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4 steps to making your retail business a ship-from-store

To meet the increasing demands of internet retail, many retailers are adopting an omni-channel presence which includes shipping from stores (SFS).

Shoppers today are accustomed to having everything they could ever need at their fingertips.

When they're out of dishwasher detergent, they can easily order a replacement from their phones, or even from a button secured to their kitchen wall. Anything can be delivered right to their doors and, depending on where they live, this could be done on the same day.

The clear leader in this changing era of retail is Amazon, which took the concept of online shopping and brought it to whole new heights. But there is one advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers have over this online retail empire: A web of strategically located stores housing all of their inventory.

When retailers view their locations simply as stores – static and stationary – they won't realize the asset potential that these buildings really have.

It's time for retailers to consider their shops as more than foot traffic and in-store purchases. They're actually small, conveniently located distribution centers that can support online sales.

But it takes more than a new perspective to make a ship-from-store initiative a fully functional and effective omni-channel experience for your customers. First, you must implement these strategies:

1. Clear out and stock your fulfillment space

The typical retail store wants to maximize its selling space. The more sales per square foot potential, the better. However, when implementing a ship-from-store program, some of that space must be dedicated to order fulfillment, USPS pointed out.

Your order fulfillment department – whether big or small – must include a few basic necessities. First, you'll need a surface, like a table or counter, to prepare the packages and lay out items to be boxed up.

Next, you'll need the tools and materials essential to building sound packages ready for delivery. Protective packaging material is a must, as are the right containers, like boxes and mailers.

Consider every item you may be shipping out and the protection it needs to survive the journey to the customer. You may need multiple types of protective packaging, like cushioning for delicate items or block and brace for objects that should have minimal vibration.

Save space by investing in a versatile protective packaging material, such as Pregis' HC HD Pads that provides cushioning protection to keep your items safe. Or, take advantage of conveniently sized packaging equipment that can be stowed away until needed, like the compact AirSpeed system.

Be sure your fulfillment room, corner or counter is big enough for an employee to maneuver in, store materials and construct packages of all sizes.

2. Know what's in the store

The whole point of the omni-channel shopping experience is to create as user friendly a shopping trip as possible. A website that displays items that are not actually in stock diminishes the shopping experience.

Customers trust online offerings, making inventory lookup systems an obvious solution to any retailer. Yet barely one-third of retailers have implemented them in their operations, Forrester reported.

Bringing an inventory lookup system to your stores makes keeping your website updated in real-time simple, explains The Omni Channel, a blog written by omni-channel commerce platform Kibo.

The solution will update your offerings in real time. If someone shopping in your brick-and-mortar location buys your very last pair of size 8 skinny jeans, your online store won't offer this product.

Here's another advantage to real-time updates to in-store inventory listed online:

Customers are more likely to visit your store in person if they know that the item they're looking for is actually in stock.

3. Construct your shipment strategy

Practical Ecommerce noted that even a store with a handful of locations can still utilize warehouse space in multiple areas of the country. Using a combination of their own warehouses and third party locations, ship-from-store platforms can be both maintainable for the retailer and convenient to the customers.

"The omni-channel experience is all about customer experience and flexibility."

Having distribution points scattered across the country can lower costs and cut down on delivery time to customers. Both of these are essential, as more consumers expect fast and free deliveries.

4. Encourage pickup in-store options

The omni-channel experience is all about customer experience and flexibility.

It's not only about ship-from-store and it's not only about driving foot traffic in your physical locations.

It's about options for the consumer.

The major benefit of pickup in-store is encouraging foot traffic in your brick-and-mortar store. When your customers stop in to retrieve their orders, they'll have a few minutes to look around and see all the wonderful items you have stocked. Chances are, they'll make another small purchase while they're there, or at least come back again.

For retailers who want to remain competitive in today's ecommerce space, it's essential that they stop viewing their brick-and-mortars and their online stores as two different revenue streams. Customers want a plethora of options for how they can make purchases and receive them.

Upgrading to a ship-from-store model is the best way to make your user experience as convenient as possible. To learn how you can implement this strategy, speak with the professionals at Pregis.