Align Marketing and Logistics Operations for Holiday Season Success

The holidays can be stressful for retailers: The marketing department pushes out promotions while the logistics staff fills an influx of orders, all to meet end-of-year sales goals. Regardless of the size of your marketing and logistics departments—whether each is one person or many—collaboration is key. Without communication between the two, you risk compromising the customer experience and, ultimately, sales.

Instead of working in silos, both departments should have regular, open communication as they prepare for and work through the holidays. Having all of your staff aligned is crucial to holiday fulfillment success. Here are four common problems your company can solve when marketing and logistics work in harmony.

Oversold Products

If your marketing staff promotes items without discussing the deals with the logistics department, there may not be enough product to fulfill the orders. That means excited customers will see “Sold Out” or “Out of Stock” notifications and potentially drop off your site, or will have to be told later that their order cannot be shipped in time or at all.

To solve this problem, look early at year-over-year (YOY) sales and predicted seasonal market trends. By sharing this data between marketing and logistics staff, fulfillment centers can be appropriately stocked and promotions will run smoothly in accordance to what you have.

Last-Minute Orders

Inevitably, customers will attempt to order items last minute, and expect them to be delivered in time for the holidays. This can be a problem if your store guarantees in-time arrival without considering shipping dates. A lack of communication between the marketing and logistics departments could result in unforeseen overtime hours (and pay) for employees. To ensure that products arrive on time and customer expectations are met, you may also incur surprise express shipping costs.

Have the logistics staff share the shipping deadlines with the marketing department before the shopping season begins. That way, promotions and alerts can inform customers of cutoff dates for in-time delivery. This simple internal discussion helps marketing avoid overpromising and letting customers down in the future.

Busy Customer Support Lines

If your departments aren’t communicating, things will fall through the cracks and the customers will suffer. Whether it’s a question about return policies or a complaint about an out-of-stock product, customers will reach out for support. If your line of support—phone, email, web chat, etc.—is understaffed to handle these incoming requests, your customers will grow more dissatisfied and may not order, purchase or shop with your business again.

Talk with your logistics staff and shipping partners ahead of time so your marketing employees can publicize things like return policies or shipping deadlines in advance. This information can live on the order page of your website, and as a digital banner or pop-up reminder as the date approaches. With more transparency from end to end, fewer issues should arise, allowing for a nimbler support team.

Failing Infrastructures

Understaffed store. Down website. Unresponsive customer support line. These are all easy ways to lose sales—and can all result from a lack of communication between the marketing and logistics departments.

Share predicted traffic and sales goals with both stakeholders, and staff up as needed. With more sales associates in store to assist customers and more web staff on call in case of an unsustainable boost in traffic, you can confidently go into the holiday season with less worry.


Key Takeaway

As you begin preparing for the holiday season, remember to involve all key stakeholders from marketing and logistics, as well as others like sales and finance. With a well-rounded planning team in place, you will be able to set realistic expectations for your business and end the holiday shopping season on top.

Track Your Direct Mail with Informed Visibility™

For years, direct mail has been an effective communications tool for marketers. But as online campaigns have grown in effectiveness and trackability, marketers have searched for something that could connect the physical and digital, increasing the impact of each medium.

That’s why the United States Postal Service® (USPS) created the Informed Visibility™ service, which brings near real-time tracking data to deliveries of mail pieces like flats and letters. Keep reading to learn how this tool works, and what it can do to improve your direct mail marketing campaigns.

What is Informed Visibility?

This tool lets marketers know when mail has been delivered, allowing for quick and coordinated activation of complementary marketing campaigns.

How It Works

  1. 1

    Once sent, a direct mail piece is scanned by the Post Office™ facility and entered into a tracking system. Senders can then track pieces using the Informed Visibility tool, which shows when a mail piece has entered different stages in the delivery cycle.

  2. 2

    When mail reaches its destination, a final scan from the postal carrier alerts the sender that their piece is being delivered to a customer.

  3. 3

    With this near real-time delivery information, the sender can launch complementary campaigns like emails or social media ads that target the same customers, maximizing the impact of each piece.

What data does Informed Visibility provide?

With this feature, mailers gain rich insights into the stages of the USPS® mail stream. They can learn when their letters move from sorting machines to trucks, and when they are ultimately delivered to customers’ mailboxes. Senders can view each piece by delivery-progress scans (such as “being sorted,” “en route” or “delivered”), delivery area or Zip Code™ destination, campaign name and more. Once a piece is delivered, marketers can then kick off digital campaigns on other channels to magnify the influence of the direct mailpiece.

Sorting
Facility
En Route
Delivered
US map

How does Informed Visibility impact communication?

The service makes it easier for marketers to run multichannel campaigns involving direct mail touchpoints. Knowing the stages your mail has entered and when it has reached your customer in near real-time makes marketing communications easier.

Marketing campaigns—from direct mail to broadcast TV to social media—can work together to boost impact rather than functioning in silos. A politician’s team, for example, could arrange a call to confirm a vote upon seeing that a direct mailpiece has reached a citizen. Or a retailer could send an email with more offers and direct links to increase the impact of a mailed coupon.

With Informed Visibility, you can plan out and manage your campaigns, present and future, more effectively.

Key Takeaways

Adding Informed Visibility to your next direct mail campaign is a powerful way to build on your marketing messages. By knowing when your piece has arrived in a customer’s mailbox, you can more effectively plan and manage which complementary marketing they see, and when.

Coordinating efforts between your mail and digital campaigns will increase impact on, and value for, your customers. At the same time, Informed Visibility can streamline campaigns internally, bringing you more powerful, measurable results.

Ready to set up Informed Visibility for your next campaign? Talk to a USPS representative to learn more.

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8 Ways to Make Your Catalogs Stand Out

Even though online buying is becoming an everyday practice, shoppers and retailers alike are showing that paper is still the way to go in terms of marketing. Because, while they are bombarded with online ads that they rarely trust or click on, consumers consistently show a strong attachment to physical mail that they can interact with on their own time.

Print marketing might mean more time and money than digital, but catalogs that positively engage your customers are worth the investment. Follow these eight best practices when creating your next catalog campaign.

  1. 1

    Inspire Your Customers

    First and foremost, your catalogs should inspire your consumer. Gone are the days that a catalog is a simple product list. Now–through thoughtful design, photography, and copy–you can tell the story of your brand and connect with customers that have the same aesthetic tastes.

    In an age where people are curating their lives through social media, brand images can now be aspirational rather than just advertisements. Make a goal of creating an emotional connection through your catalogs in addition to being informational.

  2. 2

    Personalize It

    When designing your catalog, it is important to design with your audience in mind. Visuals can go a long way and, from start to finish, should reflect the aesthetic of your customer. Even if the product comes from the same category–say fashion–a catalog for young professionals will look much different than a catalog for mothers.

    Consider personalizing catalogs to show items based on previous purchases or to show items that are available in nearby stores. This level of personalization will set you apart. Consider working with vendors that offer variable data printing.

  3. 3

    Present a Strong Brand Identity

    Catalogs are always competing for space in a consumer’s mind. However, many of them look so similar, it’s difficult to differentiate between the companies. In order to create brand loyalty, you need to stand out among the crowd, and you can do that by creating and showing a strong identity.

    A catalog should be an extension of your brand and should support whatever messages you stand for. A successful catalog will both display products and present a clear individuality. Don’t let your catalog get bogged down with product details. Use the unique voice of the brand to carry your products forward.

  4. 4

    Focus on Quality

    Hand in hand with a strong brand presence is quality. This means quality in design, size, and type of paper – everything that goes into a catalog should be purposeful, and it should represent your business in the best way possible. These small details can enhance the overall appearance of your catalog and ultimately say a lot about your brand.

  5. 5

    Make It Easy to Navigate

    Catalogs should have a user-friendly layout and be designed in a way that naturally leads from page to page. Readability and scannability are both essential in clear design.

    There should be a clear hierarchy to each page, with one or two items standing out and other elements lending support. Remember: using different fonts can be confusing, white space is your friend, and important information should always be clear and up front.

  6. 6

    Use Impactful Photos

    Catalogs that are image-heavy give a sense of brand personality and allow customers to scan through with minimal effort. In general, environmental photography–that show products in a surrounding where they would naturally be–is most effective, especially when the people in the photos are interacting with your products.

    However, don’t group too many products in one photo as it will be distracting to the viewer. It is best to show items individually or in very small, related groups. Make great photos the centerpiece in your catalog. They’ll do the work to keep your reader engaged.

  7. 7

    Make Ordering Easy

    Think beyond aesthetics, as well. If a reader can’t figure out how to place an order or what items they want to purchase, then you stand to lose out on sales. This is why it is essential to organize your catalog to make ordering as easy as possible. Often top-selling products are lost among similar items. Focus on these items and position them with products that would go well in addition to rather than instead of. Any opportunity to cross-sell companion products through copy or callouts can increase sales up to 15%.1

    As a customer browses the catalog, it should be clear how they can place an order. Include website URLs and a phone number that are easy to find within the design, and then push orders with promotions and time-sensitive offers.

  8. 8

    Test Frequency

    Successful catalogs will help lead your customers online to make purchases, but should only be sent with controlled frequency as to not overwhelm or annoy them. While 53% of consumers like the number of catalogs they receive and 25% want even more, a fine line exists between more catalogs and too many.2

    For consumers that desire catalogs, once a month should be the maximum frequency. However, quarterly or seasonal catalogs are optimal for most effective brand-customer interaction.

In Conclusion

Engaging catalog marketing has been a proven method of boosting online sales. By following these best practices, you can provide your customers with a memorable experience that makes them feel inspired, connects them to your brand, and drives them to shop.

4 Technologies That Can Revive Your Catalog Marketing

Print has proven time and again to play an integral role in marketing. While digital ads are ever present, a U.S Postal Service® survey showed that 92% of households report having a strong attachment to mail and even look forward to receiving mail each day.1 Catalogs especially are known to have positive associations, improve brand recall, and drive customers to a brand’s website. The challenge is standing out from competitors.

Engagement and brand storytelling are essential in creating memorable catalogs, and technology can add new dimension to an already popular and successful marketing tool. Read on to learn about four ways to elevate your next catalog campaign.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) technology seamlessly combines the digital and physical worlds to provide your customers with an interactive experience that’s exciting and unexpected. Utilizing this technology has been proven by one study to increase the likelihood of a purchase up to 88%.2

AR layers digital graphics over your customer’s surroundings. Incorporate a visual trigger into your catalog for your customers to activate with a smartphone camera. Then they’ll see your product come to life in any way you imagine.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is another game changer. Now your catalogs can deliver a message that comes to life before your customer’s eyes, right from their living room. Proven to revolutionize the shopping experience, the VR industry is expected to become a $10-15 billion market by 2022.3

Utilizing this technology and including a mailable headset in your catalog gives your customers everything they need to see your products in a whole new light.

Video-Enhanced Print

Video content is versatile and delivers your message instantly. You can incorporate this technology in your catalogs in several ways: embed a paper-thin screen into a mailpiece, direct customers to dynamic digital content or have your visuals come alive right on the page with video-enhanced print.

One simple way to incorporate this technology is through a QR code®.4 Launch digital content from your catalog with a QR code® that leads customers to time-sensitive promotions or your online shop. Catalogs with video-enhanced print can help mesmerize your audience and increase your product awareness.

Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication (NFC) is the new frontier of wireless technology. There are many exciting ways to use this technology that bridge a physical catalog with the digital world.

NFC tags–usually an embedded microchip in a sticker or a product label–can launch tailored digital content on an NFC-capable mobile device with short-range radio wave. With a tap or a wave of the smartphone, your customers can seamlessly connect to your brand online.

In Conclusion

Reinvent your catalog marketing with technology. Tell your brand story and immerse your customers in what your business has to offer with these innovative digital additions. Incorporate technology for richer customer experiences and potentially larger returns for your company.

10 Reasons Why Catalogs Are a Marketing Powerhouse

People engage through stories. They respond when inspired. While merchandising still matters, presenting your products in story form helps connect the reader to your brand on an emotional level to inspire action.

Studies show that consumers enjoy reading magazine-like catalogs. That’s why they spend time engaging with them. In fact, the average time spent looking at a catalog is 15.5 minutes and consumers tend to hold on to them for several weeks.1 Catalogs are also a strong customer retention tool since people are even more likely to read and keep catalogs from retailers they have bought from before.1

Catalogs not only provide the tangibility and power of direct mail, they’ve become an integral part of an omni-channel campaign by driving customers to digital experiences. They’re now mobile, website and in-store traffic drivers.

In addition, catalogs remain an effective acquisition vehicle. A popular men’s clothing retailer reports that 20% of its website’s first-time customers are placing their orders after having received a catalog. And they are spending one-and-a-half times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.2

In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 powerful reasons why catalogs should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. We’ll also give you some helpful ideas that you can use to create a catalog that connects and delivers.

Reason #1: Catalogs influence purchase decisions.

Did you know that catalogs actually have a stronger influence on purchase decisions than websites or TV ads?1 72% of people surveyed said that catalogs make them more interested in that retailer’s products, and 84% have purchased an item after seeing it in a catalog.1 The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) explains that this is because “where online marketing is passive, direct mail is active. Direct mailings are proactive and tactile—demanding that the recipient do something with it. And the better response rates make the return on the investment worthwhile for both retention and acquisition.”3 Powerful evidence like this is why retailers still use catalogs to engage customers and spark them to start the buyer’s journey.

Idea worth implementing:
Feature additional content that helps your customer connect with your products and your company. Studies show that catalogs that include content to express a brand personality have the potential to drive increased sales. In fact, 65% said they would read additional content.1 This can include stories around how the product is used or was created, related articles that provide deeper information and customer or employee profiles.

Reason #2: People engage with catalogs on a deeper level.

The purchase experience has become a big deal. Even digital-native organizations have embraced print to better connect with and engage their customers and prospects.1 It’s about moving people beyond a transaction to an emotional connection. Through stories and images, catalogs take people on a journey or even an adventure. That’s why they encourage deeper engagement with retailers and their products. Research shows that the average length of time keeping catalogs is 20.3 days.1 And that 84% enjoy getting catalog from retailer(s) they previously shopped with.1

Idea worth implementing:
Offer limited-time promotions. Studies show that engagement with catalogs is strongest when sales are featured.1 Promotions create a sense of urgency and make it easy to reward your customers. In fact, 81% are more likely to look at a catalog if it features items on sale.1

Reason #3: Catalogs are a launching pad for multi-channel purchasing journeys.

Catalogs introduce new ideas. They create awareness and inspire consumers to buy through other channels. Research shows that catalogs are most successful when incorporated into an omni-channel marketing campaign to drive customers to e-commerce sites to optimize purchases.4

Idea worth implementing:
Extend your brand identity by using the same tone and imagery through all your media channels, including online, social media and print. Be sure to include multiple ordering options in your catalogs, such as website links, phone numbers or mail-in forms including Business Reply Mail® or Courtesy Reply Mail™.

Reason #4: Neuroscience research supports the value of physical catalogs as a complement to digital communications.1

By studying consumers’ brains, science is digging deeper into marketing to analyze what works and what doesn’t. The results revealed that “physical ads leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision [vs. digital]. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for [evaluating the] value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.”1 To sum it up, science is now proving that direct mail such as catalogs deliver:1

  • Better recall over longer periods.
  • Stronger brand associations.
  • Deeper emotional connections.

Idea worth implementing:
Map out your customers’ journey from awareness to purchase to gain insight into how catalogs would best fit into their experience. Are they print traditionalists or are they online shoppers who seek instant gratification? Gathering these valuable insights can help you create a catalog that gives your audience what they want and gives you the most bang for your buck.

Reason #5: Catalogs bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds.

When paper and pixels converge, amazing things can happen. Catalogs offer the perfect physical platform for integrating dynamic digital technologies such as augmented reality (AR), dynamic QR Code®, near field communication (NFC) and much more.7 These technologies can help you deliver engaging interactive experiences that jump off the page to drive consumers to brand experiences they will remember, as well as to your digital properties, such as websites, mobile apps, social media, etc.

Idea worth implementing:
Leverage Informed Delivery® notifications, a new media channel from the U.S. Postal Service. This innovative feature gives you the opportunity to deliver a physical impression as well as a digital one—from a single mailpiece. This feature is currently a “value-add” at no cost to marketers. To learn more, visit: informeddelivery.usps.com.

Reason #6: Catalogs evoke strong, positive emotions and associations.

From the feel of the paper on your fingertips to the visual appeal of the images, catalogs give readers a real and multidimensional experience that stimulates multiple senses simultaneously. These physical experiences help make memories and connections. They also inspire readers with possibilities, helping provide an escape from daily stresses. Studies show that catalogs even help ease the anxiety around receiving bills.4

Idea worth implementing:
One size doesn’t fit all. While your inventory may determine the size of your catalog, consider testing different formats and specialty sizes to see what your customers respond best to. Using innovative printing techniques such as textures and smells can also make your catalog stand out.

Reason #7: Catalogs can leverage customer data to personalize experiences.

Thanks to large industry databases containing demographic information on millions of households, targeting with catalogs is much easier now. And thanks to online purchasing, many retailers have amassed their own databases that can be used to segment their customers by type and buyer behavior. Identifying niches and verticals helps you target only high-quality leads—so you get the right catalogs to the right people. For example, you can showcase a distinct group of products to a target audience, such as golfers or cooks, who are more likely to purchase, which ultimately helps increase ROI. Segmenting also helps offset catalog production costs because they are going to customers who have shown interest in a particular product category.

Idea worth implementing:
Personalize/customize your catalogs using customer data from past purchases to highlight products they’ve shown interest in. This helps you anticipate their needs and drive loyalty. It can also help you send fewer catalogs to those with lower purchase intent and more to those with greater intent.

Reason #8: Catalogs enable attribution and measurable results.

With budget pressures on marketers to prove ROI, attribution is more important than ever. Armed with the knowledge of which lead came from where, you can better assess if your catalogs are meeting your goals. Depending on performance, you can then adjust your inventory, copy, visuals, offers and digital drivers as needed. With their definitive mail dates and customer and source codes, catalogs are easy to track. Telephone, mail and online orders as well as special promotions can all be tracked with codes, so you can attribute a sale to a specific catalog. Driving customers to a digital app from your catalog also provides instant trackability.

Idea worth implementing:
Measure the effectiveness of your catalogs using key code capture and match-back programs so that you can track who bought what and when. Many retailers are syncing up their online customer databases with their catalog data, so they can test what happens when they are synced with other channels.

Reason #9: Catalogs deliver ease, convenience, and relaxation.

Easy to consume, catalogs provide the opportunity for consumers to slow down and enjoy the experience of being transported through images and stories—all over a cup of coffee. It also gives them the time to discover new items and make the best choices. Catalogs are accessible anywhere, which allows the reader to browse at their own speed and on their own schedule with fewer distractions. And by featuring a focused product selection, catalogs save people time lost in searching a website. That’s why consumers report that catalogs are enjoyable and fun to browse.4

Idea worth implementing:
Limit your catalog frequency by sending them quarterly or seasonally. This promotes attention, interest and excitement for their arrival.

Reason #10: All generations say they like physical mail, especially millennials.

Even though they are a tech generation, millennials are embracing mail. So why do these digital natives love direct mail? “In part, it’s because they are inundated with digital media. Physical mail stands out in millennials’ otherwise electronic world. This generation is also geared toward visual content, and direct mail caters to the physical senses.”5 This important buyer segment also spends more time sorting mail than other age groups and appears more engaged with mail than the average consumer.6 This is true for other generations as well. In fact, baby boomers and Gen Xers report strong childhood connections to catalogs prompting feelings of curiosity, hope, and excitement.4

In a survey conducted by the USPS®, households reported a strong attachment to mail.6

  • 81% take the time to look through mail each day.
  • 67% prefer reviewing physical mail to receiving emails.
  • 64% look forward to receiving mail each day.

Idea worth implementing:
Make sure your mailing lists are accurate. A high-quality list ensures that mailing addresses are up-to-date and have been qualified within the past year. USPS offers a FREE, one-time Address Quality Analysis (AQA). You can also use a licensed USPS address hygiene vendor to ensure accuracy.

In Conclusion

Today’s catalogs are powerhouse marketing tools. It’s no longer a competition between digital and print. It’s all about using the strengths of each medium and offering the best of both worlds to create inspiration and engagement that satisfy your customer and your company’s bottom line.

Preparing Your In-Store Staff for Ship-from-Store Fulfillment

Optimizing a brick-and-mortar retail store to manage ship-from-store processes is a complex and intricate task. One of the biggest hurdles is training and motivating retail sales staff to accurately fulfill online orders. These employees are hired to assist customers in person and most likely don’t have training in picking, packing and shipping inventory.

To successfully implement ship-from-store fulfillment, retailers need a well-trained and highly motivated staff that can execute sales on- and offline. Here are four important tips for building a staff that will support ship-from-store.

Think (and Staff) Ahead

If you anticipate a greater demand for shipping, bolster your ship-from-store operations by staffing up. Bringing in dedicated support for picking, packing and shipping can help offset training time and concerns about commissions for your regular sales staff.

Train Your Staff on Fulfillment

Adding in-store fulfillment for online orders calls for a different skill set than that of a customer-facing sales team. Develop reference materials like booklets and posters, and use them as part of ongoing training programs to help employees performing fulfillment functions implement easy-to-follow processes. Training should include:

  1. 1

    Picking

    Train your staff to pick products for online orders in the most efficient way. This is best done in batches when in-store customer traffic is low, like before the store opens, after it closes or during slow periods throughout the day. Scheduling it during these time periods will cut down on in-store distractions that slow down the picking process. Having staff members assigned to either fulfillment or customer sales also makes picking easier to implement without hurting the customer experience.

  2. 2

    Packing

    Next, you’ll need to teach your staff the proper way to pack items. Create a dedicated packing station that is stocked with all the right tools—boxes, envelopes, fill material, scissors, tape—and that displays instructions for properly packing items to ship. It is considered best practice to use consistent packaging across fulfillment channels to avoid any issues. If a product is improperly packed, it could be damaged, lost or delayed, causing a customer to ultimately lose trust in your store.

  3. 3

    Shipping

    Shipping time is a huge factor in customer satisfaction. Develop a process that takes into account pickup times and also ensures that employees check off all the necessary steps before sending. For example, a package being shipped internationally would need different paperwork and postage than a local one.

Provide Emotional Motivation

Adjusting to ship-from-store standards and processes can be taxing for everyday sales employees. They may see the addition of fulfillment as losing productive hours and commissions or feel underappreciated and overworked. In your orientations and trainings, make sure to address these emotional pain points—transparency and reassurance helps show your appreciation for your hardworking staff.

Provide Financial Motivation

Hand in hand with emotional motivation comes financial motivation. If your employees are worried about losing in-store sales, adjust your commission structure to fit the new ship-from-store strategy. Bring ordering technology into the store with laptops or eCommerce apps that employees are trained to use. This will improve the experience of a customer who can’t find what they need in person, and will help your sales staff seamlessly close deals for products bought online.

In Conclusion

Implementing a ship-from-store process in your brick-and-mortar stores requires understanding and participation from employees. Transparency along with robust, ongoing training for staff members can help any store optimize its new fulfillment strategy.

5 Ways to Start Distributing from Your Retail Store

More and more store owners are turning to a ship-from-store fulfillment strategy, leveraging in-store inventory and shipping directly from their retail locations. There are many potential benefits to this method: fewer markdowns, improved asset utilization and, with stores shipping to nearby customers, lower costs and quicker delivery times. But it takes detailed planning and effort to make the transition seamlessly. Here, we take you through the five all-important steps to turning your stores into effective distribution centers.

  1. 1

    Make Your Inventory Status Transparent

    Creating system-wide inventory visibility is the first step to implementing in-store fulfillment. This will allow you to have the right product available in the right locations at the right time. Assess your current inventory management system and make sure it can track and reallocate products when needed. If you have multiple systems in place across stores and distribution centers, integrate your inventory management to ensure that your inventory is visible across channels. This is essential for managing consumer demand and keeping orders moving efficiently.

  2. 2

    Define Which Stores Will Turn Into Distribution Centers

    Next, you’ll have to choose which stores will double as fulfillment centers. This is critical to success. It’s important to note: not all of your physical locations need to answer your fulfillment needs. Focus on converting larger stores that have both the backroom space and a sizable amount of inventory. This will ensure that there’s enough supply in stock and enough space to manage it. Also consider the locations of the stores. Use data from past sales to see which regions order the most and could benefit from having a fulfillment center nearby. Fulfilling orders from a store in proximity to a large number of customers means shorter delivery times and lower-cost deliveries.

    Choose stores that also have inventory-management technology that will allow you to catalog products correctly and have orders fulfilled in a timely way. Be sure at least one of your stores fulfills these characteristics before starting to ship from store.

  3. 3

    Organize Your In-Store Distribution Center

    Typical distribution centers have streamlined processes in place for picking, packing and shipping. Mirror the process on a smaller level in your stores, so that products are handled and packaged just as professionally as in your traditional distribution centers, and you create efficient shipping practices. Not to mention, your customers will be provided with the same standout experience regardless of where the product is shipped, so they can expect consistent branding and packaging with their order.

    Some employees may not see fulfilling online orders as their main priority, sending out poorly wrapped and packaged orders. Train them in the picking, packing and shipping process, and make sure your in-store distribution center is organized efficiently so that employees can consistently meet your packaging and wrapping standards.

  4. 4

    Set Up a Product Return System

    Easy returns are critically important to customers. Set up a return system that works for you and your customers. Determine whether orders should be returned in person to stores or shipped back to stores or distribution centers. Then set clear guidelines about mail-only or in-store returns and communicate them clearly to your customers.

  5. 5

    Retrain Your Staff

    When you add distribution to the list of items your employees are responsible for, you will have to retrain your staff on new procedures and challenges. Some employees may be resistant to being tasked with supporting online sales in addition to their main in-store responsibilities. To motivate commission-based employees, consider offering incentives to help ensure buy-in or adjusting your commission structure to fit the ship-from-store strategy.

    In some cases, it might be beneficial to hire additional staff to handle in-store fulfillment and train them specifically for that purpose. Naturally, their performance would be measured differently than that of commission-based employees, allowing for a higher degree of control, quality and accountability.

In Conclusion

If you prepare your space, adapt your in-store procedures and work with your employees for a smooth transition, you can begin shipping from store and see the potential benefits to your bottom line and in your customer satisfaction. You’ll not only utilize your inventory more efficiently, but also be able to get items out the door faster and at lower cost.