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Improving the Omnichannel Customer Experience with Flexible Fulfillment

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From its inception, eCommerce won us over as a convenient means of purchasing at any time and  from anywhere. It provided instant shopping gratification – or so it seemed – until we saw the estimated arrival date and either abandoned cart in favor of buying in-store, or we resignedly hit buy and waited for the item to arrive. Prescient eCommerce companies could see the breakdown in the convenience promise and started looking for ways to improve fulfillment using all channels and touchpoints in their arsenal. The ideal would be to provide a seamlessly positive omnichannel customer experience, from online to brick and mortar. But for most companies it took the advent of Covid-19 to make them take real action. 

It’s no question that the pandemic has forever changed online and offline commerce as we know it. Forrester predicts online retail will grow by 18.5% in North America this year, and Deloitte is predicting 25-35%  growth over the holiday season alone. Companies that aren’t offering flexible (and faster) omnichannel fulfillment options – such as in store and curbside pickup – are likely losing business right now and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, the latest National Retail Federation survey found that over 90% of customers appreciated the convenience of curbside pickup. Customers will continue to demand it long after we’ve seen the last of the pandemic.

Omnichannel: It’s All About the Journey and the Destination

A true omnichannel experience bridges the gaps between desktop, mobile, telephone and brick and mortar stores, providing an integrated and seamless customer experience, from shopping to buying to order fulfillment (and beyond). For example, a customer might visit one or two of your store locations to check out laptops and speak to your experts. Then, they might visit your online shop to see what else is available, price compare and decide on which laptop to buy. Next, they’ll likely confirm their decision by reading comments and reviews on your website and on your social media. If they want to get the laptop right away, they might check your inventory at a nearby location and then choose to pick it up in store or at curbside. In the past, such flexibility in order fulfilment was rare but today, if you don’t offer flexible fulfillment options, then you aren’t providing a full omnichannel experience.  A complete omnichannel offering is one that nurtures engagement across all channels and touchpoints, enabling customers to shop for and receive your goods how, when and where they want to –  seamlessly.

Many omnichannel fulfilment options require that your company has supply chain management software that accurately tracks on-hand inventory at your warehouse and across individual stores. Companies that have this supply chain capability can easily integrate GroupBy’s eCommerce Search Suite, which will incorporate these variables into the eCommerce experience, enabling a rich omnichannel fulfillment experience for shoppers, including: 

Curbside Pickup

This is a contactless or minimal contact option that’s safer for customers as well as for store employees. Once an online order is placed, for most retailers this means it is then packaged and picked up by customers curbside from a convenient location. The order is generally placed in the trunk, so there’s little to no physical contact involved in the transaction. 

BOPIS

BOPIS means buy online pickup in store. Much like curbside pickup, this option has the customer providing the means of order delivery. They retrieve their online purchase in store at their convenience, eliminating delivery wait times and reducing order fulfillment costs for your company. 

Shop by Store

This is another mode of buying online but fulfilling in store. It’s a search function that allows customers to see real-time inventory in individual store locations. They can search nearby stores to determine where a product is in stock, and then decide on a fulfillment option such as curbside or BOPIS, secure in the knowledge that what they’re ordering is available on hand.

Multiple Delivery Options

Providing multiple delivery options, including same-day delivery (SDD) and the ability to specify a delivery window, enables customers to choose when their shipment will arrive, often paying a premium for speeding up their order.

While some customers would rather opt for delivery, others prefer the added peace of mind of picking up orders themselves. For those without a secure delivery drop off point or who often miss their deliveries, having the option to pickup an order or arrange a specific delivery time is less stressful, obviously improving the customer experience. Plus, for fragile items such as electronics, it minimizes the potential for goods to be damaged in transit.

eCommerce Platforms with Omnichannel Flexible Fulfillment Boost Online Revenues

In addition to meeting your customers' needs, providing a positive omnichannel experience with flexible fulfillment can boost your revenues by reducing your delivery and fulfillment costs. It also helps reduce online cart abandonment rates, as customers have options that will satisfy their need for convenience and instant (or near enough) gratification. Plus, flexible fulfillment options give customers more control over their online experience, enabling them to personalize how they want their order handled. Companies shouldn’t be thinking of these fulfillment options as just Covid-19 measures. If customers have a say, they’re here to stay. 

If you’re interested in improving your customer experience by incorporating flexible fulfillment, let’s book some time to discuss what GroupBy’s Search Suite can do for you.