The brick-and-mortar store vs. e-commerce debate continues to rage on, but what if there was a simpler solution? Gone are the days of having to choose between a snazzy window display or sleek user experience design. Hybrid shipping combines the best of both worlds, allowing businesses to capture both in-person and online business easier than ever before.
One result of the pandemic has been a shift in the future of work; remote hybrid models are fast on the rise, and no industry is immune, not even the global shipping industry. A survey conducted by maritime recruitment agency Faststream reveals that 91% of participants see the hybrid working model as the way of the future.
This hybrid model has begun to spread its two-pronged productivity approach everywhere, from education to retail, and is showing no signs of slowing its roll. As businesses struggle to adapt to rapidly changing market patterns, it’s important for them to understand the essential shipping tools for hybrid retailers, to reap the most benefits from the hybrid model.
What is hybrid retail?
Hybrid retail is a business model where a retailer sells online and in-person simultaneously, which can bring significant challenges to businesses who pivot from a single model to hybrid. Brick-and-mortar stores offer the sense of community and normalcy we’ve come to expect from retail. One-on-one customer relations and loyalty-building practices are key to establishing long-term trust with consumers. However, brick-and-mortar retail doesn’t come without its drawbacks — pandemic safety precautions and reduced product selection have left some customers disillusioned and turning to online shopping options like Amazon.
The hybrid retail model combines the most desirable traits from both traditional and new retail methods, so everyone benefits from the new system. For instance, many stores have begun establishing appointment-based retail services for customers seeking an in-person, personalized shopping experience. Apple is one such company, maintaining a high volume of online traffic while allowing customers to “shop with a specialist” at their local Apple Store.
Shipping software features for hybrid retail
Pivoting to hybrid retail poses several challenges for small businesses. When both a centralized and decentralized shopping experience is offered, it can be difficult for businesses to keep up with logistics while streamlining the customer experience. Some of the most important features and shipping tools for hybrid retailers include:
Changing the way you do business can come at a cost, which is why cost-saving features are an essential component of hybrid retail. Shipping organizations like FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service are constantly upping their prices, while more and more consumers expect rapid, free shipping.
Fortunately, hybrid shipping models pair nicely with hybrid retail models. A hybrid shipping approach allows retailers to make use of multiple shipping services as a cost-saving feature. FedEx’s SmartPost and UPS’s Mail Innovations both employ the U.S. Postal Service for the final leg of delivery, resulting in big savings for e-commerce retailers. Services like ShipStation have also entered the market, offering big discounts between 29-40% for shipping rates with the big carriers.
Local & in-store delivery options
In the shift toward a hybrid model, sites like WooCommerce have been instrumental in pioneering dual checkout services — that is, checkout options that allow for both online ordering and shipping as well as curbside pickup. Having a website that can fully integrate your hybrid model into its interface means you’ll funnel more customers than ever before.
With the rise in food delivery services nationwide, it’s also no surprise that Americans are clamoring for residential delivery services for all items. A Postmates-like delivery craze may soon sweep the nation, as consumers request electronics and clothing items delivered from local stores directly to their doorsteps. Updating your shipping model and checkout processes ahead of time can help secure your business a spot at the front of the pack.
Today’s consumers want to know exactly where their package is, and as a retailer, having readily available real-time tracking information is essential to building your credibility and customer service. Additionally, without real-time tracking, it could prove impossible to keep up with your competitors.
Real-time shipment tracking can help ensure your packages follow the most efficient routes. UPS has saved itself millions by adopting its route optimization software ORION, and savings of upwards of 20-40% aren’t unheard of with this kind of technology. Tracking also provides for additional accountability and efficiency, along with high rates of customer satisfaction.
Several shipping software solutions offer sophisticated tracking options as well, like SendCloud, which boasts branded tracking pages and a self-service return portal. Routific is another platform that specializes in route tracking and optimization, priority stops, proof of delivery, and more.
Putting the benefits of hybrid retail to work for your store
COVID-19 helped push an already booming e-commerce model to success, accelerating industry growth by four to six years. Although the pandemic and shifting shopping habits mean that more consumers now shop online than ever before, the statistics may leave you surprised. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that by spring 2021, e-commerce sales were growing only slightly faster than historic trends.
Brick-and-mortar businesses are anything but obsolete. The digital shopping landscape, meanwhile, offers infrastructural savings for businesses and unrivaled convenience and selection for consumers, meaning it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Consumers continue to value traditional retail establishments for some needs while turning to e-commerce for others. A hybrid retail model allows businesses to regain control of their data and inventory, making it easier for them to create and sell the products consumers want.
If we’ve learned anything over the past year and a half, it’s the value of adaptability. When it comes to retail businesses, the story is no different, although it can sometimes be difficult for hybrid retailers to find shipping solutions that are compatible with their needs. Adopting these essential shipping tools for hybrid retailers can help your business stay on top of trends while raking in more profits than ever before.