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The Fulfillment Center in Aisle Five

by Simon Eskow
How do you get more value out of your brick-and-mortar investment? Make your store pull double-duty as an omnichannel fulfillment center.

How do you get more value out of your brick-and-mortar investment? One way is to make your store pull double-duty as a fulfillment center. Over the past few years, big retail chains have reconfigured stores and re-trained staff to do just that. It takes the right technology and processes, but even small chains can do it.

Building a fulfillment center in your store

The in-store fulfillment center isn’t new. And selling direct to consumer and dispatching online orders from one location makes sense. It shortens supply chains and accommodates the omnichannel strategy, while potentially moving products faster through inventory. Big chains like Urban Outfitters started this a few years back.

More recently, men’s clothing chain Brooks Brothers embarked on a project to put a kind of fulfillment center in each of their 260 retail locations. The company currently uses two distribution centers to fulfill online orders and replenish its stores. Under its new plan, Brooks Brothers intends to dispatch eCommerce orders from the stores. If all goes well, these shorter supply chains should speed up delivery times and increase the value of its brick-and-mortar investment. Taking this and other examples, here are steps that retailers can take to build their own in-store fulfillment center.

Processes and staff

Again, the fundamental idea is combining functions. So turning a store into a fulfillment center requires routing online orders to the retail location with the right inventory that’s closest to the customer. These processes must be transparent and integrated at the branch level to balance online orders against in-store purchases. Needless to say, staff must be trained to switch from sales mode to “pick, pack, and ship” mode when they receive online orders.

Underlying technology

The in-store fulfillment center requires fundamental technology to process orders. As eCommerce orders come in, the technology has to efficiently route orders to the right location. Furthermore, inventory must be managed centrally so that orders fulfilled in a store are transparent in other branches and warehouses. Online orders dispatched from a store will impact replenishment timeframes. Thus, warehouse functions must be integrated with in-store activity in order to optimize stock. Online orders fulfilled from stores will also impact order status and inventory availability, which should feedback to the website or marketplace.

Cin7 and fulfillment

CIN7 provides a single platform for managing inventory and orders across multiple channels and locations. With automated eCommerce order routing, built-in Retail POS and warehouse management features, retailers can build the framework to handle online fulfillment from their brick-and-mortar locations. Click below to learn how CIN7 can help you manage multiple channels and provide and flexible fulfillment from your retail locations.