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Study on the future of fulfilment

13 November 2019

Zebra has announced the results of its Future of Fulfilment Vision Study, a global body of research analysing how manufacturers, transportation and logistics firms and retailers are preparing to meet the growing needs of the on-demand economy.

Only 39% of supply chain respondents reported operating at an Omnichannel level. The survey found reducing backorders was the biggest challenge to reaching Omni channel fulfilment for one-third of respondents followed by inventory allocation and freight costs. The study found that 76% of surveyed retailers use store inventory to fill online orders, and 86% of retail respondents plan to implement buy online/pick up in store in the next year. Retailers are investing in retrofitting stores to double as online fulfilment centres and shrinking selling space to accommodate eCommerce pickups and returns.

Who was surveyed?

Zebra surveyed more than 2,700 professionals on their plans, implementation levels, experiences and attitudes toward Omni channel logistics.

Surveys were conducted in conjunction with research partner Qualtrics in 2017 across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Spain, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Globally, 87% of respondents agreed that accepting and managing product returns is a challenge. The increase in free and fast product delivery corresponds with an increase in product returns, a costly concern that retailers struggle to manage efficiently across many different purchasing models. Seven in 10 surveyed executives agree that more retailers will turn stores into fulfilment centres that accommodate product returns. More than 60% of retailers that currently do not offer free shipping, free returns or same-day delivery plan to do so while 44% expect to outsource returns management to a third party.
Although 72% of organisations utilise barcodes today, 55% of organisations are still using pen-and-paper based processes to enable Omnichannel logistics. By 2021, handheld mobile computers with barcode scanners will be used by 94% of respondents for Omnichannel logistics. The upgrade from spreadsheets to handheld computers with barcode scanners or tablets will improve Omnichannel logistics by providing more real-time access to warehouse management systems, says the paper.


RFID technology and inventory management platforms are expected to grow by 49% in the next few years. RFID-enabled software, hardware and tagging solutions, offer up-to-the-minute, item-level inventory lookup, heightening inventory accuracy and shopper satisfaction while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors.

Future-oriented decision makers revealed that next generation supply chains will reflect connected, business-intelligence and automated solutions that will add newfound speed, precision and cost effectiveness to transportation and labour. Surveyed executives expect the most disruptive technologies to be drones (39%), driverless/autonomous vehicles (38%), wearable and mobile technology (37%) and robotics (37%).
Retailers in Europe and the Middle East are filling digital orders directly from their physical stores. Retailers and operations leaders are calculating that a network of stores can get digital orders faster and more efficiently than a handful of centralised warehouses. More than 80% use store inventory to fulfil orders and 29% expect this to increase by greater than 10% over the next five years.

To get a complete copy of the Future of Fulfilment Vision Study report contact Bar Code Data on sales@bcdata.co.uk alternatively 0161 330 0077