As the holiday shopping season continues to get longer every year, consumers are now learning more, comparing more and shopping more and this poses a new host of challenges for retailers. Last year retail sites saw a 51% increase in mobile visits between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Research also shows that 56% of all sales will at least be influenced by online activity. Another obstacle that continues to grow each year is balancing the shipping demands of the shoppers with the increased competition and offerings from both, e-commerce retailers and traditional brick-and-mortar outlets. With a busier spending season expected in 2015, a forecasted 3.7% increase this year (compared to the 10-year average of 2.5%), aligning your online offerings with your new in-store services is going to be crucial for a successful holiday season.
Omni-channel logistics has presented new opportunities and challenges across all industries throughout the year, but things really ramp up during the holiday season. More businesses are seeing the benefit of leveraging new online access with their traditional in-store inventory and locations. This strategy also allows many traditional retailers to compete with e-commerce competitors. There are two main omni-channel services offered to achieve this.
- Ship-to-Store: This method allows a shopper to find a product online and have it shipped to a local store for pick-up. This is typically a cost-effective way to compete with free online shipping offers.
- Ship-from-Store: This method utilizes a physical store inventory by drop shipping a product to the buyer. This can be another cost effective option to keep fulfillment and shipping costs down.
While both of these can be great differentiators, they only work if the infrastructure at the store level is in place. Having a customer order a product and not having enough trained staff to complete the transaction can have a negative impact on the customer’s satisfaction. The same is true for shipping a product from the store to the consumer. Here a few tips to make embracing omni-channel logistics successful.
- Maintain proper staff levels: Many people opt to shop online to avoid lines and crowds. Forcing an online shopper to wait to pick-up an item in-store will defeat the purpose.
- Properly train in-store employees: Make sure employees are prepared to handle inventory, software and customers that will be picking up items in-store, or will be responsible for accurately shipping products to buyers.
- Promote in-store pick-up and shipping “buy-in”: Communicate the importance of these services and get your staff to adopt this line of business.
The key is to avoid any obstacles for on-line shopper to complete their transaction in your store. Shoppers today are more focused on convenience than price. Creating an inconvenient solution can mean losing a customer.
Barrett Distribution Centers has the supply chain solutions for your omni-channel needs this holiday season and throughout the year. For more information, visit our fulfillment services page.