Fast, reliable fulfillment is part of consumer brand perception, and a key driver in the purchasing decisions.
There is no bigger success story of fulfillment as a brand element than the internet behemoth Amazon.com. Amazon itself does not sell unique products or always even offer better pricing (for years they have allowed their marketplace sellers to consistently undercut them on price). What they offer is a bulletproof fulfillment experience and a breadth of product unmatched anywhere, period. This strategy, along with their ingeniously addictive “Amazon Prime” has allowed them to continue to win the consumer’s dollar online, while the rest fight to maintain their market share.
With the recent buzz circulating about a possible Google quick ship service, there may finally be a viable challenger to Amazon’s dominant market position. If it comes to life it could prove an interesting opportunity for retailers to play catch-up and finally be able to compete with Amazon’s core competency of being the fastest shipper in the biz.
One of the purported aspects of Google’s strategy is the ability to take the goal of instant gratification for the consumer one step closer by offering “same-day” delivery service for certain products. It is speculated that same-day delivery will be accomplished through leveraging the existing store inventory of Google’s retail partners. In theory, a customer searching for khaki pants could start their search on Google, select a product from one of Google’s partners, for instance GAP, if GAP has that particular SKU in stock at a surrounding store the same- day delivery option would be enabled. From there, the order would be parsed out to the store for fulfillment and a courier, or shipping partner (there’s been some speculation even of a Google branded delivery service) would transport the purchase the customer’s door.
Although it is early yet to gauge the feasibility of such an offering, it certainly seems like a natural extension of the cross-channel experience. Already customers expect the ability to search store inventory or ship-to-store. Companies like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Sears offer same-day store pickup and Nordstrom has seen success with their ship-from-store program.
In the wake of such continuing innovation, retailers need to be proactive to ensure that they continue to keep pace with customer fulfillment demands. This is especially true during key selling seasons when retailers should be looking to put their best foot forward and impress their web shoppers with unprecedented service.
Jennifer Ulrich is Director, Supply Chain Services at Fry.