e-commerce fulfillment process that often goes overlooked. Customers appreciate customized packaging materials and e-commerce retailers like saving money on packing materials. Most orders have multiple products, so it makes sense to consolidate as many items into a single box as possible. Packers are often frustrated when multiple items won’t fit into a certain-sized box, so they grab a bigger box to fit all of the products. This results in using more packaging than needed for an order and wasting unnecessary resources. With AR they can see exactly what fits and can use the perfect box for the situation

Fewer Returns, Fewer Reverse Logistics Costs

The return rate for e-retailers is high because buying online doesn’t afford customers the ability to see products in their hands. AR is bridging that gap. For example, if you’re selling beauty products from home, your customers can see exactly how a shade of lipstick or type of mascara will look on them. This will cut down on returns because customers can “test” the products without buying. This will save money that gets tied up in the reverse logistics process when customers buy products without really being committed to keeping them.

Provides Visual Instruction to Workers

AR can also help e-retailers acclimate to a company’s fulfillment operations more quickly, as it can pick up item numbers, slot locations, barcodes and product locations within the warehouse. The tech is easy to use, can visually show pickers and packers how to complete a process and takes very little training time once implemented.

An app called PickAR is gaining interest from major retailers because of its ability to accommodate varying sections of a business such as warehousing and fulfillment through visual AR. With PickAR, new arrangements can be planned at full-scale to more accurately test placement and workflow before implementation. When comparing against other dense picking mechanisms like voice pick, paper pick and tablet pick, PickAR contributed to a 37 percent decrease in time, as well as an improvement in accuracy.

Improved Productivity

As the e-commerce market grows, warehousing and fulfillment services are at a premium. Order picking constitutes up to 60 percent of the operational costs. Given roughly 80 percent of order picking in warehouses is currently performed manually, any improvement will realize savings for your company.

Further, it’s estimated drivers spend 40–60 percent of their time locating the correct boxes within their truck for the next delivery. For many of them, the process relies upon their memory of how the truck was loaded. AR technology can be used to streamline the time it takes to identify packages upon delivery and reduce the time it takes to figure out what package goes where, resulting in higher productivity and more products carried.

Fulfillment can be a time-consuming money drain for e-commerce businesses, but augmented reality is slowly but surely making e-commerce fulfillment more efficient.