It is no secret that retailing has changed in the age of the internet. Customers are no longer content to go into a store and just buy what is on the shelf. Today, a consumer now checks prices and shipping options through websites and smartphone apps. They may want to buy an item online and pick it up in the store. Next, they may choose to exchange the item through a website. That sounds like a stock management headache, but working with omni-channel fulfillment makes accommodating customers easier and more efficient.
In the past, retailers commonly shipped from two warehouses. One was strictly for e-commerce and the other was only for retail stores. Traditionally on the east or west coast, customers in Middle America had a longer time to wait for their goods. As e-commerce grew, retailers had to find new fulfillment methods. Businesses such as Toys ‘R’ Us, offered ship-from-store options to meet the demand.
The Rise of Online Shopping
With the rise of smartphones, retailing grew even more complex. According to Internet Retailer, 91% of consumers research and buy products on a laptop or desktop. But, 56% research and 41% purchase on smartphones. This is because social media like Facebook and Snapchat are now in the retailing mix. Some consumers do not even visit the company’s website before they buy. The focus of omni-channel fulfillment is on the consumer and the product, but there are endless ways for them to get together.
Omni-channel fulfillment is simpler than it looks. A consumer makes a purchase from a concession, mobile app, website, catalogue, franchise or store. The retailer continues with the process and handles ordering, stock management, fulfillment and sales. The center of this method is always the stock pool. It includes stock from all sources, such as stores, kiosks and warehouses. To view an infographic on this, see RetailAssist.
Consumers make purchases in any way they want but the retailer maintains full control over the stock, even if it is in many places. Omni-channel fulfillment ensures efficient and accurate delivery of the correct product. Suppliers see the stock as a whole, not fragmented through different channels.
The Advantages of Omni-Channel Fulfillment
With omni-channel fulfillment businesses can offer:
- same day shipping or on demand delivery
- shipping for items bought in a retail store to the consumer’s home.
- in-store pickup for items bought online
- lower costs due to fully automated distribution.
Other advantages include real-time reporting, adjustment to seasonal demand, and accurate inventory management. Omni-channel fulfillment leads to new sales opportunities as retailers discover different ways to market items through different channels. Streamlined warehouse operations get the product to the consumer quickly and with less cost. Satisfied customers are more likely to come back, and this makes your brand look better than a company that doesn’t use this fulfillment method.
Consumers’ Expectations are High
Due to the “Amazon effect” consumers now expect options that were impossible in the days before e-commerce. They expect faster, easier and less expensive shipping. According to an article on retailTouchPoints, Amazon pioneered fast shipping and versatile stock options, but this now means that consumers expect the same from most other retailers. Speed and accurate delivery through an omni-channel supply chain allows your business to compete with big companies such as Amazon. During the record holiday sales season of 2014, retailers such as Macy’s Target and Best Buy greatly improved delivery with omni-channel fulfillment .
Considering the variety in modern e-commerce, omni-channel fulfillment allows companies to look consistent across all of their retail channels. The consumer sees the same shipping policies, prices and product availability on Facebook as they do in the retail store or on the web site. These areas are more consistently and accurately updated.
Using omni-channel fulfillment not only brings your company up to date, but it allows for speed, accuracy and efficiency. For more information about fulfillment options, please contact us.