This is a guest post by Jake Rheude of Red Stag Fulfillment
Todays’ customers are incredibly demanding. This is true whether they come in through your front door or arrive at your website. No matter where or how they’re shopping from you, they expect you to have the right products and they want their orders to be fulfilled in the most convenient way possible.
That’s why many stores are adding in-store fulfillment to their list of offerings. With in-store fulfillment, customers can make a purchase ahead of time and then go pick it up at their leisure. Also on the table are local stores delivering goods to nearby customers, without needing to hire and start their own full time warehouse.
It’s about using your inventory to meet what the customer demands, while potentially generating higher sales. There’s a lot of potential for in-store fulfillment, so let’s give it an in-depth look.
Defining in-store fulfillment
In-store fulfillment is simply the ability to fill an order using your brick-and-mortar store. It doesn’t matter how the order arrives, whether it is someone walking in the door, using their phone, or ordering on your website.
You will need part of a storeroom or stockroom to run as a “warehouse” where staff see these orders and prepare them for customers. This could mean packaging them in boxes and getting them ready to be shipped by something like UPS, or just setting aside orders that someone purchased online so they can be picked up at your location.
You’ve probably seen this happen in your favorite restaurants and coffee shops. Someone buys online, and then they go to the front of the line or their own pickup location to simply grab their food and head out the door.
Your business, regardless of what you sell, can put that into practice. It’ll look a little different and be specific to your store, but it can be incredibly simple if you’re focused on having people come into the store and pick up what they purchased online.
Your store is a warehouse too
Brick-and-mortar stores have a leg up on the competition when they treat inventory in the back as the stock that can be sold on any channel.
If you’ve got 20 pairs of sunglasses in your stockroom on top of what you have in the display case and cabinets, then you have some merchandise that can be moved. Why not put them online? Showing inventory via Facebook, having an option to purchase on your website, or even making offers via third parties can all move inventory and allow you to embrace omnichannel retail.
Let customers shop the way they want, making it easier for them to buy from you instead of someone else.
Unlocking this capability requires a platform like Vend, where you can track online and in-store sales across a single inventory platform. That way, your store or multiple locations can serve as a way for people to shop from the comfort of their home and then come into your location when they’re ready to pick up.
Or, if you have space in locations, you can use the excess inventory to fill online orders and ship them out at the end of a specific shift. Teams in the stockroom can pack boxes or fill envelopes and then drop something off at the post office or a UPS/FedEx location nearby. Sending the closest orders to different stores ensures that you’re paying the least for shipping too.
You get to support ecommerce channels and optimize your inventory without having to hire up a lot of extra staff or secure a new location.
Vend enables you to connect your online and offline sales channels so you can implement in-store fulfillment with ease. Check out our ecommerce solutions below!
Making ecommerce work for you
Adding an ecommerce sales channel to your website can help you drive online sales and in-store traffic. By offering in-store pickup, you get people to come to you and get their purchases. This means walking through your store, browsing, even looking at those little extra up-sells at your register.
(Plus, a Forrester Research report says that adding in-store fulfillment to your online sales efforts can give you an increase of 10% to 30% in sales)
Having people come into your store gives you a chance to improve customer service, too. They can ask questions, get help with a past purchase, or make sure they got what they wanted. If a product needs something else to work correctly — think of all those batteries-not-included ads from when we were kids — your floor team can let the customer know that as well.
Forbes also lets us know that 46% of customers prefer to do their research online but buy in the store. You get to be the place they do both, so they’re comfortable with you throughout the process.
It’s an additional sales channel and allows you to reach customers on whatever device they prefer. Running in-store fulfillment operations is just a way to minimize your infrastructure spending while expanding operations. It’s a smart growth pathway into scaling your business (either with more e-commerce or for adding additional locations).
The big winner: local SEO
Ready for the best news of all?
Building out your ecommerce options by offering in-store pickup and fulfillment naturally builds your local SEO efforts. That’s huge because local SEO drives both in-store and online purchasing, helps people find you when they’re searching on smartphones, is linked to improved reputation, and grows your bottom line.
You probably already have Google My Business set up, so you can make it easier for people to find you online. Well, the company notes that verifying this information makes you twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers, whether they’re buying in-store or online. BrightLocal has a smart guide to help you understand the benefits.
The way in-store fulfillment helps your local SEO and drive those sales and foot traffic is that you have to continually tell people (and Google) where your stores are for the service. In-store fulfillment depends on that store’s inventory, so pages for locations are naturally going to have their city and address. Telling people about your location means you’re also describing what’s nearby and how to get to you.
Google has gotten smarter. So, when you sign up for the Google My Business service (your profile is free), and then your website continually mentions location and the products you offer, Google’s search knows how to position you for local results better. As more people search, see you, and click through, Google will likely slowly move you higher in results.
Customers will benefit too
We’ve talked about the positive impact that in-store fulfillment can have on your business, but what about your customers?
The important thing they get is the ability to buy what they want and then can pick it up when it’s convenient for them. No waiting for multiple days to have it shipped and then sitting around for the FedEx person to arrive. When they’re out and about, running errands or hitting the mall on the weekend, they can come by and get it.
And there’s no risk of someone stealing it off the porch if you’re not home!
There are also times when you know exactly what you want.
In-store fulfillment means you can go to a company’s website, buy the specific item, and then get it. No hunting in a store or waiting in long lines, no salespeople to ask for help, just the right item ready and waiting. It’s a great relief for days when you’re in a hurry or have something else on your mind.
The final advantage we’ll note is a benefit to both your business and your customers. When there’s a hot new item or the seasonal lineup has arrived, the customer can buy online and get what they want. No more coming into the store to realize all the size 14 summer jeans have been pilfered, or they don’t have the right blade for a bandsaw, or all the yellow-plaid bowties for your pup are already gone.
The customer can see that you have what they want in stock and then buy it. They’re going to love that experience. And you love it because it can replace putting things on hold! You get paid right away without having to pull inventory and risk putting it back after a few days when the person doesn’t return.
In-store fulfillment makes it easier for you to optimize inventory and not have to remove things from the floor without a direct sale for that item.
Explore your options
In-store fulfillment can make sense if you’ve got the team and space for it in existing locations. If your stock room is big enough and products fit in standard boxes, then you can add the capability with only a little training. If not, it might be time to consider outsourcing ecommerce omnichannel fulfillment, but that’s a different discussion.
Ask your customers what they would like, both online and people who stop by in your store. If you want to get a lot of results, pair the survey with a coupon and keep the survey to just a few questions. You’ll discover if your shoppers would like a BOPIS (buy online and pick up in the store) or if they just want online shipping — where you ship from the store to people’s homes.
Scope out pricing for these options too. Adding support for in-store fulfillment often means just getting order management and point-of-sale tools that simplify your ability to maximize inventory across multiple channels. The heavy lifting is now done for you, where you then focus on making customers happy.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.