Retail is a multi channel business and shoppers now have more choice than ever in terms of goods and services than ever before. At present shoppers can buy your goods through your website, your store, perhaps your app, your mobile website, and a dizzying array of marketplaces, from the mighty Amazon and eBay through to niche ones such as Tophatter and OnBuy.
This is changing how people shop, and how people actually want to get their hands on what they have bought.
According to IMRG, total sales on mobile and tablets now account for 40% of UK e-retail sales – and figures from the IMRG Capgemini Index in 2014 also shows that 25% of e-retail sales are now reserve/buy online and collect in- store, although for some retailers this is already much higher.
This shift to click and collect is just part of a cultural shift in how consumers shop that this multi channel world has brought about. And delivery is becoming the leading differentiator for any retailer, governing everything from its ranking on Google through to how it undertakes its marketing strategy. This is according to various studies, which found that SMEs see delivery as the key to business growth and taking on the majors in 2018.
This places a huge new onus on retailers – and the marketplaces that retailers also use – to be creative with the delivery options they offer. As a result, when it comes to fulfilling orders, retailers face a head-spinning problem of how to keep these channels stocked and deliveries flowing. So how do you do it?
At the ground level, the problem comes down to having an excellent warehouse management system (WMS) in place and understanding where your stock is held. An array of carrier partners also ensures that you can leverage this knowledge to deliver the goods to where they need to go. This works well for your own website and even your store.
But what happens when you start to work with a range of marketplaces and other third parties that sell your goods for you? How do you manage that too?
The B2C conundrum
The problem centres around having to manage the whole process of incoming goods from suppliers and then managing how they are distributed. The wealth of channels through which your customers can buy leads to a bigger inventory, which can also impact the management of incoming goods but is mainly a problem in terms of trying to understand where orders are coming from.
Where eCommerce shipping gets more complicated is if you are also using click and collect, lockers and marketplaces. Marketplaces will often handle inventory management and distribution for you – and if you want to offer click and collect, Amazon does that too – but working all this together in your office, so you know where everything is at any given time, is the real challenge with multi channel selling from a logistics point of view.
Click and collect
The other area where multichannel retailers and marketplace sellers increasingly struggle is in fulfilling the demands from consumers for click and collect. Of course, retailers with a physical store footprint can, of course, use these shops for click and collect fulfilment, but for those that are online only entities, how do they manage this?
Here pure-play retailers need to collaborate with partners that do offer a physical presence to deliver this. In the mainstream retail world we have seen the likes of Sainsbury’s and Argos tie up has given Argos a much bigger physical footprint for click and collect thanks to Sainsbury’s stores. There are also a number of other more odd-couple partnerships, with Amazon working with Transport for London to allow consumers to collect goods at certain tube stations on their way home.
This model is going to be something that even the smallest pure-play retailer is going to have to leverage. Some carriers offer locker services and some locker service companies offer carriage – but between these and a range of physical retailers out there, there is going to be a shift towards retailers, carriers and other working together to fulfill click and collect.
What it means in practice
The key thing to remember across all of this is that you have to make sure that you are offering the consumer what they want. Your whole multi channel strategy will be dictated by how your customers choose to shop. This will, as we have seen, affect how you look to manage your B2C supplies, but it will also impact how you approach logistics management companies and carriers. Talk to your carriers and carrier management companies and see what they can do to help meet the challenges of click and collect and other delivery models that are increasingly prevalent.
If you customers want same day, find how best to do it; if they want to click and collect, find the sort of locations that they might consider and then look at how to partner to make this happen.
However you do it you also have to constantly test and tweak how you do it and, perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not over promise. This is perhaps the hardest and most important part of the whole multi channel delivery paradigm: you have to meet the expectations of your customers if you are to keep them, while also not over promising what you can do.
The ideal way to manage the vast array of delivery and stock issues associated with selling across channels is to use a multi-carrier shipping and customer service solution that can integrate with all major e-commerce platforms and all major parcel carriers and associated logistics firms to let the retailer manage their multi channel distribution from one ‘screen’.
Parcelhub does just this. It easily integrates with most multi channel e-commerce platforms and dedicated proactive parcel management comes as standard across a wide range of carriers. Distributing more than 4.5 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s free multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of national and global businesses access to ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners.
In essence, it offers a ‘single point of control’ for logistics for multi channel retailers. Simple.
It has already worked well for a number of different clients that have all had very specific multi-channel shipping issues.
The Amazing Chocolate Workshop sells finely crafted items made of chocolate – tools, toys, the works – and typically sold on market stalls and in stores. Increasing custom from the web presented the company with a unique challenge: how to ship very delicate items often for next day delivery and at weekends.
It took advantage of Parcelhub’s recent integration with eCommerce platform WooCommerce to sort it out.
“Parcelhub offered us the opportunity to use one system to select loads of different carriers for next day, early morning and weekend deliveries,” explains company co-founder, Ed Starr. “It gives us the power to utilize the appropriate carrier depending on the level of urgency, dimensions, and destination.”
He continues: “Parcelhub has made the online side of the business a lot easier to manage. The E-commerce Customer Support team is unbelievably helpful and is surely the best thing about Parcelhub. Any parcel tracking queries go straight to the CS team who deal with everything really quickly and professionally; we don’t hear from customers unless they need a refund. It saves us time and makes us a more professional business. Not only does Parcelhub save us time and money, it also adds value to our business offering.”
The advantages of having a ‘single point of control’ for managing complex warehousing and distribution is clear. With the right tools in place, multi-channel retailing should be a boon to companies, not a burden. Managing logistics in a simplified way takes much of the pain out of joining the multichannel revolution. What are you waiting for?
Parcelhub is a multi-carrier shipping and customer services solution. Flexible and scalable, it integrates seamlessly with order management systems, providing hundreds of eCommerce and wholesale businesses with one access point to many of the largest UK and international parcel carriers.
Multi-channel eCommerce platforms are easily integrated and dedicated pro-active parcel management comes as standard.
Distributing more than 4.5 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s free
multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of national and global businesses access to ‘pooled volume’ discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners, including Yodel, Hermes, DPD, UK Mail, DHL, Whistl, UPS, DX, Parcelforce, CollectPlus, SkyNet, Panther Logistics, Direct Link and Palletforce.