Picture the typical family shopping experience that takes place during the holiday season. Grandma, a successful retiree, may still prefer to do all her shopping at a physical store. Mom and Dad, who may be either Gen X’ers or early millennials, might come with her to do some last-minute shopping in the mall, even though the bulk of their gifts were already ordered online weeks ago. Then come the Gen Z teens and young adults who’ve ordered their gifts from social media platforms like TikTok Shop and Instagram Shop.
This scenario is playing out in many households around the world, and it’s something the modern retailer must take note of. There’s an increasing need for retailers to keep up with the evolving preferences of their multi-generational customers, and those who can do so successfully will see the difference in their bottom line. One strategy to cater to multi-generational customers is cross-channel fulfillment, which integrates online and offline channels for a more cohesive and streamlined fulfillment process.
Cross-channel fulfillment is the art of seamlessly managing and fulfilling customer orders across various sales channels. The approach aims to break down the silos between online and offline operations to provide customers with a unified and satisfying shopping experience.
For small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups that are invololved in retail, this strategy may be what they need to make it big as omnichannel retailers. Here are some steps you’ll need to take to successfully launch a cross-channel fulfillment strategy for your own business:
1) Conduct a Comprehensive Inventory Audit
The cross-channel fulfillment process must begin with a comprehensive inventory audit. Take the time to organize and assess your inventory across all your sales channels. Accurate and real-time inventory data is what you should be working with, as it helps you determine the final numbers you’ll need to meet your average customer demand efficiently.
2) Invest in Integrated Technology
Next, to execute a seamless cross-channel and multichannel fulfillment approach, invest in integrated technology. Reliable inventory management systems and order processing software are two key components for your new cross-channel setup. These technologies ensure that data flows seamlessly between online and offline channels, which will provide you with a holistic view of your inventory and orders.
In addition to these technologies, you’ll also need a stronger payment processing ecosystem where payments from different channels can be funneled into one business account. For instance, you can install a payment gateway on your e-commerce store, while your physical store can accommodate cashless payments through a credit card machine that integrates with existing POS cash registers. Modern card machines like the Philippines’ Maya Terminal can accommodate virtually all cashless transactions. They also reduce human error since the cashier won’t have to input the transaction twice. Your effort to modernize both the in-store and e-commerce aspects of your business, like your inventory management and payments, will definitely set a good precedent for you in the arena of cross-channel fulfillment.
3) Centralize Your Order Processing
It’s also incredibly important to establish a centralized order processing system. This system consolidates orders from various channels towards more efficient order management. You should also activate real-time update notifications on your system to enable quick modifications and cancellations to orders. This will ensure a smooth and responsive cross-channel order fulfillment process.
4) Train Your Staff to Be Even More Flexible
Your staff will be the linchpin in your successful execution of a cross-channel fulfillment strategy. Provide them with comprehensive training to equip them with the skills needed to handle the intricacies of the new fulfillment process. From picking and packing to managing returns, your team should be well-trained to deliver an excellent and consistent customer experience across all channels.
5) Implement Click-and-Collect Services
You can also introduce Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) services to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping. This service provides customers with the convenient option of ordering online and picking up their purchases at a nearby store. Another version of this cross-channel strategy is ship-to-store, where customers can pay for items they picked online inside the physical store. This also allows customers to browse other items in person, which increases the probability of them adding to their purchases.
To ensure customer satisfaction, stores can offer the use of an all-in-one credit card terminal and payment machine that accommodates various cashless payment methods, including e-wallets and QR code payments. If they have the option to use a card swipe machine on store premises, customers won’t have to worry about risking their credit cards getting hacked online. This will give more conservative customers peace of mind if they want to shop in both your physical store and your e-commerce store.
6) Ensure Mobile Integration
Mobile ecommerce, or mcommerce, is on the rise, driven mostly by tech-savvy millennials’ and Gen Z’s preference for using apps when purchasing their products. With mcommerce accounting for 6 percent of total retail sales in 2023, mobile integration has to be prioritized by retailers wanting to adopt cross-fulfillment in earnest.
Consider developing a mobile app or optimize your existing one to offer features like mobile ordering, real-time inventory checks, and personalized promotions. A seamless mobile experience will enhance your customer engagement and loyalty, especially among the newer generations.
7) Test and Iterate
Thorough testing of any new cross-fulfillment tools and technologies is essential before their full implementation. Be sure to test your cross-channel fulfillment processes to identify potential issues and areas for improvement.
Next, gather feedback from both customers and staff, and be prepared to iterate on your strategy to enhance overall efficiency and boost customer satisfaction over time.
8) Communicate Changes to Your Customers
You’ll also want to communicate any pertinent changes to your customers when introducing new cross-channel fulfillment options. Utilize various channels, including your website, social media, and in-store signage, to inform customers about what changes your business has undergone. Moreover, highlight the benefits and improved convenience they can expect from you.
9) Monitor and Adapt
The retail landscape is ever-evolving, and even if you implement something as currently innovative as a cross-channel fulfillment strategy, you’ll have to keep adapting it to further keep up with the times. Continuously monitor the performance of your tools, stay agile, and be ready to adapt based on customer feedback, market trends, and the latest technological advancements. Remember, flexibility and adaptability are key to long-term success in cross-channel fulfillment.
Rolling out a cross-channel fulfillment strategy means committing to an unparalleled customer experience in both your physical and e-commerce stores. If done well, this multichannel sales approach will allow you to cater to customers from various demographics and to meet them exactly where they are—online, offline, or both.