Deutsch_Scott_07aI have been writing and talking about omni-channel order fulfillment for the past year with passion. I’ve been one of many leading the discussion around how businesses need to improve systems and infrastructure to support the demands of their customers. The other day, I participated in the execution of an omni-channel order fulfillment process and, boy, was I smiling.

My story begins with me deciding to buy a new TV on a rainy Saturday, so much for sunny South Florida. Knowing that others would also use the rainy day to run various errands, I really was not in the mood to fight the crowds.  For months, I’ve been doing research on what to purchase, now it was time to do some pricing research for the TV that I wanted. After 30 minutes, I found the best price at a well-known and trusted large retailer. 

Normally, I would have just jumped in the car, but this time I decided to try something that I have never done before. I wanted to see if the nearby store had the desired TV in stock. I just did not want to go there and find out that that they did not have it in stock. Think about it, consumers have now been trained to check stock online and they actually trust online information. Linking real time inventory is the heart and soul of successful omni-channel order management. So, I started to place an order and check stock availability. Bingo, the store had the TV I wanted and it was in stock, and I believed them.

Previously, I would have simply abandoned the online order and went to the store to pick it up, but this time I decided that I wanted to have it waiting for me when I went to the store. This store unfortunately is known for its long and slow checkout lines and I was not in a mood to wait 20 minutes to pay for it. So, I decided to select the order option to pick up the web order at my desired store. I also could have had it shipped to my house the next week at no cost, but I wanted to set up the TV that Saturday while it was raining.

To the store my wife and I drive. As I enter the store, I ask where you pick up web orders. The “greeters” were quite helpful and gave me clear directions on where you pick up web orders. As we weave our way to the back of the store, a large sign can be seen clearly indicating that this is where you pick up online orders. Next, I simply give them my receipt that I printed out at home after placing and paying for my online order. Two minutes later, out from the back of the store warehouse comes my TV.

Label from omni channel pickup

It would not have been any easier an experience. I also was impressed that this store had dedicated people in this area. I marveled at how seamless the retailers systems worked. Two years ago, this just was not the case. When people talk about omni-channel order management and fulfillment, this retailer gets it.

A world of Change has occurred in Retail.

Omni channel order fulfillment

As the graphic above shows, our industry has gone through tremendous change in order to reach the present day omni-channel state. My own experience helped me witness first-hand some of these changes. Many of these changes we take for granted. By my TV buying experience, here are some example changes that we take for granted:

·        Real-time linkage between a website and a retail location

·        Access to real-time accurate inventory

·        Back-of-store inventory fulfillment processes

·        In-store signage supportive of another sales channel for the retailer

·        Dedicated staffing from a different channel within the retailer

·        Willing customers to pay for something online and believe it will be ready for pick up as expected

I am enjoying my new TV and was fascinated by the personal experience. I think the next major retail battleground will be brick and mortar retailers fighting back against pure e-commerce retailers and leveraging their local inventory to provide them a competitive advantage.  But, that’s for another column.  By the way, I was not alone picking up an online order. The person before me picked up two new tires.