Retailers redefine digital fulfillment with TikTok, Postmates partnerships
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

Of all the rapid transformations taking place across industries this past year, retail’s almost total migration to the digital realm in 2020 was probably the easiest to anticipate. What continues to surprise, however, is how creatively retailers are incorporating their brands and products into other rapidly evolving (and digital) commercial arenas.

Shopify, for instance, recently announced a major partnership with TikTok, the social media platform that is nearly ubiquitous among Gen Z (and growing in popularity among nearly every other age group).

TikTok will start allowing “shoppable” video content that will give Shopify’s more than 1 million U.S. merchants access to a TikTok for Business integration with their stores. The native integration (combined with TikTok’s algorithmic chops and emphasis on user engagement) will likely boost Shopify’s profile among independent merchants and consumers alike, providing a necessary alternative (if not competitor) to online shopping behemoth Amazon.

Retail’s recent digital transformation goes well beyond buying channels and into the fulfillment process too, as more than 50 brands recently partnered with Postmates, an app traditionally known for food delivery, to create virtual storefronts in a program being piloted in Los Angeles beginning this week.

The program isn’t dissimilar to your standard food delivery app: Users in the vicinity of a brick-and-mortar can choose among a menu of available products from the store, and a driver will pick up the product and deliver it (ideally within the hour). This partnership launches as in-store shopping has seen a 14 percent annual decline, and ahead of a shopping season that is forecast to see rampant delays in delivery as record numbers of consumers buy online.

Apple recently announced their own creative solution of leveraging under-utilized retail outposts to compensate for expected strains on their traditional e-commerce infrastructure ahead of the new iPhone 12 launch. Similarly, in-store inventory will be up for grabs via online channels in both the Apple and Postmates scenarios, posing a challenge for retailers in ensuring those who do shop at a physical store this holiday season aren’t left disappointed.

“Trust” now primary factor in most buying decisions

A misalignment between digital and physical channels can be devastating for brand perception at a time when a brand’s “image” has never been more important to their success. A recent Salesforce survey found that currently 56 percent of consumers believe brands are misaligned across departments when it comes to delivering on digital promises, which can be a big factor in customer loyalty. The same survey also found that 82 percent of respondents now value a brand’s trustworthiness more today than they did a year ago, signaling that consumers are as discerning as ever.

This all poses challenges for retailers on multiple fronts, as they must strike a balance between keeping their traditional brick-and-mortar assets on life support while the world weathers a pandemic and optimizing their strategies to focus more on digital.

The lynchpin to all of this is fluid connectivity across all touchpoints—physical and digital—that consumers leverage to interact with the brand, as well as the different areas of the business that need to align to deliver a comprehensive customer experience. This requires active and passive visibility across the entire retail network, from the corporate data center to the warehouse to the brick-and-mortar location, all to ensure performance issues don’t arise that could derail customer experience.


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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: delivery , rapid transformation , enterprise network , enterprise WAN , enterprise IT , Gen Z , Postmates , TikTok , Shopify , digital transformation , retail delivery , retail fulfillment , online retail , retail transformation , retail , enterprise IT