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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

Warehouse Management Systems in the UK

WRITTEN BY Jonathan Bellwood /

12 June 2015

In the United Kingdom, online sales make up 13% of the total retail sales, which is considerably higher than any other country, including eCommerce giants China and the US. Having a warehouse management system that can handle the nuances of the UK’s eCommerce market will help retailers get ahead of the competition and succeed in this growing industry.

So how is the UK market, and therefore its warehouse systems, different to other countries?

Sage Warehouse Integration

Sage is the most popular accounting software in the United Kingdom, particularly for small and medium business (SMB). The challenge, however, is that Sage does not have an open API which makes it more difficult for systems to integrate in the way that is needed. Compared to similar software in the US, like QuickBooks, which is easy to integrate into, UK retailers will need a warehouse system that can help them overcome this challenge.

[Related: 5 reasons to avoid this crippling Sage warehouse mistake]

High volume for international

With the rest of Europe on its doorstep, the UK experiences great success with international trade. The difficulty with this is that there are so many languages used across Europe, unlike the US which primarily has to use only US English and Spanish. This means that a warehouse system in the UK has to be adaptable to other cultures so that retailers can expand and dominate new markets.

Examples of how UK warehouse management software would need to be different is by designing and printing customised despatch labels for different countries, adapting returns reasons, and accepting orders for cash-on-delivery where appropriate.

Handling Online Returns

Returns in England can be tricky for online retailers who are trying to provide the best customer experience from start to finish. Integrating to companies like CollectPlus is a great way to give customers free returns to hundreds of participating local stores.

A branded-fashion client of ours opted to build a separate returns site in Germany so that German customers could make returns directly to that hub, instead of having to ship them back to the main warehouse, costing the customer more. As such, a warehouse system for UK retailers should ideally support multiple warehouses and multiple return centres that can receive items initially sent from a different location.

Non-tech savvy retailers

Retailers are excellent at merchandising and buying inventory. These great attributes, however, don’t always align with requirements for operational excellence. On top of this, a lot of retailers in the UK don’t have large in-house IT teams, and if they do these teams are tasked with managing the core business system and web development to increase revenue.

As such, software-as-a-service (SaaS) warehouse management systems are becoming more popular in the UK due to the lack of technical know-how required to implement and run them.

[Related: SaaS vs On Premise for eCommerce]

Volo and ChannelAdvisor warehouse integrations

The two most dominant marketplace software providers are Volo (formerly eSellerPro) and ChannelAdvisor. Being able to integrate with either of these gives UK retailers the ability to maximise direct to consumer sales, but also B2B and marketplace sales. According to a study by the Royal Mail Group, 63% of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK plan to increase the number of channels through which they sell their inventory in 2015.

Quite often, marketplaces are a way for UK companies to sell abroad without having a physical presence in that country. As a result, it is important for warehouse management systems in the UK to integrate easily with marketplace software providers, in order to ensure accurate inventory figures are displayed across every channel.

Magento popularity

Magento is the most popular eCommerce platform in the UK and the technical capability and quality of the Magento agencies are proof of this. We have even seen an increase in companies having in-house Magento developers. With this in mind, it is considerably vital for a warehouse management system in England to enable a good connection to Magento so that retailers can get the most out of both systems.

[Related: 6 ways Peoplevox optimises Magento for eCommerce]

The rise of 3PLs

For fashion brands, third-party-logistics (3PLs), such as Clipper Logistics and Freemans Grattan Holdings, are becoming increasingly popular. Brands looking to enter the UK are quite often choosing to work with 3PLs so having a warehouse system that can handle the needs of a third-party is important.

The key requirements for a 3PL can vary but often include; speed of deployment so they can work to tight lead times; self-service so they do not need to seek advice regarding the system; and responsiveness for cases that need to go live in a short period of time.

Carrier integrations

The UK delivery market is saturated with carriers. From the primary ones like Royal Mail and DPD, to others such as Yodel, TNT, Interlink and UK Mail. To manage these carriers, it is ideal for UK retailers to have a warehouse system that can integrate into carrier management platforms. The market leader in this industry is MetaPack but ParcelHub and NetDespatch are starting to enter the fray.

Same-day delivery

Retailers are constantly competing to offer later and later cut-off times for next day-delivery and, where possible, same-day delivery. Having a warehouse management system that allows you to have complete control over your order flow will enable UK eCommerce retailers to meet the cut-off times set by carriers, thereby making same-day deliveries a real possibility for more companies.

Review sites

Review sites have become a big thing in eCommerce in the UK with companies like Trustpilot and Feefo leading the way. By making a customer’s online experience completely transparent, review sites encourage eCommerce retailers to up their game when it comes to providing the best service. In order to deliver on this, UK retailers would need a warehouse management system that ensures order accuracy, eliminates mispicks and reduces oversells.

Space is premium

Finding warehouse space in the UK to buy or rent can be costly. As such, when you find a space that works, you’ll want to know that you can stay there for some time to come. In order to do this, warehouse software that fully optimises space is absolutely integral to UK retailers so that they can delay their move to somewhere new.

As an example, say you are looking at a new warehouse that will cost you £25,000 per month but your current warehouse is costing you £20,000 per month. By delaying the move for six months, you will save £30,000 and give yourself an extra £5,000 in cash flow per month.

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