As retailers struggle to survive the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic, many have seen steep increases in their store fulfillment volumes, as a result of customer demand for services like buy online, pick-up at curbside (BOPAC) and buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS), according to the third party logistics provider (3PL) Radial.

Customers see curbside and in-store pickup as options that can minimize health risks while still getting product in-hand immediately, but such services put enormous pressure on a retailer’s picking, packing, shipping, and pick-up processes, the King of Prussia, Pa.-based company said.

Despite those growing pains, customer-focused fulfillment options like BOPAC and BOPIS are probably here to stay, so successful retailers must hone their omnichannel operations across both their digital and physical footprints in order to survive the “next normal,” Radial says.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed consumer shopping behavior and expectations, driving increased e-commerce orders and store fulfillment volumes,” Prashant Bhatia, Radial’s senior vice president of Technology Services, said in a release. “It is utterly essential that retailers have complete control of their order management system, so they can adjust to new shopper preferences and pivot quickly based on external factors, such as stores re-opening on different schedules and fulfillment centers opening and closing day-to-day.”

According to Radial, one tool to help retailers deliver on complex shopper promises is the company’s Radial Order Management (ROM) version 20.2, a software platform that generates deeper access and control of order workflows. The company says ROM 20.2 is designed to help build efficiency with in-store fulfillment, while letting users switch fulfillment locations “on” or “off” in real time, whether those are specific stores, broad regions, or entire store networks.

According to Bhatia, platforms like order management software are crucial in a time when the number of options available for retailers to meet consumer expectations and demand has increased significantly. To woo fickle consumers, companies are looking at creative options such as: consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers shipping directly to shoppers, retailers marketing private-label goods, and brands performing ship-from-store fulfillment to leverage inventory located close to buyers, where it is sitting on store shelves instead of warehouse racks.

But to perform those actions well, retailers need deep inventory visibility and order orchestration, ensuring orders are allocated to the right location while saving on supply chain costs, he said in an interview.

One silver lining to these challenging conditions is that consumers have become a little more flexible during the pandemic, now willing to receive online orders for delivery within three, four, or five days instead of the lightning-fast 48-hour fulfillment cycles that were common before the coronavirus spread around the world, Bhatia said.

However, retailers need every hour of that extra time, since panicked buyers have rushed to stores and websites, already pushing Radial facilities up to their holiday peak volumes between March and July, far before the typical winter shopping season, he said.

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