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Retail fulfillment EDX16: no longer a back-room concern


Between now and April, we’ll be running a series of articles featuring the themes, topics, and speakers that attendees at this year’s eDelivery Expo (EDX16). At the Multichannel Fulfillment Conference track, one of the topics that will be examined is the issue of putting fulfillment right at the heart of retail strategy.
Sometimes you have to stop looking at something the way you always have and consider it from a completely different perspective.

On one hand the question of why delivery is so important in retail seems laughably obvious; a customer buys something so you have to deliver it to them, right? Well, yes, of course. But if you want to be a true multichannel success, you have to stop looking at fulfillment as though it is merely a transaction. You have to start thinking like a customer.

Perhaps 15 years ago there were still plenty of people nervous about online retail – can I trust this website, will I get what I think I’ve bought, will I get anything at all..?

In the main, such concerns no longer exist in great numbers; online shopping – especially in markets such as the Nordics, the UK, and the US – is widely accepted as safe and secure. There’s a growing number of shoppers who see online as the norm; shoppers for whom direct physical contact with a retailer is becoming less and less frequent.

The chief consideration for multichannel retailers, where fulfillment is concerned, should be based around the realisation that the point of delivery is the point at which you will be judged on your ability to keep your promises. Judged by the customer, that is. Which is why you have to remember to think like a customer – you do want them coming back to buy again, after all is said and done.

If you made it easy for me to spend my money with you, did you also make it as easy for me to receive (and if necessary return) my purchases? You will have offered me a choice of ways to pay … debit card, credit card, AmEx, PayPal and others are now a common sight at the online checkout. But did you offer me an expansive range of delivery and collection options that fit with my life, or do you still expect me to have to accommodate the delivery company?

Speed of delivery is still the most obvious consideration for many, but in survey after survey, convenience trumps speed. Next-day home delivery is great if I know I’m going to be at home the day after I place my order. But what if I’m not? Can you send my parcel to a collection point near me, or will I be fishing it out of my wheelie-bin later that evening?

Will you be able to notify me that my parcel is going to arrive at a particular time, so that I can still go about my day and be sure to be in when the courier turns up? Or am I going to have to go to a sorting office on Saturday morning to queue up for ages to get my parcel, which was delivered on the next-day?

Retailers and carriers alike need to optimise their fulfillment operations so that the needs of the customer are prioritised. Some already do, and despite the massive investments involved, they are likely to form a breakaway group of class-leading retailers and carriers, offering great services built around great customer service and convenience at every stage.

Those who don’t may have to find partners they can collaborate with to get over those hurdles they’ll never clear alone. Failure to do so could result in them being part of a group that can’t compete on service and can only compete on price.

The eDelivery Expo (EDX16) takes place on 27/28 April at the NEC Birmingham. The Multichannel Fulfillment Conference track at EDX16 will be focused on some of the issues covered in this article, and more. Delegates attending the Multichannel Fulfillment Conference will hear from a range of experts sharing views, expertise, and case studies on best practice in multichannel fulfillment and how it is becoming the new battleground for customer loyalty.

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