Three of Four Retail Executives Say They Need Better Solutions for Omni-Channel Processes
Senior retail executives rate store-level omni-channel operations as top priority — but give low ratings to current systems for operational efficiency and ability to execute
Omni-channel processes such as Buy Online/Pickup from Store and web order fulfillment are very important to the survival of brick and mortar retail. Operations such as “Click and Ship” and “Click and Collect” have the potential for retailers to leverage their store inventory to fulfill e-commerce sales faster and less expensively than from a Distribution Center (DC), fulfill customer instant-gratification needs, and increase conversions through “endless aisle” product availability. Leveraging store inventory to fulfill online sales can reduce the need for price markdowns.
In a recent survey conducted by RIS News, senior executives of mid-sized and large retail chains gave their organizations low marks in terms of omni-channel execution. Here’s how executives rated their in-store omni-channel systems in the report, which you can download here
- Just 35% say they have up-to-date technology for Buy Online/Ship from Store
- Only 26% say they have up-to-date technology for Buy Online/Pickup In Store
- 23% say they have up-to-date technology for monitoring social driven demand
- And only 23% say they have up-to-date technology for responding to weather events
Furthermore, when asked to rate the importance in terms of positive impact on their organization, retail executives gave top rating to improving omni-channel consistency.
Store-based fulfillment and other omni-channel processes enable retailers to level the playing field against online only competitors, who are continually working to reduce service delivery windows and shipping fees. But picking web orders in a store is very different than how it is done in a DC. DCs and warehouses have the benefit of automation (conveyors, robots, etc.), software to generate optimized, zone-based pick lists, and order consolidation capabilities — all of which maximize the efficiency and accuracy of online fulfillment picking, packing, and shipping. Employees in DCs and warehouses also do not have to deal with customers seeking help and perform other tasks like merchandising re-sets, price changes, promotion set-ups, and new product introductions.
Meanwhile back in the store, many retailers rely on inefficient solutions such as having store associates check a dedicated kiosk located in the back office for e-commerce orders. Although these types of basic pack-and-ship solutions enable the stores to “get the job done,” they suffer from many drawbacks:
- Inefficient use of store labor (associates must walk to the back of the store, check the dedicated terminal, and complete non-optimized pick assignments)
- Poor visibility into the labor impact of omni-channel tasks on overall store workload
- Inability to use two-way feedback to identify and rectify reasons for order “no fills”
- Difficulty in forecasting workloads for omni-channel tasks and aligning labor with overall demand, including customer service and replenishment
- Lack of visibility and systemized best practice responses to social, customer sentiment, local events, and other demand levers
Retailers stand to benefit greatly by implementing a platform of real-time execution and workforce management solutions and respond better to up-to-the-minute omni-channel trends and tasks. Such a solution when accessed through a device such as a tablet or smart phone while on the sales floor could provide the following benefits:
- Increased efficiency of store labor: managers and associates receive prioritized alerts and optimized pick lists to rapidly complete omni-channel tasks using mobile devices
- Real-time visibility into the labor impact of omni-channel tasks on overall store workload with the ability to match associate availability to demand
- Two-way feedback to identify and rectify reasons for order “no fills” and support continuous improvement of these and other processes
- Ability to accurately forecast workloads for omni-channel tasks and align labor with overall demand, including customer service and replenishment
- Visibility and systemized best practice responses to social, customer sentiment, local events, and other demand levers
The good news is mature systems such as those provided by Reflexis can be implemented in weeks or months — not years — enabling retailers to have real-time alerts and directed dynamic task prioritization and tracking while jumping ahead of the omni-channel competition.