Brick-and-mortar stores can serve a crucial role in same-day delivery strategies.
As Amazon continues squeezing its delivery window tighter, consumer expectations for how soon they receive online orders are shrinking. With Amazon expanding both the assortment and geographic range of its same-day delivery offering, all other retailers need to start figuring out how they will follow suit.
For brick-and-mortar retailers wondering how they can effectively compete with Amazon (i.e., all brick-and-mortar retailers), having a base of physical stores can create a competitive advantage in launching their own same-day omnichannel fulfillment programs. Target has publicly estimated store-level fulfillment to be 90% cheaper than warehouse fulfillment, which is Amazon’s primary same-day delivery resource.
However, running a same-day delivery service from your stores is not as simple as routing digital orders to the customer’s nearest brick-and-mortar location and hoping for the best. Here are three supporting technologies that can help ensure your stores effectively support same-day delivery.
One of the most difficult aspects of fulfilling online orders from a physical store is the need to have store associates perform unfamiliar picking and packing processes. The fast pace of same-day delivery exacerbates the challenge. In addition, retailers must set aside precious store real estate to house fulfillment operations.
Equipping associates with mobile devices can be an effective means of solving both of these issues. Almost all employees are familiar with mobile devices, and potentially can use their own. By streamlining picking and packing workflows with mobile technology, retailers can create an intuitive fulfillment process that does not require space for dedicated hardware.
Microfulfillment centers are small, warehouse-style spaces located within stores that use robotic technology to automatically pick and retrieve products. Automation allows much greater density and localization of products in a contained space. Microfulfillment systems can be used in conjunction with or in place of mobile picking and packing solutions.
Notable retailers including Walmart, Albertsons, and Loblaw are currently testing microfulfillment technology, while Amazon is reportedly incorporating it into its upcoming grocery store format. Cost and complexity may make microfulfillment less optimal for smaller retailers.
Retailers must have the ability to accurately track, trace and locate products across the enterprise in real time to fulfill same-day orders from stores. This includes true awareness of inventory inside a store, as well as nearby stores and warehouses in case product(s) needed for an order are out of stock.
Technologies including RFID, blockchain, computer vision, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) can all provide a foundation for the true inventory awareness needed to succeed in store-level, same-day fulfillment. Retailers with a closed supply chain may find RFID helpful, while computer vision can aid fulfillment of grocery items that may lack a barcode. Robots can scan backroom and front-of-store shelves and provide instant alerts of misplaced or out-of-stock items, and AI platforms offer the real-time analytical capabilities necessary to evaluate enterprise inventory data on the fly.
In addition to enabling same-day delivery, these technologies also generally improve store-level efficiencies and inventory accuracy, providing additional ROI potential.