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December 17, 2017
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GS1 drafts standards for efficient e-commerce shipping

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The e-commerce fulfillment "roadmap" is designed to help harmonize in-store and online fulfillment practices, the group says.

Industry standards body GS1 US published guidelines on Monday it said will help retailers meet heightened consumer expectations for seamless ordering and delivery experiences across all channels.

The guide was drafted by a group of retailers, brand owners, manufacturers, and solution providers in GS1's Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative. Charged with finding solutions for top merchandising challenges in preparing, packaging, and shipping products for in-store and e-commerce fulfillment, they produced the "Apparel and General Merchandise E-Commerce Fulfillment Guideline."

"E-commerce fulfillment has very different consumer presentation requirements than an in-store display. It is the intent of the group to harmonize the store and e-commerce channels over time," Melanie Nuce, vice president of apparel and general merchandise for Lawrenceville, N.J.-based GS1 US, said in an email.

Recent surveys show that many retailers struggle to maintain adequate profit margins in executing omnichannel operations as they compete with online retailers like Amazon.com Inc. by offering faster, cheaper, and more flexible shipping options such as "buy online, pick up from store" and "buy in store, ship to home."

E-commerce orders are still a small portion of total production, so most companies treat online orders as an afterthought to the primary factory process, triggering extra costs, according to the group.

The guide could help retailers save money by reducing their order-to-fulfillment cycle time, according to GS1. The working group has already begun work on drafting a second iteration of the standards for omnichannel fulfillment best practices, scheduled for release in early 2017.

Many of the group members are already applying these standards to their current business operations, GS1 said. These include best practices in areas such as units of measure, ticketing a product with Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) identification, and packaging, it said.

The guidelines also include advice on details such as UPC barcode ticketing, packaging (including polybag type—how it is to be folded, closed and ventilated), shipping containers, and whether a garment should be presented flat or on a hanger.

"Consumers currently receive product that is packaged differently by company," said Nuce. "This guideline advises on the most cost-effective, efficient, and visually aesthetic way to present product to help ensure the consumers have a positive experience, as our members believe that product presentation is truly a 'make or break' moment."

Ben Ames is Editor at Large and a Senior Editor at Supply Chain Quarterly’s sister publication, DC Velocity.

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