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A Complete Guide to Zone Skipping Logistics Strategy

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Zone Skipping Logistics Strategy, Getting online purchases delivered quickly is becoming an expectation for customers in the age of Amazon Prime’s fast shipping. Retail brands are looking for creative ways to distribute inventory across fulfillment networks to speed up parcel transit times. One technique that holds promise is zone skipping – strategically routing orders to shipping locations just outside a buyer’s normal region to drive faster delivery.

What is zone skipping?

Zone skipping is an inventory and fulfillment strategy used in e-commerce where orders are shipped from a location that is closer to the customer but skips over the customer’s normal allocated shipping zone. This allows companies to get packages to customers faster.

For example, if a customer lives in Ohio and places an order with an e-commerce company that has fulfillment centers in Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Normally, that order would ship from the Nevada warehouse since that is the allocated zone for Ohio.

With zone skipping, the company identifies that they have inventory in the Pennsylvania warehouse which is closer, so they ship the order from there instead to get it to the Ohio customer faster, thereby skipping the normal West Coast shipping zone.

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Why is zone skipping important in e-commerce?

Zone skipping is important for several reasons:

Faster shipping times

By shipping orders from warehouses closer to the customer, delivery times can be reduced by days or even weeks. This is key for e-commerce retailers looking to provide Amazon-like fast shipping.

Improved customer experience

Faster fulfillment leaves customers happier with their ordering experience. Shorter delivery times reduce returns and contact with customer service as well.

Increased flexibility

Zone skipping gives e-commerce companies more flexibility in their fulfillment network to route orders based on inventory availability and proximity. This allows them to optimize operations.

Lower shipping costs

Shipping orders from closer warehouses can mean lower transit costs, reduced last-mile delivery fees, and lower carbon emissions from transportation.

How does zone skipping work?

Implementing zone skipping involves coordination across several parts of e-commerce operations:

Inventory placement

Inventory levels must be monitored across fulfillment centers, with adjustments made to allocate stock across zones based on product demand signals.

Advanced order routing

As orders are received, logic needs to evaluate inventory availability, and product locations relative to the customer delivery address, and route the order to the optimal warehouse.

Pick and pack processes

Fulfillment centers need staffing, protocols, and technology in place to handle occasional zone skipped orders mixed amongst their normal regional volume.

Logistics network

Carriers and delivery operations need an understanding of potential cross-regional shipments so transport can be arranged reliably.

Getting these aspects working together is what enables zone skipping to achieve operational efficiency and a better buyer experience.

Read: Guide to Types of Shipping Surcharges

The benefits of zone-skipping

When implemented effectively, zone skipping brings significant advantages:

Faster delivery times

Zone skipping typically reduces transit time by 25-35% for affected orders. Customers receive purchases 2-5 days sooner.

Higher product reviews

The convenience of faster fulfillment leads more customers to leave positive product reviews and refer friends to the retailer.

Lower shipping expense

E-commerce brands save 10-15% on shipping fees per skipped order by reducing zone transit distances.

The combination of better customer satisfaction and lower fulfillment costs makes zone skipping a worthwhile omnichannel strategy.

What are the most common zone-skipping techniques?

Brands take several approaches to make zone skipping work efficiently:

Zoneless inventory

Keeping a percentage of high-velocity products zoneless provides maximum routing flexibility as orders come in.

Dynamic zoning

Algorithmic logic routes orders based on supply chain capacity and proximity factors at the time of purchase.

Zone hopping

Specific products get pre-allocated across strategic zones to tie inventory to pockets of demand outside their normal region.

Zone skipping days

Designating certain days when fulfillment centers process more zone-skipped parcels lets brands test their capabilities.

Finding the right techniques involves experimentation to balance service level and logistics expenses. When done well, zone skipping unlocks delivery speed and satisfaction.


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