Keith Blankenship, vice president of sales with Kibo, explains where brands are falling short in their fulfillment efforts, the reasons behind the shortfall, and the prospects for improvement.
The manner in which shoppers want to receive their goods today is changing “fairly dramatically,” says Blankenship. The challenge for retailers is meeting them wherever that might be. To make that possible, retailers need to know the precise location and quantity of product across all distribution locations, then be able to get desired items to the chosen point of sale and pickup.
The challenge of omnichannel, multi-location fulfillment is nothing new, Blankenship acknowledges. Nevertheless, many retailers still lack the systems to support it. “You still see legacy technology in place,” he says. “You’d probably be shocked at the number of companies trying to fulfill orders just through their ERP [enterprise resource planning systems], which were never designed to do that. That weight of that continually sets back the customer-centric approach.”
There’s strong evidence, however, that retailers are waking up and realizing the new for new technology that provides for total inventory visibility through digitized processes. It’s especially important, Blankenship suggests, that retailers offer the option of buying online and picking up in store, where they have a much better chance of enticing the shopper to make an additional purchase.
Inventory visibility also allows retailers to inform online shoppers about the availability and quantity of a given item. A message that the seller is close to running out of a popular item could serve as motivation for purchases that otherwise might not have been made.
Yet another successful practice by leading retailers today is treating every store and supply node as a fulfillment location, Blankenship says. In that regard, “there’s a real differentiator between a good retailer and a great one.”