Achieving Profitability In An Omni- Channel Fulfillment Model Executive Perspective

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1 Achieving Profitability In An Omni- Channel Fulfillment Model Executive Perspective Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner April, 2015 Sponsored By

2 Synopsis Retailers can t afford to wait too long to get started to optimize the fulfillment side of omni-channel retailing. RSR has seen in study after study that consumer expectations of a seamless omnichannel experience are driving fundamental changes throughout retail - but consumers expect that now. To a great extent, retailers have come up with stopgap measures to offer a next generation shopping experience at potentially great cost to long-term profitability. It s a huge challenge, and retailers need to accelerate towards a solution that will enable them to be more agile in response to sudden changes in demand, while still making a profit. Shopping, Redefined The entire retail ecosystem, from initial product design through point of consumption, has been affected by consumers use of both digital and physical shopping channels to make their purchase decisions, often using several channels to buy just one thing. The undeniable consumer trend towards more complex paths-to-purchase that blend the digital shopping experience with the physical one almost makes any discussion of a single selling channel irrelevant. Although retailers and their partners may align their operations according to the different consumer-facing channels being offered, consumers certainly don t see channels ; retailers either address consumers lifestyle needs or they don t. In 2007, RSR observed in its benchmark study, Searching for the True Multi-channel Retailer, that retailers were already becoming concerned about the consistency of the customer experience. Retailers rated creating a single brand identity across all channels as the top business opportunity in that study. By 2014, that opportunity had blossomed into a whole new way of shopping. But although in the several years prior to 2014 we had seen that the profit value of a cross-channel shopper consistently exceeded that of the single channel shopper, that advantage has begun to level off (Figure 1). Why? It s simply because for consumers, the ability to be able to begin and end their shopping experience in the digital domain, or augment their store experience with digital, is now taken as an expectation. In other words, a retailer is only disadvantaged if it doesn t offer a seamless experience that traverses the digital and physical domains. For consumers, it s just shopping, redefined. Figure 1: Leveling Off Multi-Channel Customers Are: 49% % 38% 28% 26% Significantly more Slightly more profitable than single profitable than single channel customers channel customers 19% 19% 2% 7% 4% Equally profitable 10% 5% Less profitable than single channel customers 17% 24% 19% Don't know / Can't tell Source: RSR Research, August

3 Performing Profitably Consumers digitally enabled shopping behaviors require a behavioral and organizational shift for retailers. Retailers know that consumers already expect retailers to be able to support their anytime/anywhere shopping behaviors. But performing and performing profitably aren t necessarily the same things. Many retailers follow the old adage, whatever it takes, to offer options to consumers. The challenge now is to maintain or even improve profitability, not to destroy it while trying to meet new customer expectations. Retail Winners those retailers that outperform their competition - know they need to guide consumers through the total shopping process to the fulfillment point of their choice. But the fact remains that consumers top choice is still the store. Winners are responding by designing the digital experience with store fulfillment in mind (Figure 2). Figure 2: Sell Wherever, Whenever What Is The PRIMARY Role Of Digital Selling Channels In Your Company's Overall Strategy? Winners Laggards To transact to sell products 37% 35% To drive traffic to stores To educate consumers about lifestyle elements related to our brand To create brand awareness To help consumers educate themselves about categories and products before they come into 10% 11% 10% 11% 9% 10% 31% 30% To help consumers educate themselves about categories and products while shopping in a store 0% 5% Source: RSR Research, August 2014 When it comes to omni-channel fulfillment, the evidence is clear that most retailers are offering some - if not all - of the following options to consumers: Order online, pickup in a store Order in-store for direct delivery Order in Store A to pickup in Store B Order online for direct delivery Return online orders in any store The question remains, are they performing these functions profitably? The answer: probably not. A December 2014 RSR benchmark entitled Assortment and Planning: Changing Times, New Opportunities showed that retailers themselves see a fairly significant gap between the importance of each omni-channel fulfillment option, and how well they perform that function. 2

4 Figure 3: Performance Gap Customer Order & Fulfillment Options: 'Very Important' vs. 'Perform Very Well" Important Perform Very Well 67% 78% 80% 81% 81% 29% 46% 50% 47% 51% Order in store A to pickup in store B Order online, pickup in a store Return online Order in-store for orders in any store direct delivery Order online for direct delivery Source: RSR Research, November 2014 The fundamental opportunity for retailers is to create a consistent brand experience across all channels. Most retailers agree this is very important, and most also agree that being able to see inventory across the enterprise is important. But those retailers who out-perform the competition Retail Winners have a clearer understanding of the importance of the components of a consistent brand experience (Figure 3). Figure 4: The Sum Of The Parts Value Of Synchronization Of The Following Processes Within Your Company's Omni-channel Strategy ("Very Important"- Winners' Top 5) Winners Laggards Fulfillment 28% 80% Consistent customer experience across all channels 67% 80% Customer Order visibility across all channels Store Operations 50% 56% 66% 63% Inventory visibility across all channels 60% 61% Source: RSR Research, August

5 In fact, Retail Winners regard fulfillment as a key component of a consistent customer experience, whereas under-performers Laggards clearly don t. Winners also assign more importance to related capabilities such as customer order visibility and changes to Store Operations. Factors In Profitable Fulfillment Clearly, allowing the customer to order, take delivery of, and return any products in the channels of their choice is a winning behavior. But the question is, how to do that? Retailers should consider the following questions: 1. Can your company see Inventory across the enterprise? In the stores, in the DC s, intransit, and on order? This is important because if the company wants to be able to commit to sell any inventory from anywhere, it must either (a) have enterprise-wide visibility in something approaching real-time, (b) over-inventory, or (3) risk disappointing the consumer with out-ofstocks. 2. Is your company able to put the right amount of inventory closest to the points of demand, at the right time? Retailers still far prefer that customers will utilize the store, and consumers still enjoy the instant gratification of picking up their purchases at a store. But omnichannel order and fulfillment complicates the picture. 3. Do Forecasting and Assortment Planning processes consider those non-transactional signals that consumers leave along their digitally enabled paths-to-purchase? Being able to capture and analyze non-transactional indicators of demand from consumers digital paths to purchase has value beyond digital marketing. Retailers can use this information to respond more quickly to changes in demand before they impact sales. 4. Are non-store customer orders fulfilled in a way that maximizes profitability? Most retailers do not have a clear view of what the cost-to-serve is for omni-channel customer order fulfillment. Anytime inventory moves or is touched by an employee, the costs go up. Finding comfort in the old rule that margin covers a multitude of sins is dangerous now. But assuming the company can see the inventory necessary to complete the customer order, different decision criteria need to be considered to find the most profitable fulfillment method. Possible decision criteria include: Markdown Avoidance Lowest Shipping Cost To Customer Lowest Cost/Most Available Labor Fulfillment Point Closest To The Customer s Physical Location It is important to note that no one criterion will always be the best choice. Retailers must be able to adjust as market conditions demand it. 5. Where is the labor to come from? Few retailers are willing to increase their store-level labor spend in order to meet customer expectations for click & collect (online order/pickup in-store). In fact, in RSR s 2014 study entitled What s In Store For The Store (June, 2014), it was found that almost 65% of retailers identified improving customer service in the store while holding the line on payroll costs as a top-three business challenge. To avoid increasing payroll costs, retailers must optimize non-selling store processes, such as stock management, in order to cover the new costs 4

6 associated with handling non-store orders. But in the same store study it was revealed that only about 40% of retailers assign a lot of value to systems that automate task management. 6. Does your company need to review or revise its returns & reverse logistics capabilities? We saw in Figure 3 that only one-half of retailers feel that they handle in-store returns of non-store orders well. But in an omni-channel fulfillment model, retailers should expect an increase in the volume of returns. Are policies and procedures in place to help stores determine whether to return an item to stock, discount, return it to the DC, or discard it? Are reverse logistics processes in place to minimize writedown, handling, and transport costs? 7. Who gets credit for the sales? People do what they are paid to do. In the past, it was easy, but in an omni-channel model, both digital and physical channel operators participate in the sale. If the company fails to address how credit for sales is allocated, channel conflict might result. The Future Is Powered By Agility In his 1999 book entitled Adaptive Enterprise: Creating and Leading Sense-And-Respond Organizations, author Stephen Haeckel took the position that the rate and discontinuity of change in the business environment overwhelms organizations abilities to correct mistaken assumptions in their business plans. Therefore, he argued, businesses must architect their processes and supporting technologies to be able to respond very quickly to changing conditions. Retailers are now living in the world that the author predicted. The consumer-facing selling side of the business continues to evolve in sync with consumer adoption of new always-on technologies. Consumers now routinely use both the digital domain (search, social, e-commerce) and the physical one (stores) together to make a single purchase decision. Consumers also want more convenient fulfillment options (in the store, in an alternate store, direct delivery), regardless of where they choose to finalize an order. But retailers can t wait for a subset of probable use-cases to reach general industry acceptance. One key to future success is to enable enterprise-wide visibility into these key information assets: Inventory, Product, Customer, and Order. For many retailers, creating visibility into these information assets in something approaching real-time is a formidable challenge that must be addressed as Retail Winners are already doing. A second critical success factor is to realign organizational structures horizontally rather than vertically. The customer-facing organizations (typically e-commerce and Stores) need to be aligned; Marketing needs to consider all the ways that the Brand value is conveyed. One Merchandising organization must forecast demand, plan assortments, optimize price, and allocate inventory, to all points of sale. Finally, retailers need to identify and measure the costs associated with fulfilling customer orders. In the new world of anytime/anywhere shopping, non-store orders have to be fulfilled and delivered, either in the store or directly, and to accomplish that, human interaction is often required. Knowing the components that make up the cost-to-serve is important, so that retailers can determine the most profitable fulfillment location for any non-store order. This is a key to maximizing the profitability of every order. 5

7 Appendix A: About Our Sponsor GT Nexus provides the cloud-based collaboration platform that leaders in nearly every sector rely on to automate hundreds of supply chain processes on a global scale, across entire trade communities. GT Nexus enables many of the world s most iconic brands and retailers to expand visibility, improve margins, and support profitable growth. In fact, with over 25,000 suppliers, financial institutions, logistics providers, agents, retailers and brands operating in over 90 countries around the world, GT Nexus s track record of powering the supply chains of many of the world s leading brands and retailers is unsurpassed. Corporate Headquarters 1111 Broadway, 5th Floor Oakland, CA Phone: Fax: Web: 6

8 Appendix B: About RSR Research Retail Systems Research ( RSR ) is the only research company run by retailers for the retail industry. RSR provides insight into business and technology challenges facing the extended retail industry, providing thought leadership and advice on navigating these challenges for specific companies and the industry at large. We do this by: Identifying information that helps retailers and their trading partners to build more efficient and profitable businesses; Identifying industry issues that solutions providers must address to be relevant in the extended retail industry; Providing insight and analysis about a broad spectrum of issues and trends in the Extended Retail Industry. To download this or any other report, as well as sign up for our weekly newsletter, register at or follow this QR code: Copyright 2015 by Retail Systems Research LLC All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of the publisher. Contact for more information. 7

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