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e-Commerce Industry News


November 28, 2016
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Fulfillment demands of today's customers
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November 28, 2016
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When omnichannel options are expected, you'll have to rise to the challenge. When omnichannel options are expected, you'll have to rise to the challenge.
The omnichannel age means new challenges, some of which stem from heightened expectations. Companies have become more adept at serving their clients over the past few years, building a new status quo, accompanied by demands. If your fulfillment operations can't keep up with the evolving expectations of your clientele, you could have trouble holding onto business over time.

Whether your organization began in the online space or originated as a physical retail operation, you'll have to deal with the same kinds of demands from customers. As more organizations offer better omnichannel capabilities, uniting their many channels, the idea of a company operating seamlessly across boundaries is becoming more normal. This is a logical progression - customers getting high-quality service from top retailers will expect those same capabilities elsewhere. This means you have to be ready to deliver when it comes to delivery.

Fulfillment essentials
Increasing capabilities can be an intimidating prospect. The present is a time of rapid and drastic change for retail. Tuning the following specific areas may help you make sense of the new status quo and get ahead of the curve. Once a capability emerges, it's not too long until it becomes an expectation, one you'll have to meet quickly.

  • Extreme inventory visibility: When you don't know where your inventory is located, you run an increased risk of stock-outs. According to Chain Store Age, customers today are less forgiving of these issues than ever before. The source noted that 33 percent of consumers now blame a retailer when a product is out of stock. This high demand applies to both physical stores and websites, and the best way to fight back is to ensure you're moving goods to or from the endpoints where they're most needed. This is far too complicated a task to be handled without high-level visibility of stock levels in every corner of the organization.
    "Customers getting high-quality service from top retailers will expect those same capabilities elsewhere."
  • Battling bottlenecks: When old-fashioned fulfillment methods meet new, high-speed customer demand, the result may be inefficiency and delays. Multichannel Merchant recently noted that using wave-based fulfillment methods in distribution centers may let companies down in today's fast-paced environment. Using forward-thinking and fast picking and packing methods designed with omnichannel operations in mind could help companies avoid backup and keep them from disappointing their customers. Accurate and reasonable shipping projections: Chain Store Age contributor Jett McCandless specified that today's consumers have become used to clear and effective shipping calculations from mega-retailers such as Amazon. Anything less than this kind of high-powered experience could therefore be seen as disappointing. Organizations should ensure they have ways to accurately determine shipping times for orders sent via freight, or else they may end up scaring customers away via high delivery time estimates.
But don't break the bank
While building powerful new infrastructure is important for companies that want to stay in tune with customer expectations, there is a real danger of going over-budget and failing to make money on these operations. Multichannel Merchant referred to Retail Systems Research that found organizations wading into more sales channels with manual process that have proven expensive and difficult. In these cases, they have begun to serve omnichannel clientele, but they may be putting themselves through financial hardship to do it.

Your quest to become an omnichannel force shouldn't destroy your organization's finances, whether you work with a third-party partner or create the necessary infrastructure internally. Multichannel Merchant pointed to Nordstrom as an example of a company doing its best to drive the costs of cross-channel commerce down. The source specified that the business is rethinking its product delivery strategy, sketching a new model that promises low costs through greater efficiency. Product assortment may also be worth investigating, as high numbers of low-cost items can cause budget issues.

Time to evolve
The customer knows best when it comes to retail, and today's shoppers are being presented with impressive fulfillment options by a variety of monolithic companies. Fighting back against these juggernauts isn't just for large organizations that can compete on their own terms. As long as you work out efficient and customer-friendly omnichannel systems, there will be a potential place for your organization in the current market.

Working with industry experts and third-party firms may be your best ticket to this kind of efficiency, taking manual processes out of the equation and offering the kind of experience your customers will want to return to.