Innovative Retail Technologies

MAY-JUN 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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19 Mobility 2017 beginning to evaluate the benefits of decentralizing their traditional fulfillment function, enlisting suppliers, and 3PLs to support this function while also beginning to use retail stores to fulfill customer orders. Although this remains a mostly new idea or concept, it personifies the true idea of omni-channel retailing as the retailer looks to fulfill its customer's order from the most convenient location. In addition, it provides retailers an opportunity to better leverage their physical store locations — their greatest trump card over e-tailers. We are beginning to see more retailers offering store-level inventory information and product availability with their shoppers, sharing which items are available in which stores. For select products, this provides customers who seek in-store pickup significant intelligence in advance of arriving at the store. The benefits to retailers can also be substantial. The challenge, however, is that this only works if retailers can confidently share what specifically is available. Unfortunately, today, according to VDC's research, average in-store inventory accuracy is 65 percent at best. This underscores the true challenge facing retailers looking to combat e-tailers with their own omni-channel options. This accuracy is often overestimated by retailers looking to roll out solutions like BOPIS or fulfillment through the retail store. Before any of these retailers can seriously address offering these seamless shopping experiences to their customers, they need to better address in-store visibility issues and to break down the all-too-typical inventory silos that exist across their business in addition to integrating in-store and online inventory management programs. Beyond addressing inventory visibility, it is equally critical that retailers upgrade their POS infrastructure to support both in-store transactions and those made online while also addressing how to manage returns. Finally, retailers need to come up with efficient ways to manage packing of orders fulfilled via the store and addressing the necessary adjustments to store associate workforce and workflow requirements. Most stores are not designed to manage frequent parcel shipments. Retailers want to avoid constraining operations with packages that may take hours to handle, and they want to avoid pulling store associates off the store floor. Supporting these processes requires retailers to invest in the right technology and training for their workforce. In fact, retail workforce management represents a massive opportunity for retailers to improve operations. Thinking about and managing the retail workforce similar to that of warehouse operations could offer significant benefits to retailers, who often struggle with workforce coordination A well-designed ship-from-store solution can lower freight costs as each store will only support local customers.

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