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How Advanced Supply Chains Support Better “Phygital” Customer Experiences

By: Guy Courtin

Modern retail is a complex, interconnected world where online and offline experiences converge. Consumer expectations for convenience, variety and instant gratification—cultivated in fast-paced digital marketplaces—are accelerating these trends. Even so, consumers continue to want tangible experiences; brick-and-mortar stores have a crucial role in this retail ecosystem as a result.
But meeting consumer’s evolved expectations for brick-and-mortar environments is a complicated challenge. Many retailers need to support both in-store shopping and ecommerce operations like buy-online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) in the same physical spaces once reserved for traditional shoppers. They need new, sophisticated strategies to meet changing consumer demands and improve the way they manage inventory and ecommerce orders. They need to adapt both the aesthetics and layouts of their stores as well.
In this article, we explore how retailers can strike a balance between the cosmetic and logistical aspects of their stores to optimize for today’s retail environment. We discuss strategies for retailers to improve the in-store experience by making it a destination, adding complementary experiences and training staff to provide exceptional customer service. Additionally, we delve into the critical need for flexibility, agility and speed in supply chain management, including intelligent order routing and inventory visibility. 

The next generation of in-store experiences

Creating appealing retail destinations demands attention to store design and layout aesthetics. Product arrangement, store look and atmosphere are key to attracting customers and encouraging them to stay longer. Training staff in exceptional customer service improves the shopping experience, making buyers feel valued and supported. Adding features like in-store cafes or art displays turns shopping from a simple transaction into a leisure activity, inviting customers to spend more time in the store.
But today’s leading brick-and-mortar operations go beyond these methods: they are underpinned by sophisticated supply chains. Effective inventory management guarantees the availability of in-demand products, eliminating stockouts and thereby building customer trust. An agile supply chain also empowers retailers to quickly respond to changing trends, ensuring their in-store selections stay appealing and relevant. Critically, they can improve how the facilitate online orders in their stores as well.

Supply chain innovation behind the scenes

Supply chain innovation is critical to omnichannel retail elements like BOPIS. It ensures a seamless integration of online and offline shopping experiences by guaranteeing product availability and timely order fulfillment. This not only enhances the customer’s in-store experience by minimizing wait times and ensuring product pick-up is swift and reliable; it also reinforces the retailer’s reputation for convenience and efficiency.
That’s why combining aesthetic improvements with new in-store and supply chain inventory strategies is key. By integrating these aspects, retailers can support experiences that attract customers, encourage them to stay longer and deepen their brand engagement, leading to higher sales and loyalty.

Order management at the foundation of brick-and-mortar success

Modern order management systems (OMS) have helped improve these processes, enabling seamless buying experiences both online and in-store. When retailers have deep intelligence and a single view of inventory, they can provide customers with access to products from anywhere in their retail ecosystems. This guarantees product availability for in-store purchases or BOPIS; it also enables retailers to offer expanded fulfillment options like ship-from-store. Here is a closer look at three ways sophisticated order management contributes to more appealing in-store experiences.

Real-time inventory visibility

Leading OMS technologies give both retailers and customers instant insights into inventory across all locations and warehouses. This prevents stockouts and lets customers see where products are available for immediate pickup. This transparency can boost in-store traffic—customers are encouraged to visit locations where their products are available for in-store purchase or BOPIS—improving their overall shopping experience.

Omnichannel order fulfillment

With reliable fulfillment options like BOPIS and ship-from-store, retailers can simplify brick-and-mortar shopping for consumers. This flexibility improves customer experiences by combining online shopping convenience with the immediacy of in-store purchasing, potentially increasing the appeal of their brick-and-mortar locations.

Unified customer view

Advanced order management technologies offer retailers a comprehensive view of customer transactions and preferences, enabling personalized shopping experiences and recommendations online and in-store. This personalization helps make customers feel valued across retailers’ environments, strengthening their connection with both the brand and its local stores. 

Strategies for preparing your brick-and-mortar spaces

Retailers willing to reimagine their brick-and-mortar environments can not only captivate customers visually and aesthetically but also meet their expectations for convenience, speed, flexibility and personalization. As suggested, this requires a multifaceted approach, from revamping store layouts and training staff to deploying cutting-edge technologies and in-store logistics. Here are some steps retailers can take to prepare their brick-and-mortar spaces for the demands of modern consumers.

1. Revitalize store design.

Create inviting environments that blend aesthetic appeal with functional design. Think about incorporating additional, experiential elements like interactive displays, art installations, activities or cafes to create a more welcoming atmosphere.
For example, stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops are revolutionizing retail by integrating interactive elements such as climbing walls, golf hitting bays, and immersive experiences that transform shopping into a destination event.
You can also update store layouts to facilitate order management, and balance those logistical requirements with traditional brick-and-mortar shopping spaces. This way, you are creating spaces for all varieties of your customers.

2. Invest in employee training and resources.

Equip store staff with the knowledge and technology they need to provide seamless and exceptional customer service. For example, Chick-fil-A ensures that its employees undergo consistent training focused on customer service excellence. The company fosters an environment of hyper-politeness among team members, embodying the brand’s commitment to hospitality and quality.
Other retailers may prioritize training that focuses on handling in-store and online queries, managing BOPIS orders and offering recommendations based on customer purchase history and preferences. As you begin, consider how this will change individual workloads and prioritize technologies that make employees’ new responsibilities easier and more successful from the start.

3. Integrate advanced inventory and order management systems.

Adopt an advanced OMS to gain real-time visibility into inventory across all sales channels. This technology enables retailers to fulfill online orders with in-store inventory, offer efficient BOPIS options and ensure customers have a positive experience with each interaction—for example, by ensuring inventory accuracy, precise estimates concerning delivery dates, or other factors that could “make or break” a customers’ omnichannel shopping experience.
Red Wing Shoes exemplifies this approach with its Ultimate Fit Experience™. The company uses in-store foot scanners to capture precise customer data, enhancing their ability to fulfill orders with an exact fit. These extra steps elevate the shopping experience, delighting customers while eliminating common pain points in the shoe-shopping experience.

4. Leverage omnichannel fulfillment options.

With the right brick-and-mortar environments, technologies and employee training, you can implement and promote flexible fulfillment options like BOPIS, ship-from-store and local delivery. These steps can enhance customer convenience, boost customer loyalty and even drive foot traffic to stores, increasing the likelihood of additional in-store purchases.
For example, Apple has offered multiple fulfillment options such as ship-from-store, customer-scheduled in-store pickups and even food apps for product deliveries. Amazon provides secure pickup locations for online orders via its convenient locker system as well.

5. Improve your intelligence.

Ultimately, intelligence is what will keep your new brick-and-mortar operations in sync. Advanced supply chain technologies help retailers prepare for busy periods, predict demand and prevent overstocking, among other advantages. Incorporating analytics and predictive modeling helps retailers prevent both shortages and overstocking as well. Optimizing these processes can directly improve brick-and-mortar experiences for both traditional and omnichannel retail customers
For example, Walmart leverages AI to accurately forecast customer demand based on historical sales data and market trends. This approach improves stock planning, reduces overstock or stockouts, and enhances supply chain workflows by anticipating demand cycles, especially during peak or unexpected events.

Choosing what’s right for your environment

Although retailers and their inventory differ greatly from one to the next, they each have similar, foundational needs. And while some retailers may rely on traditional in-store versus online purchases more than others—or the other way around—they each can adopt similar processes and technologies that can improve brick-and-mortar operations. With proper planning, retailers can select the right combination of advanced OMS technology, omnichannel fulfillment options, employee training programs and store design to deliver the engaging brick-and-mortar experiences modern consumers expect.