Fulfilment in the retail family: bricks-and-mortar to the rescue
Omni-channel shopping has created incredible growth opportunities, but it can stretch retailers’ operations to the limits. More channels mean retailers need to find ways to manage both their physical and online assets in a way that still delivers a consistent shopping experience – and drives profit for their business.
The customer doesn’t care where their purchase gets despatched from; they just want the experience to be convenient, quick and free where possible. And competing with fulfilment giants like Amazon – who offer this level of service day in, day out – has certainly raised the bar for everyone.
So how can retailers take on the fulfilment giants, and offer their customers the delivery experience they crave? It’s time for more organisations to properly harness a readily available fulfilment champion: their physical stores.
Giving physical retail a new sense of purpose
Increasingly, physical stores are struggling to find their place in a convenience-driven, online shopping world. With the cost of prime retail space escalating versus sluggish in-store revenues, retailers are looking for ways to maintain the financial relevance of bricks-and-mortar.
Click & collect was an early way in which to merge the online and offline experience, and continues to be a successful strategy - but ship from store brings a whole new sense of purpose to physical retail. If a store offers accessible space to house products, then why not double up as a fulfilment centre to support ecommerce efforts? Already, 93% of retailers who have adopted ship from store services to combat web out-of-stock scenarios have seen an uplift in sales, according to Deloitte.
For large retailers with a vast network of stores, this is an appealing option. Each store can cover delivery to a local, or even micro-local, radius that efficiently serves online customers without additional warehouse and transport costs. This is particularly useful during peak sale seasons, to prevent a bumper transactional period being followed by a fulfilment bottleneck.
Equally, for smaller or independent retail networks with a less mature ecommerce strategy, ship from store offers the kind of fulfilment opportunities typically only possible with more expensive, decentralised warehouse access.
The benefits are mutual for stores too; as well as holding their own in the retail supply chain, ship from store gives physical retail outlets the opportunity to optimise their stock. It’s an increasingly common scenario for store branches to be left holding on to excess stock which becomes destined for unsustainable ‘bargain bin prices. By opening up stock to online purchase fulfilment, in-store becomes a viable partner in generating retail revenues without devaluing stock - justifying investment in typical store overheads.
Getting it right
Ship from store sounds like a simple and compelling solution to a number of typical retail headaches, but before rushing into it, retailers need to get their house in order. Keeping fulfilment in the family still means responding to an on-demand shopping environment.
With stores doubling up as a mini-distribution hub, staff will need to be hired and trained to manage stock inventory with both in-store traffic and ship from store demand in mind, as well as packing and despatching deliveries. Any barriers between ecommerce and in-store channels will also need to be removed, with teams working together to identify the right location for the right stock to the right customer, and perhaps even sharing top-line KPIs.
Having the right technology that enables a single omni-channel perspective is key to ship from store’s success. Real-time access to a 360 degree view of the customer journey, as well as the ability to manage stock volume against location, is critical to making in-store a valuable player in the fulfilment process, without compromising walk-in sales. Retailers who can implement the right solution to achieve this balance will see the physical store serving a greater omni-channel purpose in retailing.