Sam Cooke once sung that a change is gonna come; for retail fulfilment, that change might have just arrived.
The phenomenally successful taxi and rideshare company Uber is now turning its attention to product shipping, having reportedly entered talks to launch same-day delivery services with luxury brands including Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s.
Sounds ingenious: customer experience-led companies using the sharing economy to ensure prompt fulfilment.
For retailers, this may be a costly option at first, but it’s certainly a worthwhile experiment in the designer sector, where service is everything. Plus, as Uber eventually integrates product fulfilment with passenger services, the cost will come down and open this channel to lower ticket shipment.
Although this project is still in the prototype stages, it’s already throwing up some interesting challenges for the retailers involved. For example, orders will be processed through the Spring mobile shopping application, which requires accurate daily inventory reporting to co-ordinate demand with availability.
This begs the question, if a change is gonna come, are retail organisations’ operational capabilities ready to respond to it?
Certainly some are. For the others, their challenge is to implement centralised order management systems that can adapt quickly to a growing number of fulfilment channels. Unfortunately, most retailers will try to achieve this with grossly inadequate tools, which cannot adequately secure the passage of inventory across multiple channels in a profitable manner.
It seems ironic at a time when retail businesses are going above and beyond to find new ways of engaging with consumers, that they’re not putting the same time and investment in the facilitating back-end solutions, but it’s the truth. And ultimately this is holding back their fulfilment flexibility.
Those who can innovate internally are poised to take advantage of Uber deliveries and other emerging opportunities. The rest must up their pace, or risk being left behind.