The brick-and-mortar retail landscape changed permanently in 2020. The COVID pandemic has turned retail operational norms on their collective ear. Now owners must leverage retail micro fulfillment in their business model to stay relevant, safe, and current with customer demands.
Winning with retail micro fulfillment depends on how you craft your strategy and integrate new practices into what’s already working in your stores. Plus, you’ll need to continually evaluate resources like people, processes, and space while considering new methods such as automation to ensure you maintain your exemplary customer service.
Contact Storeworks to help you organize, orchestrate, and implement your micro fulfillment initiatives while preserving the in-store guest experience.
Why micro fulfillment?
Indeed, more and more dedicated fulfillment services enter the market as retail and eCommerce fulfillment demand increases.
2020 gave us a massive bump in the fulfillment industry when the public flooded retailers with online orders, and curbside pick-up became the norm at many storefronts.
Third-party fulfillment companies (Ryder, OWD, and others) fill a niche with smaller or start-up retailers (or large retailers with a small selection of products) who may benefit by outsourcing their fulfillment at first. Larger retailers, however, can internally house their micro fulfillment operations more effectively.
Many people will likely continue to seek an in-store experience for several reasons. Entertainment, sizing, styling, immediacy, comparison, habit, or the touch and feel of products “in real life” top the list of reasons to visit a store. Also, online ordering and fulfillment are not new (think, the old Sears or JCPenny catalogs;) they are here to stay.
How do you decide whether it makes sense to outfit your store or create dedicated dark store fulfillment centers under your brand, or go with a third party fulfillment partner? Here are some advantages to micro fulfillment.
The make-up of retail micro fulfillment
The components of a micro fulfillment center are surprisingly simple. Getting them integrated and implemented into a cohesive, well-oiled, easy-to-maintain system is not as simple.
You’ll need to consider space for inventory, staging, shipping, automation equipment (like robotic pickers), augmenting equipment like handheld computers and voice pickers, and shipping solutions.
You’ll also want to pull your hardware, human workers, and delivery logistics together with sophisticated software. You’ll need to ensure a smooth integration of fulfillment center operations while managing customer-facing platforms like reward or loyalty programs.
Micro fulfillment centers can deploy inside most types of retail brick-and-mortars with thoughtful stockroom and sales floor modifications.
Micro fulfillment advantages
Here’s why retailers should consider implementing in-store micro fulfillment centers.
- Micro fulfillment centers are adaptable. If you have a blend of online and in-store guests, you can still serve them all under one retail roof. Reconfiguring your sales floor, installing more vertical shelving, and picking automation are three ways to make room for micro fulfillment. You may restructure your workforce and your sales floor to balance in-store and online customer demands, retaining a superior guest experience (and brand loyalty.)
- Save money in more than one budget line with a micro fulfillment center: You’ll spend less on delivery costs when you center your delivery hub in the regions you serve, and you’ll be able to deliver to your customers much more quickly. You could save money on space as well. You may or may not need to lease additional warehouse square footage, depending on your operational scale.
- Use a micro fulfillment center only where you need it. Some communities may require less fulfillment on the whole than others. You can precisely target your micro fulfillment center’s size and scope to match your online orders and customer demand.
- Enjoy end-to-end ownership of all your sales transactions. Customers have a plethora of brands to choose from online. Amazon continues to grow larger and more ubiquitous in retail each year. Keeping your customers engaged with your brand by providing incentives like free delivery with a yearly membership or saving loyalty points can help you maintain an edge over your competitors.
- Eliminate third parties. Why send your customers’ loyalty to third parties like InstaCart when you can keep them just as satisfied with your brand’s services? It is crucial to make one hundred percent of your inventory available on all your channels with the best service possible. Bonus: you can also maximize your existing knowledgeable staff resources with end-to-end transaction ownership.
Coming retail micro fulfillment trends
Struggling mall spaces may provide a unique micro fulfillment opportunity for smaller retailers. Combining retail and fulfillment space underneath one roof could make micro fulfillment centers more affordable and realistic for boutiques, pop-up stores, and mid-sized retailers into the next decade.
As malls continue to struggle, their spaces may be easily snatched up by retailers looking for quick ways to grow their micro fulfillment initiatives. Though Amazon is a major player in these types of buy-ups, other retailers can benefit by researching mall-based micro fulfillment opportunities in their neighborhoods.
Many retailers of all sizes can see the benefit of micro fulfillment centers in their operations. Innovative technology, space, software, and investment in micro fulfillment centers will continue to drive the retail landscape in new directions.
Hire the mirco fulfillment experts at Storeworks
Our team at Storeworks is a pioneer in the store-as-a-micro-fulfillment-center . We curate, create, and implement systems that help you seamlessly integrate micro fulfillment without compromising customer experience.
You can maintain a healthy balance of online and in-person operations by taking advantage of your stores’ strengths and on-hand resources. We’ll design a strategy combining recommended innovations in your business model and infrastructure with your scale and budget for optimal ROI.
Our team consults with your stakeholders in-depth to discover where and how best to leverage the leading-edge retail micro fulfillment solutions that will help you win wherever your customers congregate.
From online orders to curbside pick-up to effortless returns, Storeworks has a solution that fits your business.
Our architect, software, project management, and field services teams help you up-level and integrate optimized fulfillment systems with zero in-store down-time. You’ll sustain (and improve) your consistent, reliably excellent customer experience. We win when your customers keep your brand in their list of favorites.
Contact Storeworks to discover how your stores can bend, flex, and thrive in a rapidly changing retail environment.