What Is Flexible Fulfillment?

Poor fulfillment can destroy any relationship with a retailer

Retailers and e-tailers both focus on the same primary thing: creating a compelling shopping experience for customers. After all, if the customer doesn’t buy, the process ends. However, customers are focused on getting the product they bought. When IBM surveyed 26,000 customers, 46 percent of them said that the most dangerous stage of a retailer’s relationship with them was what happened after the purchase. Fulfillment is a key part of that process and, done wrong, it can destroy a relationship.

At the same time, companies are under pressure to squeeze more profit out of their inventory. Looking at stock in e-tail warehouses and store stock as a single unit helps them to better utilize their assets and increase sales while reducing discounting. At the same time, businesses also need to be able to respond to shifting customer tastes and desires. Flexible fulfillment services enable this for companies.

One of the cornerstones of creating a flexible fulfillment system is to upgrade hardware and software systems that drive your company’s supply chain management. This makes it easier to synchronize all of your inventory databases so that every part of your business can draw from everywhere. As online sales become more important for brick-and-mortar retailers, the risk of fulfillment warehouses running out stock while store shelves remain over-stuffed is real. Flexible systems allow stores to serve as warehouses for the warehouse, ensuring that customers get their products on time and that store clearance racks stay empty. Lowes, the home improvement chain, has already found an additional $1 billion of inventory for its web operation by opening up its stores through flexible fulfillment. It’s also now delivering online orders in just two days.

Flexible fulfillment isn’t just about turning stores into showrooms and warehouses, though. It’s also about ensuring that your company has the inventory that it needs available to fill every channel. Consumer tastes are streakier than ever. It’s hard to count on loyalty as customers keep trying new products. On the other hand, demand for an item can spike based on a YouTube video, a Tumblr post or a celebrity endorsement. Most companies don’t have the logistics infrastructure to handle these rapid shifts in demand. A flexible system using 3PL adds capacity to your existing supply chain when you need it, saving you from having to carry the high fixed costs of additional warehouse space. Your 3PL provider can also handle fulfilling orders, shipping product to stores and accepting returns of unsold stock, all without your company having to incur additional capital expenditures or having to add staff.

Clark Logistics Services provides 3PL and flexible fulfillment to some of the country’s best known companies and brands. If you need additional capacity for fulfilling orders and for managing your supply chain, we have the expertise and the infrastructure to solve your company’s supply chain management problems. Contact us to learn more about our offerings.

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