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Convenience — The next retail battleground

Wed 4 Mar 2020 | Graham Jackson

Tomorrow’s retail winners will be those that use technology to make it easier, faster and more convenient for customers

The pace of change in the retail industry is unrelenting and now is not the time for businesses to become complacent. Faced with a growing proliferation of online marketplaces and the fast-evolving demands of today’s omnichannel consumers, standing out among a crowd of competitors is no easy task.

In recent years, retailers have focused their investment efforts on wooing online shoppers in a bid to compete head-to-head with big name pure-play disruptors like Amazon. Yet, last year, online accounted for just 19 percent of all UK retail sales. So clearly, UK consumers still value the unique experiences and level of service encountered when shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Which means there’s plenty of opportunity for omnichannel retailers who are ready to take bold action and meet consumers wherever they are – online and in-store.

Turning local presence into competitive advantage

In the US, big name traditional retailers like Walmart and Target are converging their physical stores with digital services to deliver the frictionless local convenience today’s consumers demand. In the process, they’re reimagining how their stores can deliver a more superior and localised one-to-one service that’s difficult for digital-only businesses like Amazon to replicate.

By marrying in-person experiences with digital capabilities, they’re transforming their bricks-and-mortar stores into highly effective consumer touchpoints that truly differentiate their brand and make shopping easy and seamless for customers.

Utilising technologies to bridge the gap between digital and real-world interactions is just the start. Running hand-in-glove with existing legacy ERP investments, today’s flexible and agile cloud-native solutions make it easy for retailers to automate processes, adopt new technologies, and improve their speed to market. That includes achieving the visibility and finger-tip control of their inventory that’s needed to take advantage of location and maintain the convenience edge.

Turning the store into a distribution and fulfilment centre

Leveraging today’s cloud-powered distributed order management systems, retailers can achieve a real-time enterprise-wide view of inventory that can be used to show consumers what’s available, where – while simultaneously making it easy for store-based staff to see what products are available, in what quantity, and in what locations.

This opens the way to unleashing truly unified commerce across the entire online and physical retail estate, while transforming the bricks-and-mortar store into a combined shop front, warehouse, and distribution centre.

As well as giving customers the option to have purchases shipped or collected in store, these systems also provide in-store personnel with the easy-to-use tools they need to handle customer collections, exchanges and returns.

With all these capabilities in place, retailers can seize every opportunity to deliver a differentiated customer experience that’s both localised and convenient. What’s more, by giving customers a greater choice of in-store services, retailers can create additional opportunities to showroom products and demonstrate the human touch of their brand.

Intelligent fulfilment for enhanced efficiencies

Alongside better order management, retailers can utilise the built-in intelligence of these new retail cloud systems to make smarter fulfilment decisions that benefit both the business itself and customers in terms of enhanced cost and convenience.

Distributed order management platforms can deliver insights on how long, and at what cost, items can be shipped from one location to another – whether that’s a warehouse, store, pick-up point or house. The solution is then able to identify what options are the most cost-effective and optimally efficient in relation to delivery, and automatically execute optimised fulfilment based on the best efficiency and speed ratio.

Resolving the fulfilment challenges that depend on balancing product availability against delivery timelines and demand/capacity constraints, retailers are able to offer enhancements or reduced delivery costs to loyalty programme members. They also acquire the ability to split inventory within an order to apply the most effective shipping options; customer service staff now have real-time visibility of stock and can make in-the-moment decisions on how to get it to the customer at speed.

Turning the store into a destination

Today’s distributed order management systems close the capability gaps and financial burdens associated with turning bricks-and-mortar stores into agile customer touchpoints that cross digital/physical boundaries. From faster, more convenient delivery options to initiating ship-from-store options and fulfilment innovations, these solutions enable retailers to create new retail destinations that have a true convenience appeal. Especially when in-store technology, like endless aisle kiosks, give customers the option of searching down products and placing an order if they can’t find what they’re looking for on the shelf.

Convenience isn’t a new retailing concept. Back in the day, Frank Winfield Woolworth came up with the radical concept of placing products on shelves to make it more convenient for customers to browse and shop. Today, those retailers that win out will make it easier, faster and more convenient for customers to satisfy their expectations.

Experts featured:

Graham Jackson

Fluent Commerce
CEO

Tags:

data warehouse ecommerce retail
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