Why Retailers Turn to Mobile Robot Solutions for Black Friday, Cyber Monday Success

Upload time:2023-11-22 Source:


For companies in apparel, e-commerce and other retail industries, warehouse fulfillment during Black Friday and Cyber Monday is all about accurate, fast picking. And thriving in a fast-paced environment is a must. That takes optimized fulfillment processes, but in an era of labor scarcity, a winning retail fulfillment strategy also means attracting temporary workers with good working conditions.  

To help with both, retailers and 3PLs are turning toward mobile robot solutions, which help operational efficiency while improving working conditions for employees by reducing strenuous tasks. In an era of thin margins and supply chain disruptions, fast fulfillment, aided by mobile robotic solutions, is a competitive advantage.  

Consumers are expected to spend $221.8 billion worldwide during the holiday shopping season, a 4.8-percent rise from 2022’s result. Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent an important part of that total; in 2022, U.S. Black Friday sales accounted for $9.12 billion, and Cyber Monday generated another $11.3 billion. The National Retail Federation expects 182 million Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers, both in-person at U.S. stores and online.  

That’s a lot of activity for retailers and their 3PLs in a short amount of time.   

Automation increases flexibility in warehouse fulfillment, allowing users to quickly adapt to shifting consumer demands and order profiles. During Peak Season 2022, UPS Supply Chain Solutions looked to

UPS Supply Chain Solutions implemented Geekplus robots to improve picking performance. 

Geekplus robotics solutions to achieve, year over year, a 97-percent increase in peak unit throughput and a 400-percent increase in picked units per hour. This growth happened while reducing errors and decreasing physical strain on the company’s seasonal workforce. Quick onboarding enables the flexibility to scale up, adding workers as demand dictated, getting these new recruits into the picking flow without hours upon hours of training.   

Geekplus robotics solutions enable 3PLs to optimize picking on behalf of their retail clients, increasing operational efficiency while minimizing mistakes, which elevates consumer happiness. While retailers spend months planning for the biggest U.S. retail days of the year, 3PLs also know there is an element of randomness to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. By automating warehouse fulfillment with Geekplus’ flagship shelf-to-person solution and additional mobile robot solutions, retailers are working to increasing supply chain responsiveness and creating flexibility for when those unknowns crop up. Acting quickly, efficiently and without error is the name of the game.    

Then come the returns. Reverse logistics is a growing industry simply because online shoppers keep returning purchased goods. Last year, consumers returned $816 billion in goods, according to the NRF, and the trendline keeps moving up. That makes sense when between 25-50 percent of all online orders are returned.

The complex dance of reverse logistics involves physically collecting the goods and bringing them back to the warehouse; this step of the process creates a lot of unpredictable warehouse traffic. When the goods arrive at the facility, they undergo sorting and quality control. Finally, the returned item is either put back into inventory, sold on the secondary market or repurposed – broken down into component parts to be used for a new product. Relying on sorting automation and mobile robot solutions streamlines this process and removes as many variables as possible from a highly complex process.

Rick DeFiesta Headshot
Rick DeFiesta is EVP of Sales & Solutions for Geekplus America.


“With automation, you can manage returns in the off-picking times because the system is going to continue to work whether your physical location is open or not,” said Rick DeFiesta, EVP of Sales & Solutions for Geekplus America. “It complements your existing workforce and helps you reallocate employees to more important tasks and projects.”

Speed and accuracy are of the essence in reverse logistics, where companies want to process returns as quickly as possible in order to get the goods back out into the world.

“The longer the merchandise sits around waiting for someone to decide what to do with it, the lower the chances that it can be resold at a profit,” DeFiesta said. “Customers want to be recompensated quickly, and retailers want to be able to recoup their losses by reselling the items as fast as possible.”

With all the activity, warehouse safety has to also be a main consideration. Picks per hour and other metrics are important, but prioritizing safety is the only way to ensure a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday fulfillment experience. With mobile robots working together with warehouse fulfillment employees, retailers and their 3PLs can have a successful and profitable start to the holiday shopping season without an increase in workplace accidents.