Innovation by Collaboration: The Omnichannel Fulfillment Team

Putting the customer first, accuracy and speed drive the work of the multi-faceted Omnichannel Fulfillment team.

“Our goal is to get merchandise to customers faster with minimal additional costs,” said Arjun Dugal, SVP/systems development. “We also are focused on consistently improving our inventory accuracy. Four processes came together in 2016 to impact this strategy in a big way.”

  • Non-congruent returns fulfillment – and have varied merchandise from stores, and inventory ranges among stores themselves; so product differs (is non-congruent). In the past, we took big markdowns on online items or other merchandise that is returned by customers to a store that does not have that item in its assortment. Now, in departments where it makes sense financially, we first turn to our stores to fulfill online orders for that merchandise. For example, imagine a customer who purchases two dresses online and keeps her favorite. She returns one to the store, which does not carry that brand, so it languishes in the back of the department with other mismatched items. Lost to customers who might be interested in it, the dress ends up being heavily marked down later in the season. Now, however, when an online order comes in for that dress, our systems recognize that a store has it, and an order goes to the store first to fulfill the order. The store ships the dress to a new customer, benefitting all involved!
  • Store network threshold – On a category basis, we’ve instilled a minimum unit number at which point we’ll stop taking orders. Not making a promise when only a few items are in stock across our entire store network benefits customers by not cancelling their order. We’re making our customers happy!
  • Improvements to “available to sell” – Now we only fulfill orders when merchandise actually hits the sales floor. System enhancements add lag time when units are transferred to store inventory, allowing for merchandise to be transported and reach the floor before we accept orders for it.
  • RFID – Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) increases in effectiveness every year and a large portion of our store product is RFID-tagged. RFID benefits the omnichannel process by accurately recording merchandise by location using monthly updates, and aiding in picking RFID-tagged product within our stores.

These technologies work hand-in-hand to bring down our number of cancellations and get packages to our customers faster, both increasing their satisfaction in shopping with us. Compared to last year, our order cancel rate for May 2016 dropped by more than half!

“Our innovation success is due to the mix of business and tech teams that worked together – store operations, MLO, Omnichannel Selling and Fulfillment, RFID and MST – talking continually to make sure we’re moving in the right direction,” said Nancy Schwartz, Business Architect/direct to consumer. “We also partnered with Georgia Tech professors to rework the algorithms for our Preferred Fulfillment Logic – the heartbeat of determining where we fulfill orders.”

How does the Omnichannel Fulfillment team foster innovative thinking? They collaborate frequently as we walk this journey. They talk once a week to understand the next set of goals, monitor, ‘test and learn’ and make improvements as they progress in their mission of organizational agility. They are closing the feedback loop, and the reason for their success is that the whole group is looking at results collectively and everyone is evaluating through their unique lens.


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