bricklineAs long as we're making up words to describe retail strategies, how about 'Brickline' that is the combination of 'brick and mortar' and 'online'. If we look around us, there is a natural migration to the combination of physical stores and online convenience. We've been calling it Omnichannel for a while, but I think it's time for a change in terminology that better describes what retail customers want.

The transition is nothing new, but it is gaining traction as more retailers with widely distributed locations are beginning to better understand what their customers want and the fact that the diversity of their customers' requirements are more easily met than they might have imagined. Retailers like Walmart are (of course) ahead of most of the rest of the industry. The company has been offering customers the ability to shop online or in the store; to purchase online or in the store; and to take delivery by picking up their purchases or having them delivered to their homes. Of course the fact that the company's locations and distribution network are within a few miles of a great majority of US homes makes it easier for them to offer both pickup and delivery.

An extensive analysis from Inbound Logistics "New Retail Strategies: It’s a Store! It’s a Site! It’s a Warehouse!" dives into the range of issues and conditions that are changing. It cites a Forrester Research prediction that "E-commerce will make up nine percent of all retail sales in the United States in 2014, and 11 percent by 2018" in discussing the trend. What's interesting is the role that logistics and supply chain technology are playing in this transition.

On the face of it, any retailer with a functioning distribution network and a relatively large physical location footprint has the ability to offer customers the same options Walmart does. It may be more regionally based and serve a smaller number of shoppers, but at the same time offer options that would bring in new customers. The difference is the applications that tie the functions together and enable the effort to reduce costs rather than add complexity and problems.

At the heart of this is supply chain visibility and integration. Retailers and their suppliers that understand where their orders and products are in the cycle, and have the ability to affect outcomes and movement have the basic underpinnings in place. Extending the functions to include real time retail, inventory, customer notification, consumer preferences and store based efficiency is the task at hand for those retailers ready to jump on the Brickline.
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