As we head into another peak season during a pandemic, the question on every retailer’s mind is: “how do we plan”? While many learned some valuable lessons from last year, this peak is promising to be earlier and more complicated. We sat down with Jessica Fraley, Director of Sales for our Omnichannel Solutions, to hear what advice she could give for those hoping to be successful this holiday season and beyond.
Q: How long have you been in the eCommerce industry?
I've been in the ecommerce industry for over 12 years. My first job in this space was at an innovative order management startup based in San Luis Obispo, CA. Over the years, I was fortunate to have exposure to many different systems that interact with the order management system (OMS), CRMs, ERPs, WMSs and learned the ins and outs of how everything works together. Across my career, I’ve sold ecommerce platforms, personalization software, mobile point of sale and post-purchase solutions, as well as cross-border ecommerce platforms. I’ve been fortunate to have a very holistic experience in commerce, and everything that I've experienced has helped me understand what retailers and brands need, generally and specifically for their unique businesses.
Q: Given all that background and experience, what's the one area you see retailers need the most help with?
Prior to COVID, I would have said the biggest challenges retailers have is inventory management. A major pain point for most brands and retailers has been knowing what they have, where it is, how much is available, how they could get it to the shopper in a timely fashion, all the while maintaining inventory accuracy.
There’s a level of complexity that’s added when retailers have products in multiple locations and multiple channels. In this case, inventory hygiene is crucial and that starts with visibility. Brands and retailers don’t just want to know they have stock; they want to know where it is and if it’s available for sale, since carrying inventory costs them money the longer it sits there. This is where a robust order management system comes in. I actually love selling OMS since it solves real problems that not only benefit retailers and brands but their customers too. With an OMS, they have that level of visibility and flexibility to make strategic decisions concerning inventory that will ultimately improve the customer experience and allow them to increase their profitability.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge for retailers right now?
Now, I’d add the challenges of store-based or local fulfillment. Shoppers now expect curbside pickup and same-day delivery using services like Instacart, Uber, Shipt, and associate delivery. Curbside involves additional steps and communication channels while delivery services use their own technologies and crowdsource individuals to make that final mile delivery. Keeping visibility is challenging, as is monitoring the customer experience.
Retailers need to adapt their operations to accommodate new processes and work with the right partners to ensure a seamless integration with new technologies and services. Overall, they need to be able to follow the shopper journey from start to finish to make sure they are providing the right experience for their customer.
Q: Do you see the broad adoption of order fulfillment innovations like BOPIS, curbside pickup, ship from store and local delivery, sticking around once we’re "back to normal”?
Yes. Most of the order fulfillment offerings were already happening before COVID, but not as widely used. Options like ship-from-store, buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), local delivery, and curbside were around for a number of years but accelerated once COVID hit.
I do think there will be ongoing changes, especially to the store design and operations, to accommodate new fulfillment processes. It's not necessarily going to be every store since it'll depend on size and amount of inventory. They will also need to factor in the location of the store and how many people work there. Not all locations have good carrier options, and they don't want to overtax their workforce. Brands and retailers will want their store associates to concentrate on the shopper in-store.
Q: What advice can you give for retailers and ecommerce brands in the current environment and how they can move forward for a successful peak?
As you look to the future, make sure you have the right technology in place. A robust order management system that can provide flexibility and ease of use will be a game-changer for pivoting operations. What you choose needs to evolve to help you anticipate consumer trends and the market. So, look for an OMS that provides business intelligence and is always investing in continual improvement and R&D.
I’d encourage any brands and retailers reading this article to give me a call. I’d be happy to address questions. Heck, I can bring in our VP of Omnichannel Solutions, Vikas Aron, onto a call if they want to really go in-depth.
Lastly, since staffing may continue to be an ongoing issue, retailers should maximize their workforce. Cross-train workers on technology and clearly define processes to reduce downtime and make store fulfillment a central part of your strategy. Not only are you providing a convenient option for your customers, but you’re also reducing inventory carrying costs, minimizing your warehouse footprint and in many cases, improving delivery times.
Interested in learning more about Radial’s Omnichannel Solutions? Reach out to Jessica.