Viewpoint: Meeting the multi-channel challenge

Multi-channel selling has revolutionized the retail industry—and I’m not sure if you can find anyone in the market who would argue that statement.

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Multi-channel selling has revolutionized the retail industry—and I’m not sure if you can find anyone in the market who would argue that statement.

It has pushed logistics professionals in this vibrant sector to recalibrate everything—from transportation networks, distribution center location and design, utilization of materials handling equipment, to carrier and supplier partnerships. In fact, it would be safe to say that efforts to meet the multi-channel challenge have connected logistics operations to overall business strategy more than any other trend over the past 20 years.

The job of successfully managing inventory to be sold in store, online, through a catalog, or a hybrid of all three—with a variety of delivery options to meet any customer demand—rests solely on the backs of the logistics and supply chain team. But the only way savvy retailers are able to implement these complex systems is through a finely-woven line of communication that starts in the C-suite, snakes through marketing, procurement, and facilities planning, and then makes its way into the distribution center.

Just ask Peter Zedler, senior manager for transportation planning and support at Best Buy, how critical his role has been in the “big box” retailer’s multi-channel solution. Not only did Zedler’s team implement an innovative transportation and distribution plan to execute the multi-channel strategy at the company’s newly renovated stores, but the team was also vital in the execution of the remodeling process itself.

In fact, Zedler’s coordinated efforts with Best Buy’s logistics, properties, and global procurement teams to meet a variety of complicated fulfillment challenges has earned the retailer the 2012 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year Award. Logistics Management, in conjunction with this logistics and transportation advocacy organization, present this annual award to shippers that have demonstrated excellence in the execution of a logistics strategy designed to advance the company’s overall mission.

This is the second time in eight years that Best Buy has received the award, and marks the first time a company has won multiple times. “They’re
constantly innovating to stay competitive in an increasingly complex market,” NASSTRAC Executive Director Brian Everett told me during our selection process. “This new transportation program clearly demonstrates that a retailer, or any shipper for that matter, now has to think about more than just product movement throughout the supply chain.”

Best Buy’s winning success story, told by Contributing Editor John Schulz, unfolds on page 28.

“Customers can always order online, but often they like to go to the new stores to get a look at the products or actually put them to use,” says Schulz. “Once there, the customer can buy on site, but if they don’t have it in stock the store they can quickly pull it from the nearby warehouse for pick up that day or order it online to be shipped to the customer’s home. We take this stuff for granted these days, but it’s logistics innovation that’s making it possible.”


About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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