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The Visible Value Blog

Getting Instore Fulfillment Right

Posted by Steve Northcott

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April 21, 2017 at 3:00 AM



This is the second in a series of five blogs about making Click & Collect profitable.

It’s less than a decade since retail commentators seemed obsessed with heralding “the death of the store”.  But the store has proven surprisingly resilient and flexible, and the death of the store is no longer a cry you hear these days.  Rather, 2017 will see retailers leverage stores to increasingly smarter advantage.

With retail margins ever-tighter, Click & Collect allows bricks and mortar retailers to win back competitive advantage over ‘pure play’ online providers. An increasing number of studies and retailer reports identify the fact that bringing people into the store to collect their goods (rather than delivering them to their homes) means they buy additional items. 

So not only must retailers maximise the instore advantage for upsell and cross-sell, they must make the customer experience a compelling, differentiated one.  The in-store systems and processes at the sharp end of fulfilment must not let the retailer down.

Make the store your brand showcase

When customers come instore to collect orders, retailers should aim to have the ‘best-practice basics’ firmly in place:

  • Provide a dedicated collection point that is clearly signposted instore and all staff must be trained to identify it and guide customers to it
  • Guarantee speedy, no-fuss collection, with queues kept to a minimum
  • Ensure back-end organisation so that goods can be found quickly and accurately
  • Make the omnichannel vision a reality: Consistency across touchpoints is crucial, as is the single view of the customer.

Over and above the ‘basics’ there are more things retailers can offer, such as “try before you buy”: rather than just handing over a parcel, it is good to let customers inspect – or in the case of clothing items, try on - items there and then in the store. This is a win/win for customers (better customer experience) and stores (returned items go back into circulation quicker).

Fine-tune store operations

While it’s all very well re-asserting best practice, the challenge remains how to do this profitably.  There are in fact many areas where efficiencies can be found.  Retailers need to look at all of them to examine how they can reduce costs.  They include the following:

  • Pack and label: Handheld mobile printers can hugely increase productivity as they mean less walk time, while the ability to print anytime and anywhere means increased flexibility and fewer errors.
  • Receiving in store: Technologies such as mobile computers and barcode scanners can help accurately receive goods in store, whilst RFID readers provide a way of automating this process.
  • Customer recognition: Customers hate to be kept waiting. The right technology can guarantee the speedy recognition and aid both customer satisfaction and the bottom line.
  • Order locating: Hand-in-hand with customer recognition is order locating. Staff instore need to be able to identify – immediately and accurately – where a given order is located.
  • Workforce communications: Key to avoiding the small delays that together make a large dent in profits. Workers need to instantly contact co-worker or dispatch group with voice, push-to-talk services or text.

The John Lewis Story

Getting this right isn’t a nice-to-have, or a detail.  It can make a noticeable difference to the bottom line. One of the retail ‘poster-boys’ for good Click & Collect is John Lewis, closely watched by the rest of the industry.

John Lewis needed to manage increased demand for storing and locating orders with multiple parcels over Christmas. They needed a solution that would enable staff to use storage space more efficiently when an order with multiple parcels arrived, and to help find parcels more quickly when customers came to collect them.  Their new solution with M-Netics software and Zebra handheld scanners enabled John Lewis to expand its click and collect capacity by 30%.

The new system enabled an efficient process flow.  When parcels arrive at the shop as part of a multiple order, a shop assistant scans the barcode of each item. The mobile computer displays details of the full order, including where the previous item in the order has been stored. This means that, if the new item is a similar size, it can be stored with the previous item – an efficient use of space.  The shop assistant places the item in a storage unit and scans the barcode on the unit to record where it has been stored.  This information is then relayed via a wireless network to the central database.  When the customer comes to collect their parcel, using the order number in the device displays the storage unit location, making it easy to find all the parcels in the order.

Get the full picture

Fine-tuning fulfilment and making instore operations sharper is the second step (of three) on the journey to efficiency. This is explored in much more detail in Zebra’s new eBook “Three Steps to Click & Collect Profitability” which you can download now.

Topics: EMEA, Click and Collect, Retail