Don’t Ignore Ship-from-Store
The race to achieve ship-from-store capabilities is a near-unanimous goal in retail. According to Forrester Research report The Retail Order Management Imperative, 83 percent of US retailers have rolled out a ship-from-store program or plan to do so in the next 18 months, and 54 percent of these retailers have started or plan to start store fulfillment capabilities for half their stores.
Retailers are attracted by the considerable benefits that ship-from-store capabilities provide, including offering online shoppers products only available in stores, reducing “online cart abandonment” by using store inventory to source out-of-stock products, and reducing shipping costs by fulfilling orders from closer to the customer’s physical address.
But while more retailers are looking to build or enhance their ship-from-store capabilities, it remains a highly complex initiative that requires strategic planning, clearly defined omnichannel goals and the ability to flexibly react to changes in the market.
The journey to enabling ship-from-store should begin with challenging conversations at the senior executive level on the company’s corporate and brand strategy and what omnichannel success looks like.
Technology Building Blocks for Omnichannel Success
From a technology perspective, there are a number of required building blocks for retailers that view ship-from-store as an element of omnichannel that can transform their business.
The first is an enterprise view of inventory availability, which goes beyond simply knowing what’s on hand and extends to knowing how much inventory is available for sale through each channel. Given that most sales still come from brick-and-mortar stores, retailers need to ensure that product is available for customers both online and in-store to ensure the greatest level of fulfillment success.
The second is a robust order management system (OMS), which uses the same view of inventory availability but helps the retailer understand the optimal point to fulfill an order. Depending on the circumstances, that point could be a store, a distribution center or even a supplier that can execute drop shipments directly to the customer. A true omnichannel OMS will consider factors such as inventory, labor and shipping availability when determining how the retailer can best meet the customer’s expectations for fulfilling an order.
And the third building block is the in-store tools that can be used to fulfill orders. Retailers are currently experimenting with fulfillment options like order/reserve online/pickup in store, ship-from-store, store-to-store transfer for pickup and same-day delivery from store, among others. That means the tools used by retail employees must be capable of easily moving between these options, without sacrificing ease of use. In order to roll out ship-from-store to hundreds or thousands of stores, retailers cannot afford to spend days or weeks training employees, so the technology in their hands must be intuitive.
Even when applied in stages, this is the technology backbone that will help a retailer grow its omnichannel strategy over time and enhance interactions with customers. While every retailer is in a different stage in the development of their omnichannel strategy, all should view fulfill-from-store as an investment in the overall customer experience.