Times are tough for brick-and-mortar retailers. Foot traffic is down and, in some cases, non-existent. But this only means that now is the time to innovate. Now is the time to start shifting your business towards digital strategies in order to contend with e-commerce and omnichannel competitors. Now is the time to deliver exceptional customer service and win loyalty.
How are you going to achieve short-term survival and long-term resiliency? By using your retail space to deliver flexible order fulfillment, of course. One of the benefits of being a retailer with stores right now — and yes, there are benefits even if it doesn’t feel like it — is that you have physical space. And that means you have opportunity to deploy multiple fulfillment options to satisfy your customers and your bottom line.
Here are three flexible order fulfillment strategies that brick-and mortar-retailers should be utilizing now :
- Create Dark Stores
In case you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, dark stores are traditional retail stores that have been converted to local fulfillment centers. According to a recent article in Retail Dive, there are rumors circulating that even Amazon is onboard with this order fulfillment strategy and is looking at obtaining vacant mall space. The perks of dark stores are that you can lower shipping costs and speed up delivery times because you are fulfilling from a store to serve the local geographic market.
Even after social distancing measures are lifted and you can transition the space back to a traditional store, give pause. It might be more advantageous if you still reserve some of the physical space as a fulfillment center. Customers who prefer to shop in store could enter part of the store, yet you still could distribute inventory from the store for e-commerce orders.
- Offer Multiple Delivery Options
There was a time when Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online Pickup At Curb (BOPAC) were nice-to-haves for brick-and-mortar retailers looking to provide additional delivery flexibility for customers. “Contrary to popular belief, providing pickup and curbside can actually increase sales and shopper frequency,” noted Shelley E. Kohan, Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology, in a recent RetailWire article.
Today, multiple delivery options are critical to retailers competing for customers whose choice of shipping can be driven by a variety of factors, from costs to personal preference to local health regulations. Remember, direct-to-consumer brands do not have this luxury so retailers with stores need to seize this opportunity.
- Execute Order Orchestration
E-commerce is the lifeblood for retail in the current environment and every order is critical. Stockouts and back orders are dealbreakers in this hypercompetitive online retail landscape. As a brick-and-mortar retailer, it’s going to be important for you to fulfill orders with stock that is sourced across multiple warehouses and even multiple stores, maximizing inventory regardless of its location.
To optimize order profitability, you should choose the right fulfillment inventory location that ensures the order is optimally routed and/or consolidated. For example, fulfilling an online order from a local store might be more cost efficient than using the e-commerce distribution center. And that’s another benefit of using your retail space to your advantage right now.
Take Your Retail Order Fulfillment Strategy from Good to Great
Transforming stores into fulfillment centers, offering multiple delivery options for customers and enabling order fulfillment from multiple locations – it sounds complicated. But with the right software and technology enabling them, it’s rather straightforward to create these seamless omnichannel buying experiences. Distributed order management (DOM) systems enable customers to choose how, where and when they receive their orders, all while enabling you to optimize and prioritize routes to minimize costs and impacts to your supply chain.
As the COVID-19 crisis casts a light on the several retail essentials that will be needed to survive and thrive in a post-lockdown recovery, it is becoming more and more vital to harness tools that help deliver a consistent brand experience everywhere. A mature order fulfillment infrastructure can help retailers quickly adapt to the evolving retail landscape while delighting buyers with choice and positive experiences.