Retailers outsourcing orders directly to suppliers is known as dropshipping. By doing this, they can expand their product range without the cost of holding items in stock.

Wincanton has partnered with Virtualstock, a SaaS (Software as a Service) business, to incorporate its seamless dropship option, The Edge, into its own eFulfilment solution to provide an even more complete service.

The eCommerce marketplace is more competitive than ever. Consumers know what they want and how they want it; which means retailers need to go to new lengths to attract and, crucially, retain customers.

One way to stand out is to make the shopping experience as simple and convenient as possible. Retailers can achieve this by offering an extensive product assortment that supports seasonal changes to reflect changing consumer demand. Think garden furniture in the spring or Christmas decorations during winter.

This sounds simple, but doing so presents two major challenges for retailers; storage of an extended inventory and getting these goods into the hands of consumers when they want them.

To help our customers overcome these issues, we’ve partnered with dropshipping experts, Virtualstock. Their sophisticated SaaS platform offers access to a marketplace of pre-approved suppliers, allowing retailers to expand their product range without the need to store additional goods.

Virtualstock’s platform integrates with Wincanton’s full eFulfilment managed service; think full access to a wealth of additional goods customers would otherwise go to another brand to purchase, as well as storage, order processing and dispatch. All of this is managed in one place, helping to ensure the highest level of customer experience.

We spoke to Nick Brett, Head of Partner Enablement at Virtualstock, to discuss how dropshipping (or Supplier to Consumer) is changing the world of eCommerce and how the service companies like his own are helping to provide a full eFulfilment solution.

Partner focus Q&A

What do you see as the big factor behind the dropshipping boom in the past few years?

The retail market is evolving beyond traditional bricks and mortar. This is driving retailers to look at innovative solutions to raise sales, broaden range and reduce costs.

Dropship is one of the prime mechanisms to do this. In an ever more connected world this is very achievable with dropshipping platforms like Virtualstock’s The Edge, as we discuss in our free to read online guide.

What are the biggest challenges retailers face around dropshipping in 2019 and beyond?

Customer satisfaction is one. How can a retailer ensure a dropship order has the same visibility as a ‘stocked’ order?

Connectivity and data is another. Each supplier has different stock and inventory data models, so it’s a huge load on a retailer to understand, connect to, and maintain these multiple connections.

Order visibility is a challenge too. Once an order has been sent to a supplier, what’s its status? When was it shipped? Was it delivered successfully? How has the dropship supplier performed over time? These questions are hard for a retailer to answer when engaging with an extended community of suppliers.

As an S2C service supplier, how does Virtualstock select and manage suppliers?

We recommend suppliers for a retailer initially based on the requirements set out by the retailer. As we are the ‘single point of truth’ during the order lifecycle, we then produce supplier compliance reporting to provide the retailer with visibility of how effective a supplier is in fulfilling orders and maintaining Service Level Agreements. This allows us to potentially recommend high scoring suppliers to retailers.

How can the returns process be managed through dropshipping?

Returns is a complicated problem to solve. But, as Virtualstock provides visibility of the entire order lifecycle, we can work with retailers to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. We’re able to manage the entire journey, using our systems to make sure the retailer is updated at every step.

Can dropshipping effectively integrate with ‘bricks and mortar’ retail?

Absolutely. When dropshipping is executed correctly, the buying experience for the customer will be seamless and identical to an in-stock online experience. Dropship items can be in the same order as stocked items, and even ‘staged’ to a local distribution centre to arrive at the same time as stocked items with the customer. To fully take advantage of a retailer’s bricks and mortar network, dropship orders can be routed for delivery directly to stores, providing the shopper with flexible click and collect delivery options.

What are the big evolutions and steps forward in dropshipping that you’re expecting in the near future?

The art of the probable for dropshipping will move past a single connected retailer/supplier ecosystem to a much wider interconnected set of suppliers, products, marketplaces and services, available for consumption across SaaS platforms, like Virtualstock’s The Edge.


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