How technology can help traders weather the pandemic

Businesses will not have been spared over the past twelve months. If the French remain attached to their stores and inclined to support them in the current period, 32% declaring themselves ready to make their purchases in local stores (1), the health context has however significantly and lastingly changed their shopping habits. ‘purchases. The share of sales made online is expected to increase significantly.

The importance of flexibility

Faced with unprecedented challenges, there is a whole series of measures that retailers (‘brick and mortar’), can consider to respond to the opportunities offered by the increase in online demand, and to compensate for the expected drop in footfall. in store. By focusing on more flexible order management strategies around the store, they can find new ways to better monetize their inventory. This means meeting complex requirements, including the possible difficulties encountered by store staff in dealing with new systems and processes in their day-to-day work. Retailers may also be required to move part of their sales staff in direct contact with customers to efficient order preparation. This different business approach will require team training as well as an adaptation of the store layout.

Efficient order management

Done well, ‘store-fulfillment’ can be very beneficial for the retail business. The use of the store’s stock to process online orders for example, whether they are shipped or made available to the customer by “Click & Collect”, has enormous potential to mitigate the change in shopping habits brought on by COVID-19. The addition of these features will on the one hand make it easier for stores to sell their stock, and on the other hand, customers will get their orders more quickly.

In addition, sales that could have been lost due to stockouts will be kept to a minimum, as customers now have access to all of the brand’s inventory, including when ordering online. In the end, everyone wins: Consumers get what they need from retailers who now have a holistic view of their items in stock and are ready to ship them. And when the containment measures allow it, the Click & Collect will give a boost to the sales teams present in the store to make additional sales (‘up selling’).

Using technology

To adapt, it is essential to put in place an efficient and appropriate technological infrastructure. Current Distributed Order Management (DOM) systems offer ergonomic, easy-to-use tools available in mobile versions that guide store employees through the order preparation process until it is shipped. The time required for their training is thus reduced. In addition, these tools allow the retailer to guarantee customers an excellent order management process.

When online customers come to pick up an order in store, staff only need to scan a barcode. Waiting times are thus reduced, which not only contributes to customer satisfaction, but also contributes to compliance with social distancing rules. Through more efficient inventory management, DOM’s solution helps retailers adjust the flow of orders sent to each store so that none are overloaded and inventory levels remain effectively balanced across different stores in the same sign. If an order cannot be fulfilled in a given warehouse, it is automatically transferred to another warehouse for it to be fulfilled.

Stay agile

Technological agility must in particular help traders react quickly to sudden or temporary constraints. It should allow them to temporarily modify the quantity of stock sent to stores that would be affected by cases of the virus or by the institutional measures put in place to slow its spread. Thus, if a site were faced with a staff shortage and forced to reduce its reception capacity, the brand could adapt quickly and temporarily, without having to permanently modify its fulfillment strategy. (or order management).

Another way to stay agile is to expand distribution networks by adding new drop shipping service providers (DSVs / Drop Shipping Sellers) who are able to handle order fulfillment without depending on the warehouse or the distribution center of the retailer or its store network.

All of these initiatives that help retailers address these new challenges are based on the factors that have contributed to the success of e-commerce, in that they offer the customer a fast, easy, reliable and convenient sales experience. Faced with the two waves of containment and the health restrictions linked to COVID, we have learned that retailers must be able to react and adapt quickly. Flexibility then becomes their main asset. Some have successfully launched new order processing capabilities in less than a week. And today, their success is measured in days rather than weeks or months.

From today until the sector returns to a period of stability, retailers, who have a large network of physical stores, will have to concentrate all their efforts on meeting the new expectations of their customers, which will happen. through flexible order management and an agile supply chain.

1 Procos / Qualimetrie / Happydemics study