The world of retail is undergoing a transformative evolution, one that is shaping and reshaping how consumers interact with brands and how brands position themselves in the market. Today’s consumer seeks a seamless transition between different touchpoints, expecting their favorite brands to be omnipresent – be it on an online platform or within the confines of a brick-and-mortar store.
According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, an overwhelming 73% of respondents stated that they use multiple channels during their shopping journey. This reflects a pattern where consumers might browse in physical stores but finalize their purchases online, or vice versa.
Such trends clearly highlight that the retail landscape isn’t just changing; it’s converging. The distinctions of past shopping habits are blurring, making way for a holistic, integrated shopping experience. For brands, it’s clear that the future is Omnichannel, and they need to adopt this retailing swiftly to stay competitive in the e-commerce market.
What is Omnichannel Retailing?
Omnichannel retailing is the convergence of multiple shopping channels to create a unified, cohesive customer experience. In simpler terms, it’s about ensuring that whether a customer interacts with a brand through a marketplace, D2C website, or physical store, the experience is consistent and integrated.
Take Nike, for instance, which offers a ‘Reserve & Try’ feature on its mobile app. Customers can reserve products online and try them on at their nearest Nike store. This connects the digital browsing experience directly with the in-store experience.
As per Unicommerce Trends Report 2023, the adoption of omnichannel technology in India saw a staggering 58.4% growth during FY2023. Such numbers aren’t just statistics; they’re a testament to the shifting dynamics of retail in the country, with brands like TCNS, Chumbak, Mamaearth, Forever New, Rare Rabbit, and more, keenly recognizing the need to diversify their reach across multiple platforms.
The Two-Way Street of Omnichannel
While it’s common to hear about traditional brick-and-mortar stores increasing their online presence, just like Chumbak, the opposite is just as prevalent. Digital-first brands are recognizing the value of offline interactions and are venturing into physical retail spaces. For instance, Rare Rabbit, initially an online-only luxury designer wear brand, now operates physical storefronts where customers can try their products, bridging the gap between online and offline retail.
The Rising Importance of Ship-From-Store
One important element of the Omnichannel strategy is the ‘ship-from-store’ fulfillment model. Essentially, this leverages physical stores as mini-warehouses. If a customer orders a product online rather than shipping from a warehouse, the item might be dispatched from a nearby store.
With companies deploying omnichannel retail solutions to meet customer expectations, online orders are increasingly being shipped from stores as brands are able to make faster deliveries and enhance their customer buying experience.
The Unicommerce Analysis reveals a telling trend in this domain. In FY 2023 alone, there was an impressive 44.6% growth in ship-from-store orders. But why are brands gravitating towards this model? Let’s look at some of the major benefits of ship-from-store!
Operational Benefits of Ship-From-Store
By turning retail stores into fulfillment centers, this approach offers numerous operational benefits to businesses. Here are some of these advantages:
1. Inventory Optimization
One of the major benefits is the effective utilization of inventory. By using store stock to fulfill online orders, retailers can reduce excess inventory in some locations while meeting demand in others, thus minimizing stock outs or overstock situations. Also, this approach necessitates integrating inventory management systems, giving retailers real-time visibility into their stock across all locations.
2. Reduced Shipping Costs
When products are shipped from a store closer to the customer, it reduces the overall distance a product needs to travel. This can translate into significant savings in shipping and freight costs.
3. Faster Delivery Times
Proximity to customers often means quicker delivery times. When an order is fulfilled from a local store, it can often be delivered within the same day or the next day, offering a competitive edge and enhancing customer satisfaction.
4. Enhanced Store Traffic
Offering services like buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) or buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) can increase foot traffic. As customers visit for pickups or returns, they might make additional in-store purchases.
Challenges in Implementing Ship-From-Store
Despite its many benefits, this fulfillment model introduces many new operational challenges to the retailer. One primary challenge is integrating multiple systems, such as in-store point-of-sale systems with online sales platforms, can be challenging. This integration is crucial for maintaining real-time inventory visibility and ensuring that online orders don’t overlap with in-store sales.
Furthermore, manpower remains a concern. Traditional retail staff are often unprepared for the complexities of online order fulfillment, and during peak times, they might find themselves overwhelmed. This is especially true if an order is directed to a store with limited staff or even limited inventory, leading to potential delays or even mismanagement.
Addressing these challenges requires investing in a single-window solution, encompassing both order and warehouse management capabilities that can seamlessly integrate different sales channels. Such systems are enhanced by advanced features like proximity-based order routing combined with dynamic capacity allocation.
This means the system intelligently considers both the nearest location and the daily processing inventory and manpower capacity of each store when determining where to source orders from. This approach not only improves efficiency but also optimizes resources, making the entire process more streamlined and customer-centric.
Chumbak boosts sales across 58+ Retail Stores with a 99.99%+ fulfillment rate with Unicommerce’s New Age D2C and Omnichannel Solutions. Read what Vasant Nangia, CEO of the Chumbak, is saying –
“With our partnership with Unicommerce, we have integrated our offline and online sales channels to offer a great unified shopping experience to our customers irrespective of where they interact with Chumbak.”
Conclusion: Embracing the Omnichannel Shift
The ever-evolving retail landscape highlights the importance of the omnichannel approach, weaving together the distinct threads of in-store and online shopping. To thrive in this dynamic market, brands must not only acknowledge the omnichannel wave but ride it. By leveraging the right technology and adapting to changing consumer behavior, retailers can unlock different opportunities and a path for sustained success in the digital age.