Over the years, small and mid-sized retailers have made great strides competing against ecommerce behemoths by implementing strategies that have allowed them to offer the same customer experience and fast delivery as the Amazons and Walmarts of the world. But weathering COVID-19—when many shoppers still expect the same customer experience they received before the pandemic—has presented unique challenges, particularly around fulfillment and delivery. To discuss how retailers that make order management systems a strategic focus of their success will thrive during the pandemic, Digital Commerce 360 spoke with Ram Venkataraman, chief product and technology officer at Kibo Commerce.
Describe the current state of fulfillment and delivery.
Obviously, since COVID, many retailers are having trouble fulfilling from warehouses and competing against the ecommerce giants. The last mile is a big issue for them, as is free and fast delivery. Two-day and next-day delivery is more difficult than ever. Curbside pickup has helped a lot of retailers leverage their store inventories to get products to customers quickly, but the curbside experience is far from perfect. Many retailers have implemented duct-tape solutions to deploy curbside options quickly. And while some retailers have done well, many are struggling. Communication between the customer and the store has been a huge challenge.
What are some common fulfillment and delivery mistakes retailers make?
A lot of retailers have been slow to implement the different fulfillment approaches: buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), store-to-store transfer, ship to home from warehouse, ship to store from warehouse. And when they do, they often implement one. But they really must think about order management systems holistically. Additionally, many retailers aren’t looking at their whole inventory across their entire network—which is central to effective fulfillment and delivery.
How can they address these challenges both in the short term and long term?
First, they need real-time visibility of inventory across their entire fulfillment network. Once retailers have that, they can send orders to the right location for fulfillment. Secondly, retailers should leverage their stores to fulfill orders, so they don’t have to push all the orders to the warehouse. Now, because there’s less foot traffic in stores, it’s more important than ever to optimize that store inventory. Third, they should group together their stores in a region and use them as a regional warehouse. Say they have five stores in one region, retailers can use those stores to fulfill orders for that entire area. They should also be rate shopping for delivery. Find the best service provider in your area that can deliver quickly and on-time most cost-effectively. And finally, they need effective curbside solutions. Curbside is here to stay. Duct tape solutions will no longer cut it. Having a sophisticated curbside solution is critical.
What is the fastest and most effective way they can implement these strategies?
Retailers need order management systems that are modern, flexible and business-user friendly. Every order ingested across any channel needs to go through an intelligent OMS that understands where the inventory is and sources it from the right locations. Kibo Commerce’s OMS, for example, is very business user friendly, allowing them to make changes without IT help. If a retailer wants to implement BOPIS, ship to home, ship from store or curbside—Kibo helps retailers quickly deploy these options in the market in less than four weeks. Retailers now realize customer experience is a fulfillment and delivery story. The rubber meets the road when fulfillment and delivery happen in a highly effective way.