There’s postal, then there’s everything else. This is our everything else issue. Not quite everything, of course. This is our operations and fulfillment-themed issue. And considering that an overwhelming majority of catalog/multichannel merchants handle their own fulfillment according to our quarterly Catalog Success Latest Trends Report, which focuses on management issues, the buck stops here with fulfillment.
In our special cover report, Kate Vitasek, who helps companies evaluate their operations, and call-center guru Liz Kislik provide advice on fulfillment-center benchmarking, performance metrics and call-center rep attentiveness.
This issue offers plenty of the other everything else, too, including a multipoint plan on hiring interns, a timely feature on Internet landing pages and an equally timely cost-cutting guide.
Raising the Fulfillment Bar
In recent years, the need for top-notch fulfillment has skyrocketed. As online ordering and rising gasoline prices continue to attract a new breed of more demanding customers, catalogers have less margin for error.
Catalogers long ago basically invented direct fulfillment. But now, dedicated brick-and-mortar retailers and dot-coms get orders out quickly and accurately. An example: My wife Donna, who’s a loyal Kohl’s shopper, has been pleased with the discount apparel retailer’s ability to fulfill her online orders when our local Kohl’s store doesn’t have something she wants.
While the fulfillment bar is being raised by nontraditional direct merchants, customer demands for better fulfillment have also been heightened by retail shoppers accustomed to getting that dress they want on the same day they think about buying it. Catalogers also must serve the influx of online shoppers who aren’t experienced catalog shoppers but have become used to all the free-shipping offers flooding the Internet.
About 10 years ago, the futurist Don Libey made the bold prediction that all catalog orders would soon arrive in customers’ homes overnight — in some cases, the same day. That hasn’t been widespread, and I don’t believe that’s the solution here. But by getting all your orders out quickly, efficiently and accurately using the tips inside this issue, you certainly help your own cause as competition continues to heat up while the national economy keeps cooling off.