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How Infor’s New Software Helps Ready Retailers for Tomorrow’s Fulfillment Reality

Back in 2015, research from omnichannel software provider Shopatron (now rebranded as Kibo Commerce) revealed that 59 percent of surveyed retailers had no plans that year to roll out omnichannel fulfillment services such as BOPIS or ship from store. What’s more, many of the businesses surveyed were dragging their feet on investing in an enterprise-class order management platform, mostly due to the high cost but also the lack of workable pre-existing integrations—as well as insufficient time and resources. A classic story in the retail world.

Fast forward to 2018, however, and omnichannel is very much the new normal. In fact, JDA’s second annual Voice of the Store Manager research, released in the second half of 2017, found that 41 percent of 252 surveyed store managers said their stores offer BOPIS, 44 percent have ship-from-store capabilities and 38 percent accommodate in-store returns of online orders. What’s more, per-order fulfillment costs climbed 31 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to NRF’s 2017 State of Retailing Online report. That’s because retailers are finally getting serious about omnichannel and prepping associates to expertly handle in-store orders.

All of this makes Infor’s decision to quietly debut its Infor Networked Order Management (INOM) solution a smart and timely idea. Retailers today must be prepared to fulfill orders from multiplying points of demand all while minimizing costs. Erick Rowe, Infor Retail’s vice president of strategy, described INOM as a “game changer” by taking a networked approach to distributed order management. Infor thinks the networking component, which essentially exposes all inventory across the GT Nexus-powered supplier network, will empower retailers to improve customer service by increasing the chances of being able to fulfill an order on the shopper’s terms.

“Infor’s Networked Order Management can access more fulfillment options beyond what has traditionally been available,” said Wade Gerten, Infor’s senior vice president of retail R&D. “This will include drop shipments, in-transit inventory, warehouses owned by retailers and network partners, and even store inventory across the network—all of which are nearly impossible with past approaches to order management.”

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As the days of the big retail systems “rip and replace” are fading, implementing a software module like INOM can help apparel brands and retailers score a quick win on the road to meeting the high expectations that digital-first brands like Amazon are setting, Rowe said. Amid mounting pressure from shareholders, retailers need rapid ROI for tech investments—and pain points solved quickly.

Despite the doom and gloom of relentless headlines proclaiming a retail apocalypse, Rowe believes the industry is entering a “golden age of retail.”

“Just like digitization came to film and transformed cinema, now it’s coming to retail,” he explained.

[Read more on fulfillment: Walmart’s Latest Fulfillment Plans are Literally Up in the Air]

To truly make the most of INOM’s capabilities, Infor is tapping into its AI platform, Coleman, which can ensure fulfillment is executed in a customer-centric way. Using AI, the order fulfillment system could prioritize a customer over a distribution partner, for example, or leverage limited inventory for customer acquisition or exposure to new markets. What’s more, retail and brand end-users can use Coleman’s machine learning capabilities to service high-value customers by automatically expediting their orders—a move that could strengthen brand loyalty at a time when affinity is fading.

INOM’s order fulfillment capabilities are available immediately but Rowe said companies likely will layer on the networking component over time to achieve a full end-to-end solution.

Thinking ahead to what the future of retail might look like, Rowe envisions the possibility of retailers in some instances partnering up to share inventory, in which case INOM would offer crucial visibility into the partners’ stock levels. If retailer A is out of a product that a loyal, valuable customer wants to purchase, for example, could this business source the item from retailer B—across the mall, perhaps—in order to keep the customer happy?

Of course, this scenario invites myriad questions around brand, loyalty and so much more—such as the merits of partnering versus merging—but Rowe sees a retail future in flux.

The bottom line, he said, is that digital platforms empower retailers to reinvent their business models in a way that makes sense—and serves the customer, who tomorrow may want an experience different than what’s on offer today.