The share of e-commerce retail sales in the United States has grown steadily over the last decade. This trend has been driven by retailers with traditional brick-and-mortar stores adopting online channels to connect to customers. In a new study, researchers explored the world of omnichannel retailing — the merging of in-store and online channels in which customers can select from a combination of online and physical channels to place and receive orders.
The study examined top U.S. retailers’ use of omnichannel ship-from-store programs in which retailers use store inventory to deliver orders to homes instead of using a dedicated warehouse or fulfillment center. For the first time, the study incorporated the possibility of fulfillment attempts at stores to fail and identified how such retailers can adopt a policy that leads to significant savings when these effects are considered.
Conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Onera, Inc., the study is published in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.
“The rising trend in e-commerce has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with online sales jumping from 11.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 to 16.1 percent in the second quarter,” says Sagnik Das, a former Ph.D. Candidate in Operations Research at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who led the study. “In omnichannel fulfillment, retailers attempt to minimize costs while fulfilling orders within acceptable time periods.”
Das and his colleagues focused on single-item orders. Typically, online orders are sent to a favorable sequence of locations to be filled in order. Failed trials (i.e., when orders are not filled) are sent to stores later in the order for further attempts until the process reaches a time limit.
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