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Digital Retail: Why Mobile Grabs Top-Tier Status in the Order Fulfillment Chain

The first step of the order fulfillment process has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Previously, an interesting product would grab shoppers’ interest and entice them to come in-store for a closer look. Nowadays, fulfillment begins and ends on mobile, thanks to the endless browsing and research that consumers do while on-the-go – sometimes without even realizing they have begun the initial purchasing journey.

This drastic shift toward pre-shopping on mobile has fueled a majority of major retailers to maximize their mobile apps and sites with easier navigation abilities and streamlined checkout. Some brands have even started equipping employees with tablets and smartphones that allow them to look up out-of-store inventory that may later be shipped to customers’ homes, free of charge. Others have implemented shopping cart abandonment solutions to remind mobile users of forgotten items, often times with an extra purchase incentive. The final processes involved in order fulfillment – shipment and delivery – have also undergone big changes, due in part to consumers’ desire for instant gratification.

Maximizing in-store fulfillment: Dick’s Sporting Goods is one of the top marketers using what it refers to as an “endless aisle” tactic, in which in-store associates receive tablet devices to use while helping customers on the floor. Shoppers with questions about a specific item may turn to one of these employees for further clarification, a move that could bring the retailer one step closer to finalizing a purchase. Additionally, the employees can place orders for any out-of-store products, check current inventory or order certain sizes and colors only available online.

Consequently, consumers interested in a specific product can visit a Dick’s Sporting Goods bricks-and-mortar location and feel secure in knowing they will walk out with that item in their hands, or have it arrive at their doorstep in several days. Mobile now offers retailers no excuse to lose out on a sale due to low inventory. Instead, digital orders can be fulfilled on the spot to prevent shoppers from visiting a nearby competitor.

Changing shipping centers: Large-scale retailers such as Walmart, Target and Amazon all market themselves as offering lightning-fast shipping options, especially for busy customers seeking to buy last-minute household items or gifts. The instant gratification and demand that mobile provides means that companies have had to open more shipping and distribution centers across the country to meet those needs.

The growing amount of mobile commerce taking place suggests that customers will increasingly ask for their orders to arrive in the quickest manner possible. To keep shoppers happy, marketers will need to maintain popular inventory pieces at their bricks-and-mortar locations and be ready to ship them at a moment’s notice.

Speedy delivery: Mobile’s constant connectivity directly correlates to two of the last pillars of the order fulfillment chain: shipment and delivery. Retailers must offer the option for customers to opt-in to receive email or text alerts when their orders have shipped, and when the products are available to be tracked as they make their way to the final destination.

While Amazon Prime maintains a stronghold over one-hour delivery choices, brands should still aim to provide mobile users with a slew of shipping preferences to enable them to receive their packages overnight, if they choose, or in a more standard timeframe. Teaming up with a third-party delivery app could be a beneficial strategy to look into, particularly if a marketer is having difficulty guaranteeing speedy shipping.

Mobile also plays a handy role in appeasing consumers during peak business periods for retail. This year’s Black Friday saw monumental sales stem from digital devices, meaning that many retailers have been inundated with orders, some of which are backlogged. Apparel brand Express recently distributed a mobile-optimized email to customers still waiting for fulfilled orders, offering them an apology for the wait alongside a special promotional code for 20 percent off their next purchase.

Brands not implementing mobile tactics during each step of the fulfillment process face unmitigated risks of losing out on steady customer traffic as well as revenue. Marketers must be willing to leverage the attachment that consumers feel toward their personal devices if they seek to stay on top of the food chain. Another invaluable benefit that smartphones offer during the purchasing journey is insight into purchasing behavior and trends. One way to better connect with your customers? Text or email them a link to a five-question post-shopping survey about their experience. Then, seal their loyalty by sending one of the most desirable thank-you gifts in the world of retail: a freebie or a special discount offer.

Check out the next installment on Digital Retail: Why Mobile Self-Service is First on Brands’ Wish Lists.

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

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

Topics: Fulfillment, Digital Retail