In the retail world, we know shoppers always want delivery to be freer and faster. But increasingly, shoppers are prioritizing optionality, too. They want choices about their delivery method and speed for each purchase — the freedom to decide when they get their order, how they get it and how much they want to pay.

In this environment, for retailers to compete, they need to give customers a full menu of delivery options to fit their preferences at the point of purchase, each and every time. And what they want can vary for every transaction. The same shopper will make different decisions for different purchases.

For some retailers, meeting that expectation can mean getting creative. By looking at the resources they already have, they can discover how to leverage them in new ways.

One key resource that some retailers are under-utilizing is their legacy warehouse and distribution center footprint. To enable faster last-mile delivery, retailers should consider using those spaces to get their products as close to the end customers as possible — not just to route orders to their brick-and-mortar stores or to an off-site sortation center.

For Some Retailers, BODFS Works

A lot of retailers have discovered the power of their store footprint, if they have one, in recent years. Buy-online, deliver-from-store (BODFS) is an easy way to get products closer to the end customer, basically transforming stores into mini-distribution centers. It’s a practical choice and, for many retailers, works incredibly well.

But for others, that may not be an ideal process. The business of picking, staging and directing orders from the store can sometimes muddy up operations, and funnel employees away from their primary job function: providing an excellent experience for in-store shoppers.

Plus, if there’s any volatility in the supply chain (such as the supply chain slowdowns we’ve seen recently), it can take longer for SKUs to make it all the way to store shelves. That can effectively knee-cap home delivery programs that rely on stores for distribution.

And more and more, retailers don’t have physical storefronts at all. For direct-to-consumer brands, the time and costs associated with traditional delivery via 3PLs can make local delivery extremely difficult and expensive.  

Legacy Warehouses: A Surprise Secret Weapon

In those cases, a retailer may want to consider looking further up in their supply chain for a solution. Retailers are increasingly rethinking the process of picking, packing, staging and delivering. Instead of “store to door,” we’re seeing more and more retailers choose “dock-to-door” deliveries — fulfilling online orders directly from the warehouse.

Choosing to move local delivery operations to the warehouse floor can amount to cutting out the middle man — or, more accurately, the middle mile. Retailers can eliminate two or three links from the traditional supply chain by deploying warehouse-to-consumer deliveries and bringing that fulfillment process in-house.

If you can bring sortation in-house, even better. Offsite sortation adds days to the delivery timeline, and brings in an unnecessary third-party partner, which adds not just time, but additional costs.

Of course, moving sorting and local delivery to warehouses comes with some challenges. Retailers will need to implement new processes, and allocate warehouse staff to manage sortation and delivery. But with the right tools and delivery partners, retailers can effectively implement a direct-from-warehouse delivery strategy with just 2-3 team members managing the process internally.

You don’t need to build the delivery infrastructure yourself, either. Creating an in-house fleet of vehicles requires the acquisition of costly fixed assets — and when demand spikes, those drivers will still be limited by the number of orders they can fit in their vehicles. That can slow delivery times and degrade the experience for the end customer.

Partnering with a crowd-sourced, on-demand delivery solution — one that can deliver straight from the warehouse — is a simple solve. They can flex up and down based on your customer demand, without forking out for a massive up-front investment in delivery vehicles and drivers.

It all boils down putting the customer first. Knowing how to meet customers where they are (and putting the infrastructure in place to support that) is what sets smart retailers apart in an environment where speed is everything.

Dennis Moon is COO at