For years, the media has been saying that e-commerce would spell the end of brick-and-mortar retail. At the very least, e-commerce has been touted as a threat to retail. Brick-and-mortar retailers that wanted to survive had to make a solid play in the e-commerce channel.
But recently, an interesting switch has been taking place. Some of the world’s largest online retailers have been expanding their business into the world of brick-and-mortar retail. Amazon, Warby Parker and dozens of other online giants are moving into the world of brick-and-mortar retail for a multitude of reasons, but the primary reason is growth. Brick-and-mortar represents untapped opportunity for online retailers; it delivers the ability to capture customers who are wary of buying online by giving them an opportunity to try before they buy. It’s also a marketing vehicle to keep online brands at the forefront of customer awareness.
This movement from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce and back again is combining with mobile commerce and other changing customer preferences to make omni-channel retailing the order of the day for brick-and-mortar retailers.
The transition to omni-channel—instead of the either/or choice between brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce—creates a challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers who are late to the game of online retailing. How can they compete against e-tailers like Amazon and others who’ve mastered the intricacies of logistics involved in e-commerce? In particular, how can brick-and-mortar retailers making the shift to online cope with the challenges associated with delivering online orders?
Here are three ways Multi Carrier Shipping Software can help retailers rise to the challenge.
For most brick-and-mortar retailers, one of the biggest challenges associated with e-commerce is figuring out how to provide high levels of customer service online. Customers have come to expect that their orders will arrive quickly, cheaply and at the time of the customer’s choosing. They expect insight into status of their orders and the ability to control how an order is delivered—particularly with high-value orders.
Delivering orders at the time and place of a customer’s choosing is called delivery optimization and it’s becoming an increasingly important aspect of online retail. For brick-and-mortar retailers that lack a viable means of controlling their parcel shipping operations this creates a challenge that can undermine their online business. Customer satisfaction is impacted when the inability to optimize delivery results in shipments that don’t arrive at the designated time. It’s also costly to the retailer, especially those offering free shipping, when the carrier doesn’t deliver the expected level of service.
Multi Carrier Shipping Software applications help with delivery optimization by providing the ability to analyze performance of each carrier. Retailers can easily compare prices and on-time delivery performance for several carriers and select the one that provides the best value. This data can also help in establishing company-wide rates for preferred carriers, delivering more control and lower costs.
Brick-and-mortar retailers entering the world of online commerce often lack experience in shipping. At the employee level, this means retail store employees may not have the insight they need to make the best choices about how to get an order to a customer. At the managerial level retailers lack insight about what method of shipping works best, or isn’t working well, leaving them without the data and tools they need to establish policies to control costs and customer service.
With a Multi Carrier Shipping Software application, retailers can gather and analyze data that can help them select a preferred carrier based on cost and service levels. They’ll know when deliveries moving to a particular region, customer or via a particular carrier are not meeting service levels. They’ll be able to hold carriers accountable for failing to meet expectations, and will be able to provide data to back up rate negotiations, and they’ll be able to consolidate carriers to ensure they get the best possible price.
For a native online retailer like Amazon, parcel shipping is a regular part of what they do. They have employees whose sole function is sending shipments via parcel carrier. These individuals are highly trained and experienced in logistics operations and they know how to get orders to customers on-time, every time, for the lowest possible price.
For brick-and-mortar retailers making the move to e-commerce, this isn’t the case. Typically, workers in a brick-and-mortar retail store may be great salespeople who excel at customer service, but they lack training in logistics. Even their personal experience in shipping parcels might be quite limited.
Multi Carrier and Desktop Shipping Software applications like PRECISION are designed to be easy to use even for the occasional or infrequent user. They allow retail employees to quickly and easily prepare parcels or batches of parcels for shipment, easily determine the carrier that can provide the best rates to a particular region, and ensure that every shipment is in compliance with policies and any applicable trade regulations.
The future of retail isn’t brick-and-mortar. It isn’t e-commerce. It isn’t even mobile. It’s omni-channel. To succeed in an omni-channel world, brick-and-mortar retailers must master the intricacies of logistics and provide consistent levels of customer service regardless of the channel customers use to buy products. Multi Carrier Shipping Software and delivery optimization can help brick-and-mortar retailers accomplish this so they can become successful in an increasingly omni-channel world.