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Why Flexible Fulfillment Is Critical to Customer Experience

Posted by Amanda McLaughlin on Apr 4, 2019

Last updated on January 7th, 2021 at 09:48 am

What makes for a good shopping experience? According to PwC, nearly 80 percent of Americans say “speed, convenience, knowledgable help and friendly service.” These are all things consumers expect today regardless of channel. After all, shoppers don’t think in terms of online or offline. They view your brand as one and are focused on what they want now.

Amazon, and ecommerce more generally, are responsible for raising the bar of expectations. Consumers crave immediacy like never before. They will shop around until they find a brand that satisfies their demands for quick and efficient buying, and a seamless pickup or delivery. So, make the experience a joyful one at every touch – whether it’s through technology or interactions with your store team – and you’ve earned yourself a likely loyal customer.

But it’s easier said than done, right? In the “Path to Purchase & Fulfillment” section of our Omnichannel Leadership Report, we looked at how brands are removing friction from the selling and buying process and creating the highest level of customer service. The “Amazon Effect” is real, and many companies are deep in the trenches of evolving their brand offerings to stay relevant and competitive. Even so, our findings suggest there’s still work to be done.

Here are some of the highlights.


21% of brands offer endless aisle from a mobile device

57% of brands accept Apple Pay in-store

According to a BRP report, 83 percent of shoppers expect retailers to provide store associates with devices. There is an expectation that these devices have easy access to product and inventory information, both within and outside of the store’s four walls. This speaks to the no-channel mindset of today’s consumers. They don’t care about where the product comes from, as much as they care about getting it.

The majority of brands are not able to fulfill orders from anywhere, though; only 21 percent of retailers are able to sell items to customers from another enterprise location via endless aisle on a mobile device. It’s more common than not, then, that retailers will have to tell shoppers something is out of stock. Save the sale. Empower your associates by giving them access to real-time inventory so they can sell your full product catalog, every time.

Not only do mobile-first customers want convenient store fulfillment options, but they also want friction-free check-out. Apple Pay is a great option, as it is activated on 383 million iPhone devices today. Retailers are catching on – 57 percent of brands offer the convenient checkout option, making it easy to pay with nothing more than a smartphone.


26% of brands offer BOPIS

29% of brands perform BORIS

Buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) is a cornerstone omnichannel capability. It’s a favorite of shoppers because they can avoid delivery fees and receive purchased items more quickly. However, only 26 percent of brands offer BOPIS as a fulfillment option. This is compared to 18 percent in 2017, which is an improvement but the offering is still far from ubiquitous.

Not offering BOPIS is a huge missed opportunity. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) found 67 percent of consumers who use BOPIS buy additional items when picking up their order. This was the reality this past holiday shopping season – more foot traffic to stores resulted in more in-store sales. Happy shoppers, profitable retailers.

The more people buy, the more inevitable it is they’ll need to return. It’s a natural part of shopping, and retailers need not resist it. Especially if the purchase is online and the return is in-store. Only 29 percent of brands today allow buy online return in-store (BORIS). Of those who do, 43 percent have a “faux return” process. That is, they accept items in-store but later ship those items back to a distribution center to be processed. The customer isn’t refunded until days later, which makes for anything but a seamless experience.

Industry Leaders

The industry scored a 43/100 in the Purchase & Fulfillment portion of our research, but there are several top performers in this category.

To see who they are and to learn what they’re doing right, download our report today.

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