Making Brick-and-Mortar Stores Your Secret Weapon in the Ultrafast Delivery War
Ultrafast delivery — same-day or next-day — is now the new normal. Amazon.com and other leading retailers have reset customer expectations with shipping options that the rest of the industry must match to stay competitive. The good news for omnichannel retailers is that their brick-and-mortar outlets can help them win the last-mile delivery race. By leveraging their existing store footprints with buy online deliver from store (BODFS), retailers can get their wares into customers' hands faster than ever — next-day, same-day, or even within a few hours.
Turning Stores Into Delivery Hubs
The key to faster fulfillment is getting inventory as close to customers as possible. Moving inventory to the smallest unit of fulfillment in a retail network is the most reliable way to reduce last-mile delivery costs while increasing the speed of order arrival. Fortunately, omnichannel retailers already have boots on the ground in the communities they serve — their own stores, which are smaller and closer to the end customer than warehouses. Placing more inventory in those stores can turn them into micro-fulfillment centers.
This BODFS model gives omnichannel retailers a distinct advantage over online-only retailers. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there are more than a million retail establishments in the U.S. That means many growing omnichannel retailers don’t need to build new fulfillment centers; they can just start also using their stores as delivery hubs.
Even though e-commerce has grown by more than 70 percent over the past three years, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that in 2021, the U.S. had twice as many physical store openings as closings. Some experts feared COVID-19 would permanently bulldoze brick-and-mortar stores, but that hasn’t happened. One of the reasons why is many online orders are being fulfilled from retailers’ store networks. The latest NRF survey found that more than half of retailers currently offer, or plan to offer, ship-from-store capabilities.
Can Your Fleet Deliver?
To successfully launch a BODFS strategy, positioning the right inventory across the store network is only half of the story. Retailers also need an ultrafast delivery solution that can be relied on for customers to receive same-day and scheduled deliveries on time. However, the set-up and ongoing costs of delivery vehicles and drivers puts an in-house fleet out of reach for many retailers. In-house fleets also can’t always flex to meet spikes in demand, and the vehicles aren’t always suitable for what needs to be delivered.
To supplement an in-house fleet — or replace one entirely — many retailers are turning to crowdsourced delivery as an ultrafast last-mile solution. Crowdsourcing taps into a network of independent drivers in their own vehicles, and leading networks offer same-day delivery up to 100 miles from a store. That means crowdsourced delivery can reach outer suburbs and even rural areas, not just the dense urban areas to which other ultrafast delivery options are often limited.
Leading crowdsourced delivery providers base their rates on size and distance, not weight. Therefore, crowdsourcing is suitable for large, heavy and odd-shaped items, which can be difficult and costly to ship using traditional methods. Crowdsourcing also offers retailers the ability to flex up and down as needed, without penalty. Unlimited delivery capacity means there are no caps on a retailer’s ability to keep selling.
Integrating BODFS into a retailer’s omnichannel strategy can be a smooth process, but it does require stores and staff to adjust to new processes. That’s why larger retailers should consider a pilot program in just a few markets to perfect a store-based fulfillment model that can then be rolled out across the brand.
Once brands update their internal processes and technology, the right delivery partner can set them up to fulfill and deliver from stores quickly, so they can give their customers what they want, when they want it.
Valerie Metzker is head of partnerships and enterprise sales at Roadie, a crowdsourced delivery platform with more than 200,000 drivers reaching more than 20,000 U.S. ZIP codes.
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Valerie Metzker is head of partnerships and enterprise sales at Roadie, an on-demand delivery provider with more than 200,000 drivers covering 90% of U.S. addresses. Roadie works with consumers, small businesses and corporations to provide a faster, cheaper, more scalable solution for scheduled, same-day and urgent delivery.