By Ruth Richter • January 16, 2019
Once upon a time, Amazon only sold books. Touted on radio ads (remember those?) as the world’s largest bookstore, now Amazon is one of the world’s largest retailer companies. Consumers can get everything they’ve ever wanted—and many things they didn’t know they needed—on Amazon. The Amazon Prime shipping box is such a ubiquitous sight that a tongue-in-cheek “hipster nativity set” features three wise men, each bearing gifts in the distinct Amazon Prime box.
With Amazon’s easy shopping and shipping, brick-and-mortar retailers have found themselves needing to be more and more creative with last-minute delivery services in order to compete.
Go That Extra Mile … Yourself!
Amazon might be experimenting with everything from drone delivery to pick-up lockers, but your solutions don’t have to be quite so extreme. Sometimes just going that extra mile—literally! —from your store to the customer is enough.
Large retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are already using physical store locations as distribution centers, with store employees fulfilling online orders right from the store’s stock. Those orders are whisked away by a delivery truck. Walmart is even testing using store employees to deliver packages on their way home. This new ship-from-store (SFS) method capitalizes on existing retail store inventory while also reducing fulfillment costs (such as shipping).
Preparing for Ship-from-Store
If SFS sounds like the way to go for your brick-and-mortar store, there are things you can do to make this switch more painless.
- Simplify the Process. The more steps you have to the in-store fulfillment process, the more chances there are for someone filling an order to make a mistake, costing you time, money, and perhaps most worrisome, a customer. Keep your process simple by documenting an intuitive plan.
- Maximize Space: How much room do you have open to pack orders at a retail location? It might not be a lot, so keep other things tidied out of the way to open up the most available space to fill and pack orders. Select packaging that also requires minimal storage space.
- Deliver Trust: A well-packaged order will increase your customers’ trust in your service and your brand and make them more likely to come back to you for the next purchase.
- Save with the Right Box: Store employees don’t have the same expertise at picking/packing as warehouse employees might. Packing the right size and weight of box reduces waste and shipping costs.
- Protect Your Product: Along those same lines, packing orders correctly with the right cushioning and wrapping will reduce the chances for items to arrive broken, forcing the customers—and you—to spend precious time coordinating a return and replacement.
- Cost vs. Price: Don’t look solely at price per foot for packaging costs. Take the time to understand not only the right type but the right quantity of your packaging mediums.
Make a Prime Connection with IN-SYNCH
It’s not just the packaging and getting the items to your customers sooner. If you begin using your brick-and-mortar store as another distribution center in your supply chain, you need to also connect your retail location to data the same way a supply chain warehouse might be. Warehouse management systems and enterprise resource planning management software—plus a customer relationship management database—all need to talk to each other to make sure the right products are getting to the right customers from the right location. Store A might be closer to the customer and keep shipping costs lower, but if store B has all the necessary inventory, it’ll cost less to ship one box from a slightly farther location.
Stores will also need to keep track of inventory in new ways. It’s now no longer just seeing what is coming off the shelves and scanned for purchase at a cash register; it’s also tracking what is purchased online and shipped through your store.
Fortunately, solutions such as IN-SYNCH by ROI Consulting provide real-time integration across Sage 100 and other systems, from your warehouse management systems to third-party online shopping carts. You’ll always know how much inventory you have, whether it’s in-store or in a warehouse. Shipping notices can be sent automatically, no matter if the package ships from the warehouse or the brick-and-mortar location. IN-SYNCH provides lightning fast, bi-directional integration, making sure that information continues to flow uninterrupted between all systems to keep you up to date.
If you’re looking to turn your brick-and-mortar locations into additional fulfillment centers this holiday season, look first to IN-SYNCH and ROI Consulting to help you lay the groundwork. Contact us online for more information or call 402-934-2223 ext. 1.