Click and collect and ship-from-store change associate job descriptions
The number of people coming into stores to shop for holiday gifts this year is down as more consumers go online to purchase what they need. That doesn’t mean, however, that store associates are any less busy this season. As retailing has changed, so have the roles of frontline workers who are now called on to fulfill orders placed online, whether that means assisting a customer who has come to the store to pick up a purchase or facilitating a shipment from the store to a customer’s home.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 39 percent of all shoppers this holiday season will place an order online and go to a store to pick it up. That’s up from 32 percent last year. Eighty-three percent will make an additional purchase while in the store picking up their online order.
Earlier this year at the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (IRCE), Karl Bracken, senior vice president of supply chain transformation at Target, explained how his company is using stores to fulfill online orders. He pointed to the chain’s experience during the 2015 holiday season when it rolled out ship-from-store to 450 of its locations across the U.S. These stores filled 30 percent of online orders in 2015.
“At peak, instead of having every product go through our fulfillment centers and trying to figure out how to manage that … and potentially dissatisfying a guest, we’ve been able to take that peak demand and shift some of it to stores so that we can get those orders fulfilled and out to guests faster,” Mr. Bracken told the audience at IRCE.
This year, Target has expanded ship-from-store to 460 locations to more than 1,000. The company expects it will triple the amount of volume through ship-to-store this holiday season. Speaking on the company’s third quarter earnings call last month, CEO Brian Cornell said ship-from-store has distinct benefits, including reducing pressure on fulfillment centers during periods of high demand, cutting shipping costs and delivering orders to customers more quickly.
“As a result of our efforts to optimize inbound processes, we expect to double the percentage of our holiday receipts that are processed within 24 hours of arrival,” Mr. Cornell told analysts (via Seeking Alpha). “This will enhance our store in stocks … freeing up meaningful space in our regional DC’s, further enhancing speed and efficiency.”
Toys “R” Us has also expanded its ship-from-store capabilities, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Nearly all of the chain’s 870 stores will be used to fulfill orders. The chain expects to more than double the amount of orders going out from stores compared to 2015.
- Target’s (TGT) CEO Brian Cornell on Q3 2016 Results (Earnings Call Transcript) – Seeking Alpha
- Retailers Revamp Strategy to Handle Holiday-Season Demand – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Will retailers find gold or coal in their holiday stockings? – RetailWire
- IRCE recap: Retailers claim ship-from-store successes – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How great a differentiator will click and collect and ship-from-store services be for retail chains this holiday season? What do you see as best practices for attending to customers who have come to the store to pick up online orders?