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Constant Change and Permanent Urgency: Omnichannel Fulfillment

The retail world is in the middle of a war. Or maybe a chess game, depending on how severe you perceive the activity to be. Either way, it is an ongoing back-and-forth confrontation between those who sell from brick-and-mortar, and those who are exclusively pure-play. In the middle are those who do both, who may be having trouble deciding which approach deserves more attention.

Much like any game of strategy, the terms of engagement seem to change day to day. As new technologies appear new players join the fray, and the momentum and direction of the action continue to shift. Some customers struggle with the new developments, while others complain that change is not happening fast enough. Those who are in charge of keeping their retail business competitive and contemporary face some bewildering choices.

The Insight Report by L2, entitled Retail Innovations: Omnichannel highlights some recent developments in retail, guaranteed to provoke thought and conversation in the management offices of retailers worldwide.

The paper identifies the key findings of the L2 team as they scoured the omnichannel strategies of 58 department stores. Of note:

  • There has been an increase in omnichannel investments, especially in the areas of real-time inventory and same-day fulfillment.
  • Successful omnichannel fulfillment uses existing infrastructure to provide heightened mobile commerce convenience for consumers.

The paper challenges retailers to: 

  • Enhance by using in-store tactics to capture data and deliver heightened experiences
  • Restructure their approach to omnichannel fulfillment by using their stores more proactively as delivery and pick-up centers
  • Learn by observing other stores and other businesses, and, of course, customers themselves 

There are innovative in-store tactics highlighted in the report, like the Neiman-Marcus VR Memory Mirror, and the Ferris-wheel motion of Snap2Shop photography app. These individual technologies might ultimately catch fire, or they may wither, but they have already succeeded in demonstrating a new dimension of in-person shopping: providing a convenience and magic that has faded recently from the retail shop floor.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the report focuses on the different opportunities available to retailers to get customers’ online purchases in their hands (last-mile fulfillment) by redefining the stores themselves as pick-up or distribution points.

The message here is that changes to the retail model are happening in all sectors, not simply high fashion or luxury goods. They are also occurring in hardware stores, coffee shops, and even mom-and-pop operations. It can be difficult at times to identify which side is being the catalyst: is it the customer demanding more convenient shopping, or is it the retailer, pushing that customer gently into a new approach? 

At NewStore we recognize the power of experience as the primary influence on an individual’s motivation to browse, buy, and return to buy again. Things that are innovative this season will likely become the norm for next season. But, maybe that is the best thing to take away from this L2 report. In the future, when all the techniques it describes have become the norm, the urgency of the message will remain – retailers must always stay on top of a changing marketplace if they wish to remain in business. 

This post is the final of a multi-part series focusing on retail innovations and omnichannel commerce solutions. To read the L2 Report, click here>>

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

Editor-in-Chief of The Mobile Retail Blog with NewStore.

Topics: omnichannel fulfillment