Keeping up with B2B Fulfillment Demands this Holiday Season
According to a recent report by CBRE, the average U.S. warehouse is about 34 years old. While this may seem relatively “young” compared to other infrastructure still in operation within the U.S., in our digitally transformed world, any 34-year-old technology is practically a senior citizen.
What’s more, within retail, the last five years has seen the rise of e-commerce as a preferred shopping method for consumers. It’s no surprise that the same CBRE report notes that U.S. warehouses are currently under significant strain to keep up with demand.
Inevitably, this puts retailers in the B2B space in a pickle, especially in the peak of holiday sales season. As we already know, many manufacturers are not set up operationally to handle small orders given that they’ve historically only needed to ship in bulk to retail fulfillment partners.
Retailers with warehouses and distribution centers built before the mid-2000s face a similar challenge — the buildings just weren’t designed to support the high order volume or the various flavors that e-commerce fulfillment demands.
However, that’s not to say that all is lost during this peak sales season. Retailers can maximize their fulfillment strategies while dealing with warehouse constraints by concentrating on the following next steps:
Utilizing physical stores as fulfillment hubs
As e-commerce continues to place constraints on warehouses, B2C retailers can minimize pain points by looking to their network of physical stores to fulfill e-commerce demands. For example, while a retailer’s warehouse partner may be located in only one region of the country, retailers can leverage their physical stores to quickly and efficiently serve all regions in half the time by utilizing store locations that are closer to the customer – leading to faster fulfillment methods and reduced costs.
What’s more, by leveraging physical stores, retailers can offer their customers expanded fulfillment options including the ability to buy online and pick up in store (BOPUS) or buy online and return in store, leading to increased foot traffic and an improved customer shopper experience. As an added benefit, a well-run BOPUS program effectively increases the online holiday shopping season by up to a week, since online shoppers are able to pick up online purchases that wouldn’t otherwise get delivered to home in time for the big day.
Working with dropship partners
As well, retailers can look to their dropship partners this holiday season to minimize warehouse constraints. By working with their third-party dropship vendors, retailers can essentially forgo having their product touch the warehouse and free warehouse resources for critical products and projects.
Keeping everyone connected with accurate inventory visibility
As retailers look to expand fulfillment capabilities beyond their warehouse this holiday season, inventory visibility for all parties will be key. For example, should your customers look to your physical stores to complete their fulfillment needs, ensuring the product is actually there and not showing out-of-stock will be crucial to ensuring a smooth process.
As e-commerce continues to challenge operations and infrastructure on the backend this holiday season, retailers can minimize their current warehouse operation pain points by looking to their network of stores, dealers, and dropship vendors to offset this challenge. They are set up to handle a high volume of small orders, are experienced in this type of fulfillment, and already have inventory sitting closer to end consumers. This is good news for all parties: Merchants get more value from existing assets and infrastructure while cutting shipping costs, stores can increase inventory turnover and reduce markdowns, and customers get the products they want when they want them.