If The Store is Everywhere, Then Order Fulfillment Must Be, Too

Posted by JR Siegel on Fri, Aug 09. 2013 @ 10:08 AM

Fashion is already the second largest eCommerce category, with US sales estimated at $41 billion. As the market grows, it continues to evolve.  Mobile and tablet sales are surging. Companies like Fancy are already experimenting with Google Glass. All of this, plus the rise of ubiquitous computing and its implications for fashion brands, is available in Vikram Kansara's excellent The Store is Everywhere on the Business of Fashion.

Shopping the World

One of the most interesting parts of the article (at least from a fashion order fulfillment perspective) comes from Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer at Frog.  He said:

Imagine I spot a really nice shirt, not in a store, but instead being worn by a stranger on the street.  The shirt is essentially out in the wild, no longer associated with any retail source.  I could potentially take a picture of it with my smartphone, or maybe even with my Google Glass.  The picture would then be compared with the millions of shirts being sold online.  When a match is found, it can be bought.  All of this can happen in the course of life. I don't stop to go shopping, but instead I find and purchase things in the context of their discovery.

Imagine how great it would be if you could buy anything you saw on the street, instantly.  I can't wait.

When shopping in the course of life becomes widespread, Rolstron believes that "physical stores [will] become showpieces rather than inventory warehouses.  It means fewer, splashier, higher-impact stores." As we've written previously, innovative brands like Bonobos are already taking the high-impact store approach with their Guideshops.

But shopping the world will only work if brands partner with fulfillment centers that can fulfill the world.  This will require fast order fulfillment.  If a consumer buys one of your blouses after she sees it on the street and snaps a picture of it, sending her an email or text within the hour saying that the blouse has shipped is sure to impress.

Shopping the world will also make it harder for brands to manage their eCommerce inventory. Everyone wearing your clothes will become a walking ad and potential sales trigger.  In such a world, it will be critical for brands to have real-time, accurate inventory information.  It's currently a best practice not to list items for sale on your website that you don't have inventory for.  But what if someone takes a picture of an item she wants that is out of stock?  In this case, brands might want to have a message that pops up, saying "we don't have this item at this time, but you can still pre-order it here."  Such a set-up will prevent a lost sale and require seamless communication between your front and back end systems.

As shopping trends evolve, fashion brand order fulfillment will have to keep up.  Is your fulfillment partner ready?


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 Image Credit: Brunifia

Topics: Ecommerce trends, Third party Fulfillment