As the Christmas frenzy subsides, retailers will be left with a hangover of unwanted stock, poor sales figures and ultra thin margins on heavily discounted sale items. But for beleaguered retailers, things are only likely to get worse for the foreseeable future as consumers smart from falling house prices and rising unemployment.
Many retail concerns will be looking to their internet channels for solace. Although figures for internet shopping this Christmas are yet to be released, expectations are that the trend of continued growth will be maintained, albeit at a slightly slower pace. However, as more shoppers turn to the internet, a greater emphasis is placed on the retailer to perform.
Failure to meet customer expectations at this critical time can have dire consequences for the brand, both on the Net and in the high street.
E-fulfilment is going to be an increasingly important function for retailers to perfect. Many still regard conventional retail logistics and the fulfilment of internet orders as similar practices, yet there are many intrinsic advantages that the medium of the virtual shop and the direct to customer approach affords the retailer in terms of smarter logistics.
Some believe that running updates on transactions on a daily basis is sufficient, which might be okay on the high street, but in online retailing this misses a key advantage of the web – its immediacy.
Up-dating inventory figures for the web front-end very quickly increases sales through greater availability of stock. There is also an advantage in fulfilling in singles but intelligently replenishing in case.
Direct Ship holds great potential, especially were goods are either very bulky or expensive. But getting suppliers to deliver direct to customer requires the retailer to have a clearer visibility of the order fulfilment process than most presently possess.
Although most retailers have pretty slick internal systems for the whole order to cash cycle, they revert to antiquated techniques, such as faxes, when it comes to working outside the four walls of the enterprise.
Retailers would do well to look to some of the new web-based solutions that offer a clearer view of the Direct Ship process and, in some instances, can dynamically link in to carriers’ schedules for narrower, more precise, delivery windows. Now, that’s how to make an internet shopper happy.