In the increasingly intense battle for survival, retailers are focusing more than ever on the in-store experience. So far, the crucial role stores play in omnichannel fulfillment has been undervalued — suggesting that more retailers should focus innovations on the stockroom as well as the showroom.
By multiple measures, shoppers’ expectations for omnichannel fulfillment are growing. More than three quarters of consumers say having multiple fulfillment options is important when deciding to purchase, according to survey data in Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report. Fully 78% of shoppers have looked up store inventory online prior to a visit, the survey found, while two-thirds have completed purchases online for store pickup.
Furthermore, investment in omnichannel fulfillment can not only help online researchers become store buyers; it can help retailers deliver shoppers in the aisles the same unlimited options and availability they might find with a keyword search online. Indeed, 57% of participants in Kibo’s survey reported completing orders in-store with the assistance of associates who located out-of-stock items and arranged delivery — an increase of more than 18% compared with the prior year.
Given such clear indications of consumer preferences, it’s surprising to learn there’s a disconnect between the goal of omnichannel excellence and an investment in the omnichannel fulfillment solutions that support it. Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and “endless aisle” capabilities do indeed top the list of customer-facing store priorities for retailers in 2018 — but just 5% of retailers said order management software was a key initiative on the operations side, according to technology researcher Forrester.
Perhaps because of this gap between store-experience vision and operational reality, many retailers give themselves low marks when it comes to omnichannel execution. Forrester found that just 16% of retailers agreed completely that they had the right omnichannel technology in place, for example.
This glum assessment nonetheless presents an opportunity for retailers who want to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. By using modern omnichannel fulfillment software, sellers can increase inventory transparency and fulfillment flexibility, leading to improved store experiences that:
Connect online shoppers with (more) products faster.
Services such as BOPIS give shoppers an alternative to home delivery for online orders — enabling them not only to save on shipping costs, but to set their own fulfillment schedule. Indeed, 85% of Kibo survey participants said BOPIS was beneficial because they could pick up orders when they wanted, while 73% said they used store pickup so they didn’t need to wait at home for a delivery.
But given shoppers’ growing expectations for speed, it’s not enough for retailers to offer BOPIS without the order management moxy to back it up. Indeed, 30% of shoppers in Kibo’s survey said they expected to be able to pick up items in-store within a day — signaling that slow freight from a distribution center is no longer adequate.
Merchants who meet rising expectations for speedy store pickup are more likely to win additional business from BOPIS customers. The latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper reports that 44% of those using store pickup go on to buy more items while in-store — so the opportunity is significant for those merchants who get BOPIS right.
Kibo client Cost Plus World Market allows many of its home furnishing items ordered online by 5 p.m. to be picked up that same day at local stores — giving shoppers immediate access to their chosen goods. Real-time transparent inventory is coupled with up-to-date store information to give shoppers all the information they need in the moment to select a location and commit to purchasing prior to pickup.
Give store shoppers access to the “endless aisle”.
Given that shoppers consistently cite unique finds and broad selection as top reasons to shop online, merchants should open their entire inventory to store visitors — including limited-edition and exclusive items and products from prior seasons housed elsewhere. Omnichannel fulfillment software that connects inventory from store outlets and distribution centers through a seamless portal can help store shoppers source products from across the network, without needing to drive from location to location.
Real-time inventory can also make “out of stock” obsolete — if merchants equip store associates with the tools and technology they need. Forrester found that 61% of store associates can locate items at other outlets or the distribution center, but just 23% can access eCommerce site product information, and a mere 17% can actually “save the sale” on the spot with a mobile point-of-sale. Merchants who invest in mobile connectors to integrated order management software and omnichannel fulfillment options can differentiate their store experiences significantly.
Keep revenues from returns and exchanges in-store.
The benefits of flexible omnichannel fulfillment extend beyond the purchase process. Given that 13% of online orders are returned, according to Forrester, merchants should also leverage order management software and omnichannel capabilities in reverse to deliver a hassle-free experience that encourages further spending along the way.
Not surprisingly, the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey found that 58% of U.S. shoppers prefer to return items bought online to physical store outlets. Many merchants still charge a restocking fee in addition to postage for online returns — and, of course, making a special trip to the Post Office is an added hassle.
Merchants who help shoppers avoid such a tedious process can earn plaudits for customer service — and, once shoppers are in-store, they can be enticed to spend refund or exchange monies on new products more to their liking.
How are you leveraging order management and omnichannel fulfillment capabilities to enhance the store experience?