Why is launching Click & Collect, Order in Store or in-store e-commerce returns without unified stock not a good strategy?
Most retailers are organised in silos: without a unified view of their stock, they define a specific shipping point for one or more sales channels. For example, it is often the central warehouse that manages e-commerce and marketplace orders.
They then try to optimise each stock point for the operational needs of the associated sales channel(s) – the digital channel is served by the web warehouse and the customer in the physical store is served by the stock on the sales floor. There is no synergy with the rest of the retailer’s organisation.
Unified stock allows a retailer to push, on all its sales channels, all available stock, in real-time, regardless of the location of the item in the network. While it is normal for a retailer to have products in several stock points (stores, warehouses, etc.), the objective of any omnichannel retailer must be to share a single view of stock with their customers.
Unified stock also allows retailers to deploy additional omnichannel solutions, such as Ship from Store, and to improve the efficiency of other services like Click & Collect, Reserve & Collect or Self Service Returns.
Without a unified view of stock, Click & Collect and Reserve & Collect services are less efficient
Let’s take the example of Click & Collect: many retailers have launched this omnichannel solution without a unified view of their stock. So, they have defined the web warehouse as the shipping point for all Click & Collect orders. These orders are then sent to the chosen store. However, this could be optimised:
- With a unified view of stock, the warehouse sends the order to the store only if the items ordered are not available in the store, thus saving all the logistical and transport work and costs associated with the shipment of the ordered items. In addition, this allows retailers to offer an express Click & Collect service if the item is already in the store, for example, a 30-minute pick-up time.
- With a unified view of stock and the Delivery Promise solution, if several stores are close to the customer’s address, the retailer can decide to make Click & Collect available only in the store(s) that actually have the requested product in stock at that moment. This directs the customer to a store that has the required product reference rather than to another store that is out of stock and would have to have the reference delivered by the warehouse.
With unified stock, Order in Store can DOUBLE in efficiency
Order in Store is the store application for ordering a missing item (temporarily out of stock or because it is not in the store’s assortment) when a customer is looking to buy it in-store.
Without a unified view of the stock, the customer order is sent from the central warehouse to the store or to the customer’s home.
- With a unified view of stock, it is no longer only the warehouse but also all the other stores that will be able to serve the customer order. Perhaps the warehouse is also out of stock of one of the requested items at that moment? Perhaps a store in the same town has the product and the customer is willing to travel to pick it up? What we are seeing from retailers who have switched to Order in Store with a unified view is that they are experiencing a quantifiable twofold increase in the number of Order in Store orders! They have immediately seen strong growth of up to twice as many incremental orders by having unified stock.
Returns management: more flexibility thanks to unified stock
In theory, having a unified view of stock is not required to allow customers to return an item. However, in the case of store returns, it is always complex for a store manager to refund an item that was not purchased in his store. It is also always difficult for store staff to manage the item that has been returned if it is not in the store’s assortment.
- With a unified view of stock, the policy could be to avoid an unnecessary return to the warehouse, at least if the returned item is in a condition to be resold immediately. Thanks to a unified stock, the article can remain in the store stock and be made available to all sales channels, e-commerce and others and then shipped from the store (Ship from Store).
- Another option with a unified view of the stock is to go even further! Thanks to the orchestration engine, it is possible to identify the position of the returned item in the network. The item can even be tagged as ‘rare’, so that if a customer order includes this reference, it should be offered to the store as a priority in order to facilitate its sale.
Without unified stock, no Ship from Store!
This is a short explanation, as it should make sense to you by now! Ship from Store is the result of displaying store stock on the web channel or the Order in Store channel. This service is simply not possible without a unified stock.
In conclusion: switch to unified business, switch to unified stock!