Buy Anywhere, Fulfill Anywhere, Return Anywhere
Sales used to be relatively simple. Customers walked into your store, made a purchase and if they had a problem they came back to you for service or returns. Things got more complicated once retailers started using catalogs, which, with the help of technology, evolved into online sales.
As they progressed, each of these channels presented new opportunities and new challenges. So, they traditionally developed separate and independent order management and fulfillment models. For example, brick and mortar solutions anticipate customer demand and then "push" adequate inventory to store shelves through a fixed distribution network. Conversely, catalog and ecommerce solutions typically wait for orders to come in and then immediately send merchandise directly to customers.
Today, however, consumers expect (and customer loyalty demands) a free-flowing, buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere, return anywhere marketplace in which purchases may originate in one channel, be completed in another and returns are handled in a third.
Consider the following scenarios:
- An in-store customer wants two items that aren't available in the right size or color
- An order is placed online, but the customer wants to pick up the item in-store
With the ability to view global inventory assets, each of these sales can be saved and potentially increased in value; without it they will likely be lost to competitors. That's because cross-channel visibility allows for global order fulfillment and enhances the customer shopping experience.
In scenario #1, such visibility allows sales staff to offer:
- The desired merchandise for pick up at another store location
- Shipping to the customer from a distribution center or another store
- Drop shipping from a vendor
In scenario #2, cross channel support saves the sale and:
- Eliminates shipping time (through in-store pick up)
- Honors the customer's request
- Enhances the value of the sale since in-store customers purchase, on average, 30% more merchandise
See Beyond Your Own Four Walls
The holistic view across channels also provides tracking of in-transit inventory. This means greater agility addressing customer demands since sales staff (or online resources) will know that desired merchandise will be available in two days, for example. Siloed systems can't see in-transit merchandise, so if it hasn't already arrived at the distribution center, customers can only be told their order cannot be filled.
It is also possible to "extend the sale" by expanding inventory and the customer base through drop shipments and third-party execution. This allows retailers to offer additional merchandise without physically stocking more items. For example, a sporting goods store that carries small items like footwear and tennis rackets, could also offer larger-sized camping gear through catalog and online sales. Customers for these additional items would otherwise be lost to competitors.
Make Reverse Logistics More Intelligent
Customers expect a "fluid" shopping experience. Therefore, returning online purchases to a store or expecting a refund from a store other than where the purchase originated don't seem unreasonable. With independent, uncommunicative inventory and order management systems, however, those scenarios wreak havoc for retailers.
Cross-channel visibility and centralized coordination make the process easier for both customers and retailers. Returns can be initiated from any point and the system will indicate when and where the purchase was made, sale price, rules or policies applicable to the merchandise, refund amount as well as the correct disposition of the return.
Without these capabilities, retailers run the risk of jeopardizing customer satisfaction due to inconsistent processes and disappointing results. There is also a much greater chance that they will lose money as staff tries to research appropriate procedures and data, potentially resulting in scenarios like providing customers full-price in-store refunds for discounted merchandise purchased online.
Real World Benefits of Cross-Channel Execution
Because retailers tend to develop new business processes for each channel, they end up with excess total inventory and increased administrative, transportation and warehousing costs. However, distributed order management can optimize inventory in all channels without replacing existing systems. Elements such as online, call center or ERP order-taking systems, which may do their jobs quite well, are simply enabled to communicate with each other for optimized inventory and order management.
Once orders and inventory are coordinated across channels, there are additional real world benefits, such as:
- Prioritizing & balancing orders—sourcing rules drive allocation decisions out of one pool, reducing inventory across the board. For example, merchandise can be transferred from one channel where it's being discounted to another where it's out of stock at full price.
- Fulfillment options—availability, transportation and capacity at different nodes in the system can determine the best way to get merchandise where it needs to be. The system may reveal that the most cost effective source isn't the one closest to the original transaction.
Solutions like our Enterprise Order Management tool can help retailers not only save the sale, but also improve customer satisfaction, inventory deployment, operating expenses and net asset recovery. What may be even more important is that they enable customers to shop they way they want to shop, not the way the system demands.