Fulfillment in the New Retail Reality, Part 1
Advanced, convenient fulfillment options initially accelerated by Amazon.com have now become essential offerings for retailers looking to adapt to new shopper expectations. In today’s new retail reality, free shipping, same-day delivery and multiple fulfillment options have become valuable assets for retailers and consumers alike — table stakes even.
If you're not Amazon, but rather a retailer with thousands of storefronts across different regions or even countries, how do you answer the call to match Amazon’s fulfillment capabilities, consumers’ new shopping preferences, and the need to maximize current inventory? The answer lies in global inventory management capabilities, data and personalization.
Rebuilding the Customer Experience With BOPIS/BORIS
In reopening storefronts and reconnecting with consumers, retailers with a global store footprint have an opportunity to re-energize the customer experience. By utilizing store locations as localized fulfillment centers, retailers can provide programs like buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, return in-store (BORIS), if they weren’t already offering such services before the health emergency.
Up until this point, consumers have been cooped up in their homes, unable to physically shop except for essential items like groceries. This restriction has shaped consumer habits, psychologically causing shoppers to be cautious or unsure about making a trip to buy items like apparel and accessories. As retailers work to rebuild the connection between their customers and the physical storefront, utilizing BOPIS and BORIS programs gives them a pathway to slowly bring consumers back to the store in a controlled environment while leveraging a fulfillment option that's convenient — and feels safe — for the consumer.
For example, recent analysis from Adobe Analytics demonstrates that BOPIS orders surged 208 percent between April 1 and April 20, compared to a year ago. Similarly, Sabrina Helm, associate professor at the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, notes that consumer behavior will continue to lean toward BOPIS programs post-pandemic as consumers will become accustomed to “taking advantage of options that limit in-store interactions, like BOPIS, curbside pickup and subscription services.”
Personalizing the Fulfillment Experience With Data
Knowing each and every customer personally, through the power of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence, can help retailers develop both fulfillment efficiency and intelligent order routing strategies to compete against Amazon in the last mile. This is done by personalizing all store visits and localizing merchandise based on each store’s unique customer base.
The shopping journey consists of multiple interactions with a brand, be it an online search, the e-commerce checkout experience, or a positive interaction with a store associate. As such, retailers need to be sure they're crafting a personalized experience for shoppers with relevant offers, promotions and content that applies to each individual customer across these touchpoints — including the physical store interaction. Our recent retailer survey found that brands that offer “personalized commerce” not only see higher return on investment (up to 300 percent) compared to those that do not, they're in the best position to quickly pivot their business to meet changing customer behaviors and deliver personalized messaging and experiences to accompany it.
At the heart of a successful omnichannel order fulfillment process are two key aspects: execution and customer communication. With intelligent order routing, retailers should be able to set up store locations and fulfillment preferences, prioritize orders, manage inventory per location, and route orders to the correct location — all at the click of a button. This critical step in the process also needs automated communication to customers, ensuring customers stay up-to-date on every stage of the fulfillment process, from an order initially being received through to packaging, shipping and delivery.
Customers are still multichannel, so even if the fulfillment process changes, the seamless communication should remain. Determine what’s needed to keep customers connected and give them clear channels for feedback, returns and customer service post-purchase. In addition to a checkout process that gives shoppers the information they need to get their goods, retailers will need to be ready with logistical descriptions, expected wait times, and information for how to connect with people in-store should any confusion arise.
Fulfillment in the New Retail Reality
The road ahead for the retail industry isn't an easy one. However, taking steps to rebuild the customer experience through carefully determined fulfillment options can serve as one of the foundational elements for moving forward. As retailers open their doors to consumers, they can begin encouraging store visits by touting additional fulfillment options like BOPIS and BORIS, as well maximizing their strategy through data and personalization to capitalize on the current inventory available at each store.
Lisa Kalscheur is chief marketing officer at Kibo, a cloud commerce solutions provider.