Give customers freedom of choice with flexible fulfillment
The last in a four-part series on how unified commerce helps retailers meet modern customer expectations.
What customers want
Apart from speed and convenience, flexibility is now a baseline customer expectation.
Not only do shoppers want to be able to shop whenever and wherever they also want hybrid shopping—make selections online and collect their purchases offline. This is due to the convenient, free, and fast offering and the immediate gratification of getting the items of their desire the same day.
Unified commerce empowers retailers to offer customers a plethora of shipping and fulfillment choices such as buy online pick in store (BOPIS), buy online return in store (BORIS), reserve online pick in store (ROPIS), ship to store, ship from store, curbside pickup, and lockers.
Flexible fulfillment: The freedom of choice
Customers want to shop in a way that is most convenient and timely for them.
Let’s explore how unified commerce offers customers more control over their shopping journey.
The shopper's entire journey is flexible—it can start as online shopping and end with an in-store pickup or a home delivery. Shoppers will also get an opportunity to choose from a virtually endless aisle of inventory within a retailer’s network. Thus, flexible fulfillment offers enormous benefits to retailers and customers alike:
Offers complete freedom to customers to receive orders the way they want
Improves customer relationships and loyalty
Increases sales by better-utilizing assets and reduces the need for promotions and markdowns
Provides logistical relief to online distribution and reduces warehouse costs
Though offering flexible shipping and fulfillment options can drive customer loyalty and increase opportunities to upsell, it is not simple to implement and has its own risks.
Retailers need to invest in modern technologies and design better operational processes to ensure that customers enjoy the best of both worlds—online shopping and in-person pickup—and enjoy a seamless experience.
Here are a few considerations for retailers planning to offer flexible fulfillment options:
Invest in a centralized system: Retailers need to have one real-time inventory and warehouse management system to track inventory across all channels and to replenish inventory intelligently, anticipate stock-outs, and prevent losses; one CRM for all incoming customer queries; and also a unified payments and promotions system so that they have a single source of truth. By centralizing all backend systems, retailers can have a single view of inventory, push out relevant messaging, facilitate flexible customer returns, and also reduce costs. A report suggests that most retail organizations are at least working toward delivering a unified experience across channels, with 60% categorizing their organization as ‘a work in progress’, while almost a quarter (23%) are at least ‘close to providing a truly unified experience.’
Streamline order fulfillment: Retailers need to identify which orders are for BOPIS and which are for curbside pickup. They also need mechanisms to identify customers arriving for pickup and deliver orders correctly. They can digitalize and track the communication process with SMS and email. Manual customer intimation from app or web—’I am here’, or more intuitively with geofencing capabilities, or both can be implemented.
Empower store associates with the right tools and technology: As store associates now need to double up as fulfillment staff, tools such as mPOS help to complete the order and communicate its status with the customer. The tools also enable store associates to check out an order from anywhere on the shop floor and bring in a high degree of interaction and personalization.
Revamping store layout: Retailers need to make space to stage orders for pickup, set up designated pickup locations, and also transition the store into a mini-fulfillment center. They also need to have clear processes to manage traffic flow, minimize wait time, and maintain safety. Retailers also need to safeguard in-store experiences while fulfilling online orders.
Minimizing BOPIS, curbside pickup fraud: Unlike regular online orders, a BOPIS or curbside transaction may not contain a shipping address or other information that helps validate an order. Therefore, retailers can minimize fraud by installing AI-ML-powered computer vision cameras that can provide real-time data and insights on consumer traffic patterns. They can also deploy fraud management solutions to review high-dollar transactions.
Unified commerce: The new default for omnichannel journeys
Delighting and surprising customers at every turn requires a powerful and agile unified commerce platform that has a global view of customers, orders, and inventory.
A unified commerce platform will enable retailers to have a single view of purchases, returns, or exchanges that have occurred throughout an entire shopper journey. It can provide enterprises the freedom and flexibility to reuse their existing infrastructure to roll out new capabilities quickly without worrying about channel constraints. Customers can receive their products in a way that is fast, convenient, and cost-effective and enjoy a frictionless shopping experience.