The Fulfillment Race: Retail’s Next Flashpoint

The face of retail is changing. Brick-and-mortar stores have seen the need, and are modernizing, augmenting the traditional shopping experience with digital solutions in a bid to beat back the surge of online-only shopping. In a recent article, we discussed the ins and outs of modernizing traditional retail, but for now it’ll suffice to say that the strategy is beginning to pay off. Today’s customers are increasingly discovering the value of the connected in-store shopping experience, where their online shopping habits merge with visits to favorite retailers. But they’re not the only ones taking notice.

One store’s gain is another’s loss, and online retailers are already adapting their business models to lure customers further into the realm of e-commerce and to resist the charm of the cool real experience. Remember the promises of delivery drones and one-hour fulfillment? While neither of those PR moves quite materialized in any significant way globally they helped online retailers redraw the landscape and generate a LOT of PR to promote their innovative drive for speed of delivery Customers who 10 years ago willingly waited a week for their goods now expect convenient next-day delivery—and in a couple years even that could be considered slow.

No matter what your business model is, the fulfillment wars are at your doorstep. To keep up, you’ll need to make every aspect of your fulfillment process agile and adaptive. Some key areas you’ll want to focus on are merchandise management, advanced warehouse and transportation logistics, and omnichannel customer engagement. Here’s a quick rundown of how advancements in each of these are already helping businesses of all sizes meet and exceed today’s fulfillment expectations.

Merchandise management. Whether you’re deploying new products, replenishing inventory, or introducing new fulfillment channels, your business needs to consistently identify and act upon customer trends as they happen. With a unified management platform, you can track products from manufacturing to fulfillment, even when that means delivery to the trunks of customer cars.

Logistics. Believe it or not, advanced warehouse logistics can help your business thrive. Just ask the folks at Charles Tyrwhitt, where each shirt sold comes in over 100 fitted variations and customers can return unwanted goods for up to six months. Real-time knowledge of inventory levels and which products are being shipped where are critical for their fulfillment promise for this customer-centric company

Omnichannel customer engagement. Through the course of a single purchase, customers might want to do comparative research on a tablet, check for local product availability from a home computer and add it to a basket, buy it from a smartphone, then pick it up from your loading dock on the way home from work. Not only should you be prepared for shoppers on every one of these channels, but the transitions should feel unified, seamless, and intuitive as your customers navigate the process.

 For a closer look at the tools businesses are using to modernize their fulfillment strategies, download our manufacturing and fulfillment fact sheet.

If you’d like to see which of the above solutions might help to empower your workforce, explore the ways Microsoft Dynamics is empowering modern retail.

Just looking to brush up on the lay of the land? Download our factsheet.

For an even more in-depth look at what Microsoft is doing to empower retailers, you can fully immerse yourself at our Envision conference in New Orleans in April!

I hope you had a fun and productive NRF 2016. Safe travels!