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3/18/2016 4:00:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

ITLC Corner: Omnichannel Networks Demand Flexibility

This story appears in the March 14 print edition of iTECH, a supplement to Transport Topics.

Retailers are working to identify technologies that will help them build better omnichannel networks, with everything from warehouse distribution systems to mobile devices for in-store staff included in the mix.

This increasing focus on serving customers both online and in store while expanding product delivery options has created a need for more flexible transportation services as well.

Joe Howard

“On the technology side, retailers have invested in a lot of bright, shiny objects [such as] kiosks and online dressing rooms,” said Su Doyle, a market strategist for Checkpoint Systems, a provider of technology for the retail industry. “Now they’re investing more on the less glamorous side: How do we deliver rather than how do we sell?”

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Some companies have viewed their brick-and-mortar stores as mini-distribution centers, but staff in these locations must have the technological and professional capability to handle an influx of online order fulfillment, said Brian Gibson, professor of supply chain management at Auburn University.

“It’s still early in the game, and retailers are building store-based fulfillment on the fly,” he said. “The situation only gets more complex as more options come onboard. It’s not just about having the right product; it is about speed to market. How fast your supply chain can fill demand is a differentiator.”

But with these and other online gains will come the need for additional last-mile delivery services, Gibson said. “If you’re using your stores for pick-up, that means you have to increase deliveries,” he said.

“Flexible last-mile delivery” is vital to the success of this evolving omnichannel model, Jess Dankert, senior director of retail operations for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said during a recent conference call hosted by Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. transportation analyst John Larkin.

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By Joe Howard
Information Manager, ITLC

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