Written by David Renwick
As a retailer, chances are you’re always thinking of ways to improve the efficiency of your business – whether that’s a better setup for your Shopify store, or changing the courier mix you rely on to get orders out the door.
When it comes to shipping, there’s one model that could seriously change the game for retailers – ship from store.
Ship from store is growing in popularity due to two related factors: a growing eCommerce market (it's forecast to make up 24.5 percent of the total retail sales market by 2025) and traditional brick and mortar stores continuing to prove a popular option for customers.
This unique shipping model could be perfect if you’re selling through eCommerce channels but also have a network of physical stores. Let's explore why.
Ship from store is a shipping model where sellers use inventory held in physical stores to fulfil sales from their eCommerce channels (like Shopify).
Basically, when a customer places an order through an online store, that order is sent to the store that’s closest to the customer and fulfilled there instead of a central warehouse. This means less lead time and – potentially – lower transportation costs.
You can think of ship from store as a network of tiny warehouses or distribution centres.
No shipping model is perfect. While ship from store offers several benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider:
Needing to fulfil online orders in the same location where you serve in-person customers can cause disruptions. For example, customers in store may not get as much attention from staff fulfilling online orders, and online orders may see delays as staff are busy running the store. A user-friendly shipping platform (like Starshipit) can resolve this problem by making it easy to print shipping labels, process returns and more.
Maintaining inventory levels across stores and warehouses adds to the complexity – but can be solved with a robust inventory management system. Of course, not all retailers use inventory management systems, meaning you’ll need to check whether your platform supports ship from store (like Shopify and Magento).
There’s also the fact that you’ll need a network of retail stores to start this process in the first place.
Back in 2020, Target announced that digital sales had grown 141 percent in Q1 and 195 percent in Q2 – with the share of orders fulfilled from stores growing in turn.
Just five years prior in 2015, Target was shipping 20-25 percent of eCommerce orders from stores. By 2020, that share was up to 75-90 percent.
But why the shift to this model? It was largely due to the pandemic, and a need to decrease risk. Large, centralised warehouses – where worker proximity is unavoidable – meant potential for disruptions. Fulfilling online orders from stores could reduce this risk substantially.
Now, Target continues to rely on the model as a way of getting orders out to customers as fast as possible.
Aussie fashion giant Lorna Jane is one retailer that found great success with ship from store. By “igniting the stock pool” and linking up all stores under one eCommerce platform, Lorna Jane was able to simplify the process of shipping orders to customers.
Starshipit was a key tool here, as it gave staff in every Lorna Jane store an easy shipping system to process orders. Prior to using Starshipit, staff would have to handwrite shipment details on Australia Post shipping bags. With Starshipit, Lorna Jane retail staff can print orders off directly and stick them to orders.Read the full case study
Small retailers often find the ship from store model useful as they won't typically have a distribution centre, instead using a few retail stores to ship from store.
In a nutshell, you should ship from store based the following calculation:
You also need to consider:
When you introduce inventory held in stores alongside inventory held in a central warehouse or distribution centre, but you’re selling it through the same online channels, you will need to think about how you manage your inventory.
Some eCommerce platforms (like Shopify) provide multi-location functionality out of the box, which provide simple inventory management across multiple locations.
As you grow, you may want to investigate a dedicated inventory management solution that can help you track, pick and pack stock so that when you sell a coffee cup in store, you don’t also sell that same unit of inventory online.
If a customer orders a coffee cup and an espresso machine, you’ll need to determine the most cost-effective way to fulfil those orders.
Wondering how ship from store works in practice? Here are the typical steps:
One of the hardest parts of the ship from store process is upskilling staff on the systems necessary to print shipping labels book couriers. Starshipit eliminates this complexity by serving as the smart, automated link between your online store and your physical stores.
In store, staff simply need to access the user-friendly Starshipit dashboard on a computer, where they can print multiple orders (even using different couriers) with a few clicks. Then, Starshipit passes the relevant information across to your couriers and updates the source system with tracking data and order status.
From a warehouse or head office perspective you can use the search from your master account, enter an order number, and see which store has been assigned to fulfil it.
This makes it easy for your centralised customer service teams to answer incoming customer queries, such as “wheres my order”. Starshipit can assign orders to store accounts using rules (based on post code, for example).
Whether you decide to implement the ship from store model or use a more centralised approach, a powerful automation shipping solution can eliminate the admin and save you minutes – and money – on every order.
While every stage of the eCommerce journey is important, it’s shipping that has a lasting effect on your customers. Get it right, and you’ll have loyal customers who won’t be afraid to recommend your business and return time and time again.
Try Starshipit free for 30 days. It plugs right into the platforms you already depend on every day, and our friendly, local support team are on hand to help you through every stage of the setup process.Try for free