With the spring season underway, you are likely already executing on your 2016 ecommerce initiatives. For most retailers, the goal is to be ready by back-to-school season so you can test your advancements prior to the holiday season. So spring is perfect timing to assess holiday peak prep and readiness.
Now is the ideal time to work alongside vendors to become drop ship capable, as well as determine whether newer fulfillment options including in-store pickup and store fulfillment are ready for higher volumes.
Maximize the store. Many retailers are now looking for ways to move traffic into brick and mortar stores since in-store pickup can increase sales by as much as 5% when consumers pick up items they previously ordered; fresh batteries, anyone?
As part of holiday readiness, make sure you can accurately track in-store inventory levels and determine whether the store can easily function as a shipping location. Consider training staff to become an in-store shipping department. This takes upfront work as these employees need different skills then sales associates; such as how to pick, pack, label and schedule shipping.
Many smaller retailers are beginning to consider fulfillment alternatives, after seeing how the major retailers successfully adopted drop shipping, in-store pickup and even store fulfillment.
Lower shipping costs. Another area of advancement in 2016 is addressing rising shipping costs, since free shipping is expected by consumers but costly for retail. Some retailers are saving money by asking suppliers to use their carrier contracts when shipping on their behalf. This allows the retailer to track shipping costs more effectively and have more negotiating power when establishing their shipping contracts with carriers such as FedEx and UPS.
Increase assortments/adding vendors. Another function that can keep shoppers engaged in-store or online is by adding more products and/or categories. Online leaders, like SHOP.COM, have had early successes with expanded assortments, so they want more categories of products, as well as products themselves.
Change the store/digital mix with new vendors. We’re also seeing companies increase their use of drop shipping and 3PL fulfillment while reducing their physical footprint. Typically retailers don’t want to manage the inventory and are looking to partner with drop-ship capable suppliers to handle fulfillment.
Most retailers are still focused on moving data around and learning how to measure and analyze their performance. But don’t neglect finding the right suppliers and shippers. Find them, negotiate with them and get the right products set up. By the time June rolls around, you’re running out of time. Because most retailers test out their new systems and processes between 4th of July and back-to-school, if you aren’t ready by October 1st, you may see your shoppers moving on.
Peter Zaballos is Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of SPS Commerce