Protecting Retail Profit: Is Fast Fulfillment the Answer? (Hint… Yes It Is… And Here’s Why)
Let’s get straight to the point here.
Retail profits are not just beneficial to merchants, but rather manufacturers, suppliers, logistical companies and the industries that respectively support each of these channels, as well. Keeping this in mind, how can merchants and the companies that fuel them collectively protect their profits in an increasingly competitive retail marketplace?
Very simply, fulfilling customer demands is an integral part of accomplishing retail profit. Due to this, retailers must identify and then meet the demands that consumers expect. Among them include delivering purchases made online in a timely fashion with the option to add or even change order details post purchase – and often while orders are already in transit – as well allowing customers to determine when, where and how they receive their purchase made. From buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS) to drop shipping products to offering same day delivery or even free delivery, there are a lot of variables for merchants to consider as they aim to accommodate consumer expectations.
With 165 billion packages reported to be shipped annually due to consumer purchases, retailers can no longer ignore that fulfillment impacts customer satisfaction and retail sales… plain and simple. What’s not so simple, however, is how the fulfillment of these packages are being managed. Everything from inventory availability to carrier options to variables in weather and so much more impact the speed and success of fulfillment management for merchants – and thus, the satisfaction of consumers. There’s good news, however, to this seemingly complex scenario.
Helping to bring transparency to fulfillment, consumer expectations and retail profit include the following:
- Artificial Intelligence: Enhanced customer experiences are in demand among consumers and fortunately, with AI these are continuously being improved upon. As a direct result to artificial intelligence, retailers benefit from having stronger fulfillment experiences that include recommendations based on past consumer purchases, the evaluation of cost and capabilities of shipments being processed and even the process of picking, packing and shipping in an effort to reduce retailer cost while improving the speed and efficiencies of these scenarios along the way.
- Hybrid Cloud Technology: 24|7 accessibility to retail data isn’t enough anymore to manage dynamic retail businesses. Having 24|7 accessibility from anywhere and from any touchpoint is what modern merchants need to support the constantly moving details of their businesses and with hybrid cloud technologies, they can achieve this. Without this, however, fulfillment is compromised since the details of fulfillment can change at any moment. From reverse logistics to omnichannel fulfillment to replenishment of inventory, hybrid cloud technology connects the dots of fulfillment management for merchants and a result, helps to keep consumers satisfied when it comes to meeting their fast – and sometime furious – demands.
- Single Platform Technologies:Having an intelligent software system that integrates all the touchpoints of consumer orders is essential in meeting fulfillment expectations. IBM’s Order Management solution accomplishes this by putting the customer at the core of their software intelligence, allowing retailers to achieve accurate and real-time data on inventory availability from across all selling channels as well as the option to coordinate order fulfillment across their extended supply networks. Collectively, these efforts allow retailers to fulfill customer expectations without compromising their own, as well, which is to strengthen store profit.
Finally, as a merchant it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of running a retail business. Everything from inventory availability to transportation details to unexpected weather to digital marketing impacts the success or failures of a retail operation… yet no longer are any of these excuses for retailers to dismiss profit. Fast and convenient is what customers want and without meeting these expectations, retailers risk losing consumers. To avoid this, online and offline retailers alike need to introducefastfulfillment strategies – not just fulfillment strategies – into their order management. Explore more on how you can accomplish this here.