Online retailing changes all retail systems significantly. The growing importance of online sales requires the creation of new fulfillment models. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how retailers develop from separate multi-channel (MC) to integrated omni-channel (OC) fulfillment. OC retailing has an integrated perspective, with seamless interactions between online and bricks-and-mortar channels.
More than 60 internationally active retailers and experts from Germany participated in an exploratory survey. With a response rate of 40 percent the authors achieved the goal to adequately depict the German MC and OC retail market. It is currently the largest empirical study of MC and OC fulfillment.
It is the first study to comprehensively analyze the logistical development options open to retailers for integrated fulfillment. The authors discuss the conceptual development options and formulate propositions for an advanced OC fulfillment approach. OC retailers aim to pool their organizational units for fulfillment via different channels. Retailers with multiple channels develop their warehouse systems toward channel-integrated inventory enabling flexible and demand-driven inventory allocation. Retailers with channel-integrated inventory also organize their picking procedures in one common zone. The higher the outlet density, the more it becomes beneficial for retailers to introduce pick-up services.
The research is based on insights from retailers and experts from companies based in Germany.
The findings provide an insight into designing OC fulfillment and distribution structures. The concepts themselves, archetypes, challenges and development paths are analyzed. Identified logistics levers can be adjusted to pinpoint the steps required to advance integration.
The authors contribute by deriving propositions and a framework for transitioning from basic MC to integrated, extended OC logistics. Because this research area is still comparatively young, the authors take a more comprehensive, exploratory view of OC fulfillment.
Hübner, A., Wollenburg, J. and Holzapfel, A. (2016), "Retail logistics in the transition from multi-channel to omni-channel", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 46 No. 6/7, pp. 562-583. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-08-2015-0179
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