Store fulfillment is creating associate tension
Using the store as a fulfillment center — both for buy online/ship from store and buy online/pick up in-store — is creating service challenges and associate push-back, according to Andrea Weiss, co-founder of O Alliance, the retail consultancy.
Ms. Weiss, who previously held executive posts for The Limited, Guess and Ann Taylor, recently spoke at a Manhattan press briefing as part of the release of “Retail Transformation Underway: Achieving Customer-Centric Commerce,” a new report O Alliance developed in partnership with Revmetrix focusing on omnichannel challenges.
Part of the challenge involves how to fairly incentivize in-store staff to support online sales with the goal of satisfying customer’s expectations to “buy anywhere, pick up anywhere.”
Ms. Weiss said many retailers continue to debate compensation structures for associates who lose productive hours or commissions doing online fulfillment in stores.
In the case of ship from store, store associates often send out poorly wrapped or poorly packaged items, either because they have not been properly trained or do not see their primary work duty as being a warehouse associate. In some cases, associates will hold back “best sellers” rather than fulfill online orders to ensure the items are available for their clients, Ms. Weiss has heard.
“Commission-based associates are the most likely to engage in this behavior, as they often feel that they no longer have the opportunity to sell ‘the best inventory’,” said Ms. Weiss.
The best scenario, believes Ms. Weiss, is to allocate payroll for staff specifically hired, trained, compensated and reviewed for shipping standards versus sales associate standards. She said, “This allows for higher degrees of control, quality of execution and accountability.”
If a retailer decides a store can’t afford dedicated fulfillment staff, management could offer a pick-and-pack incentive to ensure compliance and reduce negative behaviors.
“Full commission may not be warranted, but unless dedicated hourly staff role is created to handle store-level fulfillment, some form of pick and pack incentive must be created to align associate behaviors with the new omnichannel expectation created by store fulfillment,” said Ms. Weiss.
Should or can stores afford in-store staff dedicated to support omnichannel fulfillment? What level of pick-and-pack incentive would encourage in-store staffs to adequately support omnichannel fulfillment?