Micro fulfilment is changing retail for traditional and online retailers

(Source: Vicinity)

Traditional fulfilment has been evolving for a long time. 

In the 60s people would call their fish ‘n’ chip shop or grocer ahead of time to arrange their order. Calling ahead to set aside or ‘reserve in store’ has been commonplace for decades. Now, in some locations, you can order your favourite grocery items or Boost Juice via an app and have it delivered by drone in 10 minutes. 

Forward-thinking retailers have always been looking for engaging ways to help their businesses stand out via their fulfilment options. The competition is intense now more than ever.

As e-commerce continues to make inroads, balancing the challenges and opportunities of online fulfilment remains key. Providing convenience whilst protecting margin; enabling on-demand delivery versus a sustainable carbon profile for your business all need to be considered. 

Proximity to customers is proving to be the differentiator. 

Historically, brands have sought to pick and pack online orders from large sheds in outer suburbs far from where their customers reside. Now, increasing numbers of progressive retailers are choosing to stock their products closer to their customers, enabling click-and-collect, more rapid delivery options, and reserve-in-store capability to grow their share of the customer’s wallet.

Shopping centres are recognising their potential as significant enablers of online trade.

Vicinity Centres – one of Australia’s leading shopping centre groups – has opened its first micro-fulfilment centre (MFC) in Victoria. Parcel Concierge, as it is known, aims to support pureplay and traditional retailers to deliver new, flexible and sustainable ways to fulfil their customer orders. In essence, Vicinity has launched an e-commerce-oriented 3PL service in the heart of the shopping centre, nestled amongst traditional retailers in the heart of suburbia. 

Retailers are using Parcel Concierge in clever and diverse ways, according to Ben Watson, new business manager at Vicinity Centres, with both pure online and traditional retailers finding value in the innovative new service.

This flexibility is proving valuable to savvy retailers. 

Jam the Label, an inclusive online fashion brand designed with disability in mind, is using Parcel Concierge as a way to access a physical shop front without taking a long-term lease. Soon, its customers will soon be able to click and collect and use a wheelchair-accessible change room to try on products on-site via a reserve in-store function placed on the retailer’s website, powered by Aussie tech company Brauz.

Given Parcel Concierge trades on weekends and late nights, Wild Secrets is enabling new fulfilment options for customers to receive their product at more convenient times, a key differentiator.

Even retailers that have already leased space in the centre are exploring new opportunities too. Despite the misconception that all click-and-collect orders are fulfilled on-site, often they are dispatched from central warehouses to the store for collection, creating unnecessary inefficiency and wastage. 

Parcel Concierge has created the ability for both storage and in-store replenishment opportunities for onsite retailers, as well as acting as the fulfilment agent to keep sales staff on the floor helping in-store.

Hyper-local consumption, fulfilment and delivery have always been with us just in a different form, and whilst the maturity of this sector evolves, the need to balance consumers’ expectations with commercial realities is clear. 

Like the local fish ‘n’ chip shop, Vicinity is using its proximity to enable more convenient fulfilment with less wastage. 

The need to satisfy customers on their terms is never going away.