Welcome to “the new normal.”
The momentum toward omnichannel retailing has been building for years, as consumers take advantage of numerous ways to engage with their favorite brands. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted this trend into high gear. Having a sound omnichannel fulfillment strategy was once a good idea; now, it’s absolutely essential to not only survive but thrive in this challenging environment.
Consumer behavior has shifted radically—and perhaps permanently—in response to the pandemic. As brick-and-mortar stores shuttered and social distancing became the new normal, consumers began the shift to online shopping, including BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store) and BOSS (buy-online-ship-to-store) models.1 In fact, BOPIS and curbside pickup orders increased 208% year over year from April 1 – 20, according to an Adobe Analytics study.2
Indeed, U.S. ecommerce sales are forecast to increase 18% in 2020, while brick-and-mortar retail sales will fall by 14%. This year, online sales will represent 14.5% of all retail sales in America, an all-time high as well as the largest year-over-year increase ever.3
Demographics play a role as well, as more older consumers choose online shopping over browsing the aisles of their favorite stores. Of those age 65 and older, 31% will spend more online than in physical stores, according to Statista.4
Consumer expectations for superior service have done nothing but increase during the pandemic. Issues such as delayed delivery, products that are out of stock or poor customer service can damage a brand’s reputation. To compete successfully, retailers must focus on optimizing their inventory management across every sales channel, both in-store and online.5
In particular, giving consumers full visibility into your inventory, including both availability and location, can be a deciding factor on choosing one retailer over another. For example, Lululemon uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to track inventory in real time, which makes it easier for the retailer to fulfill online orders at its brick-and-mortar locations.
The key is agility.
To meet consumers where they are today requires a complete omnichannel solution—combining direct-to-consumer (DTC) fulfillment with business-to-business (B2B) distribution and end-to-end supply chain management. This solution should be agile enough to accommodate everywhere your customers engage with your brand, including:
- Your brand website: Seamless integration with your shopping cart/order entry system is essential for meeting consumer expectations for speed, accuracy and efficiency.
- Digital marketplaces: These include: 1) broad digital marketplaces such as Amazon.com; 2) storefront digital outlets such as Walmart.com and Target.com; and 3) category marketplaces like ebags.com.
- Digital channels: Such as daily deal sites, flash sales, subscriptions boxes and social media.
- Non-digital channels: Including catalog sales, direct response TV (think QVC and HSN), traditional direct mail, in-store kiosks and more.
- Retail storefront: Brick-and-mortar retail sales may be declining as online ordering accelerates, but local stores are still where the majority of sales occur. How can you ensure a steady flow of products are on the shelf at Walmart, Target and other retailers? Each has its own special requirements for EDI, shipping, delivery, chargebacks and more.
Just as important, your omnichannel solution should have multiple points of fulfillment and distribution, to ensure your products are located where the sales are. This includes having the flexibility to adjust the warehouse footprint based on seasonality, product promotions and other factors. In this way, you can help meet consumer and retailer demands for accuracy, efficiency and speed at the lowest possible cost.
Technology’s vital role.
EDI expertise is especially critical for B2B distribution. EDI (electronic data interchange) enables two organizations—such as a product manufacturer and retailer—to electronically exchange key documents such as purchase orders, shipping statuses, payment confirmations and inventory information.6
Also critical is having a state-of-the-art warehouse management system (WMS) for real-time engagement with your inventory, including monitoring velocity, picking, tracing and more. It’s all about creating a “transparent warehouse,” where your customers and you have full inventory visibility to help ensure every sales channel can accommodate consumer demand—whether it’s online, in a store or a combination of both, such as BOPIS or BOSS.
Once products are organized and stored, another key consideration is ensuring regulatory compliance needs are met. For example, medical devices may be subject to recalls. With EDI integration, you can trace recalled products by PO number—whether they’re still in the warehouse or on a shelf at a retail store.
The omnichannel solution.
The TAGG-LeSaint team has a complete omnichannel solution—combining DTC fulfillment with B2B distribution and end-to-end supply chain management. Wherever your products need to be today, we have the resources, scale and expertise to make it happen. As consumer shopping preferences evolve in these uncertain times, let us take care of the logistics, so you can focus on taking care of your customers.
1RISnews.com. “8 Consumer Behavior Trends Here to Stay in the COVID-19 Retail Aftermath.” July 9, 2020.
2The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience (www.the-future-of-commerce.com). “5 Things Retailers Are Doing to Survive and Win Post-COVID-19.”
3Emarketer.com. “COVID-19’s Impact on Worldwide Retail Will Be Worse than the Great Recession.” July 13, 2020.
4The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience (www.the-future-of-commerce.com). “5 Things Retailers Are Doing to Survive and Win Post-COVID-19.”
5RISnews.com. “8 Consumer Behavior Trends Here to Stay in the COVID-19 Retail Aftermath.” July 9, 2020.
6The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience (www.the-future-of-commerce.com). “5 Things Retailers Are Doing to Survive and Win Post-COVID-19.”