How to Implement “Ship From Store” Services in Your Retail Business

It’s no secret that consumer expectations today are higher than ever. Modern shoppers not only want quality products at reasonable prices, they want those items delivered as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. 

Industry data shows that 1 in 10 shoppers will stop buying from a retailer because of slow delivery and only 46% of consumers are happy with how long it takes for orders to arrive.

Suffice it to say that order fulfillment is a big deal for modern consumers. So, how you, as a retailer keep up? One way is to implement ship from store, a service that could potentially speed up order fulfillment and keep shoppers coming back.

Read on to learn more about ship from store and how to make it work in your business. 

What is ship from store?

Ship from store is exactly what it sounds like — it’s an order fulfillment method where the retailer ships customer orders from their brick and mortar store rather than a warehouse. Physical stores are essentially being converted into fulfillment centers, so that order picking,  packing and shipping takes place in the retailer’s brick and mortar locations. 

The service has gained a lot of popularity during the pandemic, as more consumers turned to online shopping. 

Retail Dive reports that in 2020, Bed Bath & Beyond converted 25% of its stores into fulfillment centers and shipped 36% of online orders from its brick and mortar stores. Retailers like Apple and Best Buy also doubled down on ship from store, with Best Buy turning 250 of its stores into hubs that can ship higher volumes of online orders.

The benefits of implementing it in your business

Offering ship from store services can help retailers stay competitive amidst the rise of online shopping. Consider the following. 

Speed up order fulfillment. If your stores are located closer to your online shoppers, shipping merchandise from your physical locations rather than fulfillment centers can cut down on shipping and delivery time. Since you’re shipping from a location that’s closer to people’s homes, you’ll be able to get their orders into their hands faster.

Improve customer satisfaction. Speedy order fulfillment leads to happier customers, which ultimately increases customer retention, loyalty, and lifetime value. 

Helps move brick and mortar inventory. If you have fewer people shopping in-store, selling your brick-and-mortar inventory online and fulfilling those orders from your location can allow you to sell more merchandise and avoid overstocks.

The disadvantages of ship from store

Ship from store isn’t without its challenges. It’s not an initiative that you should implement haphazardly, and you need to recognize that the service adds complexity and costs to your operations. 

Higher costs. Shipping from stores may take more time and resources, particularly if your brick-and-mortar locations aren’t equipped to handle online orders. Retail Dive points out that it’s one of the most expensive ways to fulfill orders and it often relies on third party solutions for delivery. 

You would also need to invest in either hiring new team members or training your existing employees on how to handle online orders.

May disrupt in-store processes. Ship from store services will require you to revamp some of your store policies. These changes can lead to friction and inefficiencies when they’re not handled properly. 

How to implement ship from store in retail

Now that we’ve covered the basics of ship from store, here are some best practices on how to do it right. 

Ensure you have inventory visibility across all your channels

The success of your ship from store initiatives hinges on proper inventory visibility. You need to have a single view of your stock across physical and digital channels to see which products are available in-store and online. 

Your stock management system must have a record of all your locations’ inventory and should help you route orders to the right location. 

Your inventory management solution should also provide retail-time data and update stock levels as soon as a sale takes place. The last thing you want is to sell an item online that’s no longer available in-store. 

To accomplish this, see to it that your brick-and-mortar store and ecommerce site are tightly connected. This can be done by either integrating your solutions or running your online and offline retail initiatives through a single platform.  

Dedicate space in your store

On the logistics side, it’s important to have spaces in your physical locations to handle online orders. The right setup will depend on the size of your store and your foot traffic. In some cases, carving out a section in your stockroom can work, while other retailers are using sections within their retail stores to take care of ecommerce orders. 

Train your staff

Next up, ensure that your team has the knowledge and skills to handle ship from store orders. If your employees currently have their hands full, then you may need to hire additional workers for your ship from store initiatives. Already have enough staff? Then you need to assign new responsibilities to your existing employees and make sure they’re trained well. 

In either case, to successfully implement ship from store, your team must know:

  • Where the right items are located
  • How to pick and pack them
  • How to use your order management system to enter or record information
  • How to work with your courier to ensure that orders are shipped properly

Iron out the delivery methods

Now, let’s talk about the delivery stage. Finding a shipping partner can be challenging, not to mention costly, so be sure to evaluate your options.

Handle them in-house. For some retailers, it makes sense to handle deliveries in-house. This may be the case for you if you’re a local store that delivers to an established mile radius. Some retailers hire their own drivers and deliver products either at the end of the day or in set batches. 

United Supermarkets, for example, has delivery operations teams that plan and coordinate the company’s last mile initiatives. 

Team up with couriers. For other retailers, partnering with a third party courier is a better option. Get in touch with shipping companies that work locally and negotiate rates for same-day or next-day delivery. 

We can see this in action in Refill Nation, a New Zealand-based shop that sells pantry goods. Refill Nation partnered with a courier service to offer delivery services across New Zealand. The company charges flat delivery rates based on order destination and even offers free shipping for orders over $99 (North Island) and $149 (South Island). 

Use marketplaces and apps. There are sveral apps and platforms that can facilitate the delivery process. Research last mile services that operate in your area and see if you can use their solutions. Shipt, for example, partners with retailers to implement ship from store initiatives. Meanwhile, apps like DoorDash, which were initially used in the hospitality space, have also gotten into retail and are now allowing stores to list their inventory on the marketplace.

Convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, for instance, are now on DoorDash, so shoppers can get have products delivered in minutes. 

Communicate with customers

Already got the ship from store details and logistics ironed out? Great. The next thing is to communicate your initiatives to your customers. See to it that shoppers know about your offerings and they’re aware of your policies and the fine print. 

Use all available communication channels  — e.g., email, SMS, social media, and in-person interactions — to spread the word. 

Also, have a dedicated page on your website talking about your ship from store offerings. The liquor store Grain & Vine, for example, makes its delivery policies clear on its website along with the zip codes covered by the service. 

Ship from store services also require you to send order updates and notifications. Make sure shoppers know the status of their orders and when they can expect to receive them. In many cases, your courier partner may be able to handle this for you. 

Ship from store is here to stay

Regardless of whether or not there’s a pandemic, customer expectations around fast shipping and delivery are here to stay. As such, it’s essential to optimize your offerings through services like ship from store, to ensure that you’re able to serve shoppers in the best way possible.  

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.