The importance of transparent fulfillment solutions from the store
It’s the multi-million pound question that keeps many fashion retail bosses from sleeping at night: What does the future of physical stores look like in a post-Covid retail environment?
Uncertainty over the store’s role is not new in fashion retail, but the accelerated adoption and rise of e-commerce during national pandemic lockdowns has only made the question more relevant. . While the physical, social and leisure elements of stores are still very appealing, will footfall rebound in shopping streets and malls?
A new consumer research report from ecommerce, delivery and fulfillment expert Metapack (click here to read the full report) aims to provide retailers with a plan to ensure their stores not only survive but thrive, working hand-in-hand with digital channels to drive online and offline sales and bring shoppers back to stores. Offering seamless solutions for shipping, tracking, returns and more, Metapack is already partnering with some of the biggest names in fashion. It works with Boohoo, Asos, and Adidas, among others.
There are undoubtedly rough waters ahead. More than half (54%) of consumers have bought less in-store since the pandemic, according to Metapack research. What is more striking is that 42% plan to buy less in-store in the future.
But despite the myriad of challenges ahead, Duncan License, vice president of global products at Metapack, is convinced that there is a place for stores in the future of retail – if they are managed in such a way. effective and efficient.
“There has been a long-standing story that e-commerce is killing the store, but it’s nonsense,” he told Drapers. “Of course, the pandemic has accelerated the pre-existing shift to online shopping – there has been a huge increase in e-commerce volumes. But the common thread of our report is that stores are essential to the retail experience.
One of the key findings of the Metapack report – and a hot topic in the retail world – is the power and potential of stores as micro-distribution centers, allowing businesses to “ship from the world.” shop “. By putting existing stores to work amid the e-commerce boom, the report argues that retailers can maximize their in-store inventory, reduce delivery costs, and strengthen their express delivery offerings.
Health and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett, for example, worked with Metapack to fulfill online orders from its stores, which added flexibility to its fulfillment options.
“Many retailers adopted ‘ship from store’ very quickly during the pandemic because they had inventory in closed stores. [during national lockdowns] and their warehouses were at risk of being overwhelmed by increased online demand, ”License adds.
“In-store shipping and other services will also be essential for retailers to retain any new customers they gained during the pandemic. Stores tend to be closer to the consumer than warehouses, which means that the inventory they hold is also closer to the consumer. This means that shipping from the store can get the product to customers both quickly and easily. ” He adds that retailers need to focus on technology, logistics and training to “ship from the store” well.
“There are some basic building blocks that retailers need to have in place for shipping from the store to be successful – the right technology to underpin this strategy is really important, as are operational concerns, such as space. store to pick up and pack [online] orders. You also need to really involve colleagues in the store and make sure they understand why “ship from store” is so important and why it’s something they are asked to do. “
Another key theme of the Metapack report is the importance of driving online customers to physical stores. As consumers today become more accustomed to ordering from the comfort of their own homes, they need to be given more reasons to visit physical stores.
Promoting in-store click and collect as a cheaper, more sustainable option is a strategy retailers can use to channel digital demand into their retail stores, according to the report. It found that an impressive 40% of UK consumers plan to increase their click and collect usage after Covid, and nearly 30% are using it as an opportunity to browse in-store.
“Clicking and collecting will only become more important,” says License. “Home delivery has been great as consumers were stuck inside, but more and more people are returning to the office and don’t want to miss their deliveries. Having their items delivered to their local store is more convenient and often cheaper.
“More and more, customers are also choosing click and collect because it is also better for the environment. Retailers must therefore ensure that they create an immersive and convenient experience in their stores that will encourage online customers to browse and make additional purchases. Consumers always crave interaction. Wanting to touch and feel products in an immersive way is in us.
As consumers adjust to post-pandemic life, retailers need to ensure they are delivering a five-star experience, regardless of the purchasing channel. Metapack research shows that almost half (45%) of consumers plan to switch between online and physical shopping. To get it right and retain consumers, retailers need to clearly communicate their delivery promises; never make too many promises; track click-and-collect orders; and offer in-store returns.
“One of the most important things is communicating with customers and being able to react quickly and flexibly if and when things go wrong,” adds License.
“Customers understand that sometimes a package is delayed or lost, but the best retailers are able to provide them with a good experience, even when mistakes do occur. If you master the challenges well, customers will remember them and buy from you again.
The future of the store depends on retailers using their physical locations in multiple ways. No longer just a place to buy products, stores need to act as hubs of experience, retail theater and convenience for the customer, while providing the social and inspirational elements they have missed during that the stores were closed due to foreclosure.
“To do well after the pandemic, retailers must masterfully master the complexity of using stores as part of their omnichannel offering,” concludes License. “Smart retailers already understand that there are many ways that stores can be used – it’s about making your stores work harder for you.
“Stores can be used in a number of ways: to provide truly memorable experiences for customers, as micro-distribution centers, or to generate additional purchases when customers come to pick up products. “
When the stores are great, customers love to shop there. So while stores aren’t dying, they need to adapt – and fast.