By Sam Smith
The integration of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with e-commerce is a common and popular trend that doesn’t appear to be tapering off. In the April 2013 edition of Inbound Logistics there is a great article highlighting a few leading companies who are successfully paving the way between these two worlds.
The portion of the article that spoke about the national home improvement retailer Home Depot was particularly interesting. Their success has been in maintaining close to 35,000 SKU’s readily available on hand in their stores for the in-person customer experience, while their DC’s stock over three-times that amount for their online consumer. They added use of a fully interchangeable system, where customers can look at items, purchase, or return items online or in-store; or do any combination. This strategy makes the costumer experience seamless while ensuring that the consumers home improvement needs are being met one way or another through Home Depot.
As a developer, I see more problems in the interface side with our customers. The article talked about managing inventory, where I am often thinking about the overall importance of managing data. We know that data needs to be completely correct, since with e-commerce there can be little human work so there is nobody to catch errors. Efficient, accurate data extraction and tracking is key to successfully executing an online business.
The article also highlights a common challenge in e-commerce of efficiently delivering products to the consumer in the quickest / cost effective ways. With retailers like Google’s Shopping Express and Amazon Primes same day delivery programs, retailers are pioneering a new world of logistics. At Supply Chain Coach we have successfully used a Web Portal Platform through MercuryGate that creates shipments that represent home deliveries, helping retailers stay on the competitive edge.
As the article points out, e-commerce is still relatively new and has room for development as technology is ever changing, but it is an exciting time for retailers to increase their customer base and move beyond the limited possibilities in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.