Ship-from-store will be tested this holiday season
The retail industry’s investment in the holiday season is astounding. Data from the National Retail Federation suggests that as much as 40 percent of merchants’ annual sales occur over the two-month period. However, it is also the point in time when many flaws in retailers’ eCommerce operations are exposed due to the unparalleled amount of activity they see.
The last couple of years have seen many merchants falter and fail to meet their customers expectations. Last year, many customers thought twice about where they shopped and how they paid after the Target security breach jeopardized the personal information of millions of customers. Meanwhile, RIS News noted many merchants had trouble keeping their websites functioning during peak periods – some merchants such as Office Depot had outages that lasted more than five hours.
Perhaps the biggest blight on the 2013 holiday season, however, was all of the missed delivery dates. A late season winter storm created numerous issues. First, it caused consumers up north to shift from in-store to online shopping. Second, it led to transportation delays, making it difficult to distribute goods between stores and deliver items to customers. As a result, many retailers were unable to fulfill the Dec. 24 delivery promise they had made to customers.
Learning a lesson
With the 2014 holiday season on the horizon – or for some ambitious merchants, already here – many are gearing up to ensure the same errors that happened last year do not crop up again. The goal for the retail industry, collectively, is to not just meet expectations this year, but exceed them by a large margin.
Learning from last year can be a big challenge. Some of the mistakes businesses made had little to do with the retailer – merchants cannot control the weather, and as such, there was little they could do about last season’s delays. However, at the end of the day, all customers care about is receiving their packages on time, and from their perspective, the retailers are the ones who are at fault.
As Multichannel Merchant contributor Kevon Hills noted, exercising efficiency is pivotal for merchants looking to exceed consumer expectations this year. Delivery guarantees or Christmas cutoff dates are all fine, but if merchants cannot operate effectively, they will not be able to uphold their promises.
Omni channel evolution and its effect on holiday shopping
Hills noted that one key transition this year will be the shift to omni channel operating models. Although this is a shift that has been transpiring over the past few years, many retailers are now getting a better grasp on it. Considering how hectic the end-of-the-year shopping season can be for customers, omni channel offerings may offer the added degree of flexibility and convenience that people are looking for in the shopping experience.
Perhaps the most notable service offering, however, is business-facing and not customer-oriented. Ship-from-store is being integrated into many retailers’ eCommerce operations because it allows standalone brick-and-mortar locations to act as fulfillment centers for online orders. Instead of having to ship products from distant distribution centers in poor weather, they can simply be delivered from a nearby physical store.
There are numerous ways in which retailers can step up their game this holiday season. The key will involve creating a shopping experience that is not only easy and enjoyable for customers, but is also easy to execute from the perspective of the retailer. Merchants will need to get this year right if they want to regain the trust of loyal shoppers.