Whether it’s 1-hour delivery, skies buzzing with drones or shipping products before consumers even know they want them, there’s a lot of hype surrounding how packages can and may soon reach customers.
What’s true now is that many retailers are feeling pressure to stay competitive with Amazon.com, and consumer expectations for all things cheaper, faster and flexible are increasing. As the appetite for free shipping grows stronger, the cost is eating away at already-thin retail margins, according to a new eMarketer report, “Delivery and Pickup Trends: Retailers Seek the Path to Fulfillment.”
Consequently, retailers are looking for cost-saving measures, and part of this equation ties into omnichannel efforts. Letting shoppers return online purchases in-store, using the store as a delivery hub or shipping directly to stores instead of homes can all ultimately save money.
Shoppers appreciate flexibility and choice. The ability to buy online and pick up in-store was the second most popular retail offering (36%) that US internet users planned to take advantage of during this past holiday season, according to September 2013 polling by Accenture.
Inventory visibility was even more important to multichannel shoppers surveyed by Forrester Consulting in December 2013: 83% considered knowing when a package would arrive to be the most important service when shopping online, while a variety of permutations—buy online, pick up in-store at a later date; buy online, pick up in-store the same day; and reserve online, pick up and pay in-store—all saw similar levels of interest.
Omnichannel efforts are important, but not necessarily a top priority for retailers. In a Shop.org survey conducted by Forrester Research in Q4 2013, just over one-quarter of respondents considered things like new order management systems and in-store pickup to be leading initiatives for 2014. These capabilities ranked fourth behind mobile (53%), site overhaul (46%) and marketing (36%).