In store fulfilment blog cover

In store fulfilment: How to prepare your retail team


Written by Kimberley Hughes

Retailers with both online and brick and mortar stores are finding they can make their shipping even more efficient by utilising in-store fulfillment. Essentially, this turns retail stores into mini warehouses that support the company’s shipping efforts.

In-store fulfillment is a key aspect of omnichannel shipping strategies that businesses are using to efficiently meet their customer’s expectations. Because retail stores are often in prime locations closer to customers, they’re often ideal for reducing shipping times and getting products to people quickly.

What they’re not always ideal for, at least not without a bit of effort, is being a fulfillment centre. Here’s how you can change that to ensure your store, team and shipping software can all play a part in making in-store fulfillment successful for your business.

Two women standing in a retail store working on laptop and taking photo of box

Roles and responsibilities in in-store fulfillment

Throwing your team into the deep end without much warning or training can really impact the effectiveness of your ship from store strategy. Yes, retail staff are extremely adaptable and deal with a wide range of situations every day, but warehousing is a completely different role.

Some of the key roles and responsibilities for in-store fulfillment include:

Picking: Ideally, the team member responsible for picking orders will be able to schedule time for picking orders during a low-traffic time of day. According to USPS, it’s best to wait until the store is quiet and pick in batches where possible to maximise efficiency without reducing the service your in-store customers expect.

Packing: This is a skill unto itself, particularly if you specialise in fragile products or perishables such as food. Having employees that know how to package an order effectively not only ensures the product arrives safely, it can save money on shipping when they use the right size box and group items together.

Shipping: Just slap a label on it and leave it in the courier pickup zone, right? Not quite. Even the simplest order needs to have the correct label with an accurate shipping address attached, while dangerous goods and international shipping orders need their own unique paperwork.

Hint: This is where shipping software can simplify these complex processes and automatically fix common human errors (like invalid addresses).

Finally, it’s important to know what time your courier picks up your orders each day. Shipping times play a huge role in customer satisfaction, and ensuring a day’s orders are picked early can make a big difference.

Wondering how in store fulfillment works in practice? Here are the typical steps:

1. Order placement 🛒: A customer places an order through an online channel, such as Shopify or WooCommerce.

2. Allocation of fulfilment 📍: The order is allocated for fulfilment to the store closest to the customer holding stock, facilitated by an inventory management system.

3. Notification to retail staff 📢: Retail staff are notified of the new ship-from-store order. This notification process can be streamlined with a shipping platform like Starshipit, which alerts staff to pick, pack, and print shipping labels for the order.

4. Picking and packing 📦: A staff member picks and packs the order, ensuring accuracy and proper packaging.

5. Printing shipping label 🖨️: The store prints the shipping label for the courier, including any necessary documentation or customs forms for international shipments.

6. Courier pickup arrangement 📞: The store organises for the courier to pick up the order. This can be done either through a regularly scheduled pick-up or by booking one with the courier directly.

7. Courier collection 🚚: The courier collects the order from the store, verifying the shipment details and ensuring proper handling.

8. Branded shipping notifications 💌: Throughout the delivery process, the customer receives branded shipping notifications, providing updates on the status of their order and expected delivery timeframes.

9. Order delivery 🏡: Finally, the courier delivers the order to the customer at the specified shipping address, completing the ship-from-store process.

How to set up live shipping rates at checkout

Training for in-store fulfillment

Choosing to fulfil orders in store adds more responsibility to your busy retail staff. The best way to ensure they’re ready for the extra role is to provide comprehensive training before ramping up your in-store fulfillment. Effective training should include:

How to package orders

There’s an art to packing orders to protect your goods and save money on materials. Staff should focus on:

  • Choosing the right size box for the products. Not too big and not too small.
  • Using packing materials to support goods, like packing peanuts, bubble wrap or shredded paper.
  • Seal the box securely, especially for heavy items or anything with sharp edges.

Tip: Check our recommended packaging feature to save time with this step.

Time management

The retail world can be extremely busy, however, there’s often also room in the day to take advantage of downtime. Tips to manage time include:

  • Pick orders in batches during quiet times.
  • Delegate picking to a specific employee and ensure all staff are aware.
  • Ensure each day’s orders are picked before courier pickup time.

Customer service updates

Your team are probably masters of the art that is customer service, but your ship from store strategy is going to add a few new interactions to their day. Staff should know:

  • What the courier needs. Do they have to sign a document? What if they’re bringing returns? Building a friendly relationship with your usual courier can make both of your lives easier and save a lot of time.
  • How the customer interaction will change. Staff may need to contact customers about shipping delays, invalid addresses or any other complications that may arise.

Tip: Use branded shipping notifications to keep customers in the loop about delays affecting your store or carrier networks.

How to use in-store fulfillment software

Chances are you’re using in-store fulfillment software to help manage your new shipping channel, but do all of your employees know how to use it? Some of the key tasks employees should know how to do include:

  • Having secure logins and knowing how to check incoming orders.
  • How to print, review and update a shipping label.
  • The process of managing returned items.
Female owner of a clothing store holding an ipad

Technology for in-store fulfillment

Having the right technology to support in-store fulfillment can make life much easier for your staff and ensure your customers get great service. It’s not just keeping your shipping software up to date either, although that’s essential. Have you considered how staff are keeping track of orders as they pick them? How are they preparing the shipping labels? Here’s the technology your staff need:

Tablets or other smart devices

It’s 2024, the days of picking with pen and paper are long gone. If your team has a tablet or mobile device, they can accurately pick orders from your fulfillment software, while also scanning items and codes as they go. Depending on the environment, we’d recommend picking up some sturdy cases for these as well. Maybe pen and paper does have some advantages!

Shipping fulfillment software:

This is where we can help. Starshipit has a range of features that can support your shipping strategy no matter what you’re choosing to do. The key features that are particularly helpful for ship from store strategies are:

  • Integrations with eCommerce platforms – import your orders directly from Shopify, PeopleVox and more.
  • Multi-carrier shipping – give your customers shipping flexibility by integrating with a number of on-demand carriers.
  • Manage your store network – check on all of your orders at once from one central dashboard.
  • Support omnichannel solutions – Starshipit integrates with sales channels and shipping providers to create a unified shipping experience.

Best practices and Tips

So you’ve got everything you need, now you just need to put it into practice. Optimising the in-store fulfillment strategy involves aligning your staff and technology, and keeping everyone on the same page.

Here are some best practice tips for successful in-store fulfillment:

  • Manage staff levels ahead of time: Try and forecast the demand for in-store fulfillment before you flip the switch. You can use your store’s retail history as a guide to see if you need more staff or to move shifts around.
  • Train your retail employees to be fulfillment experts: We described this in detail above, but remember that retail and fulfillment were traditionally two very different roles. Make sure staff have the time to adapt to their new working environment and have the resources to keep learning.
  • Motivate your staff: Providing training is one thing, but what about managing expectations? Staff need to be motivated to take on new roles and responsibilities and understand how this will benefit them and the company as a whole. In particular, sales staff on commission may need their pay structure adjusted depending on how their role changes.

Wrap up

Successfully implementing in-store fulfillment is a team effort. By giving your staff the tools to succeed, and by adopting industry-wide best practices, your business can also see the benefits.

The way retail and eCommerce trends are going, ship from store is going to remain a key factor of omnichannel strategies. With an effective team and the right fulfillment software, you can give your customers the service they expect and deserve. 

Ship from store eBook

Get your free copy now

Download our eBook, ‘Getting started with ship from store’ and discover how leveraging your existing stores as mini fulfilment hubs can speed up delivery and reduce the cost of shipping. It's filled with actionable insights to help you streamline your operations, enhance customer experience, and set a strong foundation for scalable growth.

Download the eBook

Ready to start automating?

Automate your entire shipping process while delivering better experiences for your customers.

Start 30-day free trial
Kimberley Hughes

Kimberley Hughes

Kimberley is Starshipit's Content Marketing Lead. Her days are filled with creative storytelling and innovative content strategies. Off the clock, she's an all-seasons iced coffee fan, a Catan strategist, and skincare explorer. For a peek into her world, find her on LinkedIn.

More from this Author