Exclusive European research of over 5,000 shoppers shows that being able to fulfil any order through any channel is an imperative for retailers post-pandemic recovery.
While we aren’t yet back to normal, the UK’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks are becoming busier once again. But the pre-pandemic patterns and behaviours are now different.
Even though 75% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, people are still concerned about their safety in public and about the risk of contracting a new strain of the Covid virus. This will see them being cautious for some time to come and more purposeful in their shopping trips, making availability of stock and convenience in fulfilment even greater factors in customer satisfaction.
In OneStock’s latest report – Omnichannel Study: How retailers can serve the post-Covid shopper – they polled 5,000 European shoppers, and 38% said they would be less loyal to a retailer if they experienced an out of stock, while 59% said they would be less confident continuing to shop with a retailer if they continually couldn’t get hold of the items they wanted.
In addition to consumers being more demanding than ever, more of them are shopping online. Online sales grew by 46% in 2020 according to the Office for National Statistics.
This sounds like bad news for stores that had already been seeing numbers decline and staff numbers reduced. However, smart retailers will actually see the opportunity behind these twin challenges of uncertainty and online sales. First of all, it is important to recognise the extent to which the barriers between online and in-store have blurred. We know the customer doesn’t differentiate between channels, so the only hurdle to total channel integration is time, money and imagination.
This is way beyond the original concept behind the term omnichannel, which presupposed that each channel would continue to work in silos but start to share some data. Now, this is about all channels operating in the service of the customer and their orders. Once retailers have a single view of stock, orders, and related customer details, they can re-engineer the function of each channel to deliver the best possible experience and efficient fulfilment.
Stores as mini-warehouses
One very important example of this, and one that solves the problem that some retailers are having with store profitability, is store as warehouse, turning them into mini fulfilment centres so that a customer order can be fulfilled from wherever is most convenient and of course profitable.
Over time, this may transform the design, layout and role of the store as the existing stock room becomes a warehouse, whilst more space is allocated to click and collect, returns management and even second-hand items as interest among consumers in reuse and upcycling grows.
However, this hybrid on/off line model only works if the retailer can manage an order through any channel and any device. And by channel we mean not just store and warehouse but supplier and third-party marketplace as well. Once stock is given greater mobility, then each channel can respond appropriately to its status and destination.
Staff can deliver a better customer service
This approach also has the advantage of enabling retailers to deliver a better service on two counts. Firstly, the store acquires a new relevance because it can handle any type of customer journey but secondly, store staff are able to adopt more customer-facing roles as straightforward order management is increasingly automated and accessed through the devices most familiar to them, their phones.
Ted Baker can see all stock across every channel
As an example of this forward-looking approach, Ted Baker wanted to develop a more cohesive and unified omnichannel solution, particularly to cope with a 35% growth in ecommerce sales. Through the implementation of the OneStock OMS, Ted Baker now has real-time visibility of inventory across its business. Orders are intelligently orchestrated to optimise availability, regardless of the location of items across its estate of store and distribution facilities. This means they can provide an enhanced delivery promise, confident in the accuracy and reliability of stock and delivery information.
Distributed order management liberates the store from its traditional limitations of location and stock pool size and enhances its role as an immersive experience centre. It also separates stock from location and enables the newer types of fulfilment that have emerged during 2020, including kerbside delivery, pick up from third party sites, pick to fulfil by aggregators and sub 30-minute order-to-fulfil.
With retail now fully open again, retailers able to manage any type of order through any channel will be ready to embrace the needs of shoppers whose expectations have in only one year become higher than ever.
For further information on how fashion retailers can unify stock to improve conversions and sales whilst driving operational efficiency, download the report:
In proud partnership with