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How to Christmas-proof your fulfilment

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Online is increasingly driving Christmas sales - according to the British Retail Consortium, UK Christmas online sales at grew 19.2% last year while overall sales remained flat; the highest year-on-year growth rate in the last four years. For retailers wanting to capitalise on this in the run up to the festive season, efficient fulfilment will require handling high volumes in a short space of time, often with recently hired staff. Here Michael Kliger, Managing Director EMEA, eBay Enterprise, shares his tips for getting your fulfilment Christmas-ready.

One approach that can benefit retailers and support stressed customers is using a hybrid fulfilment model; where retailers turn their store network into mini distribution centres to fulfil online orders. This means offering click-and-collect and ship-from-store to customers can offer huge benefits as we approach the festive season.

Ship-from-store allows you to reduce the distance travelled by the order while minimising delays due to winter weather and Christmas traffic. For cross border customers this reduction in delivery time can lead to a crucial competitive advantage in Christmas sales by attracting last minute shoppers. Ship-from-store also evens out stock imbalance by sharing the responsibility for delivery across stores. Click-and-collect can help customers by allowing them to make their purchase online and then collect it from the store at a time that is convenient for them. This allows customers to cut down on queuing time and busy aisles while still experiencing the high street at Christmas.

In-store fulfilment is not restricted to sales, and retailers will be all too familiar with the post-Christmas spike in returns. Retailers can gain a competitive advantage here too by allowing customers to return items bought online in-store, which AT Kearney showed was the preferred option for the vast majority of customers, particularly older customers with more discretionary income. Bringing customers back into the store can lead to a potential new sale, compared to the dead-net cost for alternative returns channels. Some retailers even allow returns of items bought online using gift receipts as proof of purchase, sparing the embarrassment of those returning unwanted gifts.

Retailers wishing to make the most of in-store fulfilment must start early. Providing this service requires merchandise to be shared between online and offline inventories, which in turn requires accurate stock monitoring to operate effectively. A further potential benefit of this is that online order picking can take place during quieter periods of the day (for instance, first thing in the morning) when employees may have more downtime.

This Christmas season, a robust fulfilment strategy can set retailers apart from the competition and provide more convenient options for the customer. In-store fulfilment can balance stock and reduce delivery time while building customer loyalty. An in-store fulfilment strategy should be the first item on the Christmas list for all major retailers this year.

Published on Thursday 18 September by Editorial Assistant

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