For merchants with a physical store, managing inventory quantities is essential for generating revenue. You need enough stock on hand to sell products. If you don’t have stock on hand, you likely don’t make the sale.
But managing stock quantities can feel like a complicated (but necessary) balancing act—even more so with supply chain disruptions and lead times on the rise. On one hand, you don’t want to dedicate too much store square footage to storing inventory or overstock certain items. On the other, you don’t want to risk understocking and potentially losing sales.
That’s where Shopify’s ship-to-customer order fulfillment comes in handy. With it, you’re not limited to only selling the stock you have in store. Rather than lose a sale to stockouts, you can close sales on-the-spot and ship purchases to customers from your warehouse or another store location that carries the item.
Ship-to-customer is the easiest way for Shopify merchants to confidently dedicate more store space to displaying products while maximizing retail store conversions.
Table of Contents
What is ship-to-customer?
Ship-to-customer is a delivery method that lets shoppers browse and discover products in-store and have purchases sent to any shipping address. Ship-to-customer makes it easy for merchants to fulfill in-store orders from their warehouse and virtually eliminate the need to have inventory on hand for every product they sell.
With ship-to-customer, you're no longer limited to selling products you have in stock. Sell products in-store and ship them to customers from your warehouse or another store location with inventory.
For merchants, ship-to-customer ensures they can continue selling even when they’re out of stock. They can allocate less precious square footage to storing inventory, dedicate more store space to the showroom and displaying products, and send purchases to a customer’s shipping addresses from their warehouse.
Ship-to-customer is especially useful for merchants who sell large items, like furniture, or have limited square footage in their retail store’s stockroom. It’s also beneficial for merchants whose products have high turnover rates, making it challenging to continuously have inventory on hand.
For retail staff, ship-to-customer lets them easily sell products that they don’t have in-store but carry at another store location or in their warehouse. Rather than lose the sale altogether, they can look up inventory availability from the point-of-sale (POS) system, take payment in-store, and send an order confirmation and tracking information to the customer from the Shopify POS.
Rather than create another process altogether, ship-to-customer orders follow the same shipping logic as online orders and can be fulfilled the same way. All that makes ship-to-customer another powerful fulfillment tool that unifies online and physical stores without adding any operational complexity.
📌 GET STARTED: With Shopify, you can close sales for out-of-stock items and ship them to customers from your warehouse or another store with available inventory. To turn on buy in-store, ship-to-customer fulfillment, go to your Shopify admin.
What are the benefits of ship-to-customer?
Ship-to-customer ensures your store conversions stay high—even when you run out of inventory. When the transaction is complete, ship-to-customer sales are attributed to the physical store where the sale occurred and the store associate who placed the order.
Let’s dive into the benefits ship-to-customer offers both you and your customers:
How ship-to-customer benefits merchants
Prevent stockouts from blocking sales
Usually, stockouts can be disastrous for a retail store’s revenue. After all, if you have no products—how can you make sales?
With ship-to-customer, merchants can rest easy knowing that, if their store runs out of stock, they can still make sales and ship the items to customers from either their warehouse or another store location with inventory of that item.
Increase store conversions
Brands like Allbirds use buy in-store, ship-to-customer to keep store conversions high, despite carrying limited products and variants.
In fact, Allbirds uses ship-to-customer to transform its store into endless aisles. If a customer arrives at one of its store locations seeking an uncommon product—like a yellow pair of wool runners in size 14—an Allbirds store associate can process the transaction on the spot, take payment, and communicate with its warehouse to ship the shoes directly to the shopper.
Ship-to-customer allows for a much higher conversion than if we tell them to go back home and order it online.
Carry less stock on hand at stores
Merchants use ship-to-customer to maximize their stockroom space. For example, furniture brand Kroft reserves most of its stockroom space for smaller items. While larger items, like cabinets, are displayed in the showroom, spare inventory is kept at the warehouse.
"With ship-to-customer, I can take orders in-store, fulfill the order from our warehouse, and ship the order directly to customers," explains Founder Dustin Kroft.
“That’s huge for us because we’re not always going to have stock on hand—especially for larger items that take up a lot of space in our back store—but can still transact in-store and offer customers next-day delivery.”
Ship-to-customer helps merchants make the most of their square footage and embrace showrooming without losing sales to stock shortages.
Download the Future of Retail report
When we asked retailers where they’re investing to improve their in-store experience, the most popular answer was showrooming, with 46% of brands saying they’ll be investing in it throughout the year. Download the Future of Retail report to learn more about how to operate a thriving retail showroom.Get your copy
Sell at pop-ups and events
Many DTC merchants start exploring physical retail with pop-up shops. When looking for a space to lease, you may find yourself having to choose between display space or stockroom space. What’s more important?
Visible inventory not on display can make a pop-up shop or kiosk at an event feel cluttered. If your retail space doesn’t have a stockroom, ship-to-customer ensures you can dedicate more square footage to displaying products and ensuring shoppers discover them.
Attribute revenue to point-of-sale locations
More shoppers are showrooming than ever—that is, discovering products in-store and buying them online afterward. For retailers, it’s nearly impossible to attribute their retail store as the initial point of product discovery for purchases that eventually happen online. The experience is disconnected both for shoppers and merchants.
With ship-to-customer, merchants get a more complete view of their retail store’s impact in sales reports. Sales are attributed to the store location where the transaction was completed rather than the online store.
With ship-to-customer, sales reports show how much revenue your store really makes.
Reward store staff for sales
When store staff close a sale using ship-to-customer, they're credited with making the sale in Shopify POS staff reports. This gives you a more complete picture of store staff’s performance.
Staff reports in Shopify POS count the sales they make using ship-to-customer toward important performance metrics, like average order value, items per order, and gross sales.
If you use a commission wage structure, staff can use ship-to-customer to make more sales and get rewarded. Review your staff reports and give kudos with confidence knowing they reflect the complete scope of your staff’s performance.
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How ship-to-customer benefits customers
Nearly 53% of consumers are likely to look at a product in-store and buy online. The increasing popularity of showrooming is due to the irreplaceable experience of discovering products in-store, mixed with the convenience of ecommerce order fulfillment.
Reliable inventory availability
Shopify POS comes with delivery options that help serve shoppers who prefer discovering in-store better—whether they’re ready to buy or need more time before making a decision.
If they want to buy the product on the spot, use ship-to-customer to close the sale and ship the order from your warehouse. If the shopper isn’t ready to transact, email the customer a unique checkout link pre-loaded with the items they were interested in buying.
💡 PRO TIP: Use Shopify POS email carts to recover abandoned store sales and ensure showroomers buy from you rather than competitors. Add items to customers’ virtual cart, send their wish list by email, and credit your store for making the sale—even if it happens online.
More convenient order fulfillment
Not all shoppers want to leave a store with products in hand. For example, if they’re purchasing a large piece of furniture, ship-to-customer helps them get their order without needing a vehicle or arranging transportation. They can simply find a product that matches their needs in-store, pay for it, and have it delivered to their shipping address.
If your customer is a tourist, opting for ship-to-customer ensures their luggage weight respects airline restrictions. They don’t need to pack items in their suitcase and can have the order shipped the same way an online order would.
How ship-to-customer works
Let’s go over how ship-to-customer works in a few simple steps:
- Add items to the customer's cart
- Collect customer shipping information
- Select ship to customer
- Select shipping method
- Process the transaction
- Fulfill the order
1. Add items to the customer’s cart
Once the shopper finds products they want to buy, store associates can add those items to their cart in Shopify POS, just like they would for a traditional sale.
💡 PRO TIP: If the product is out of stock at your store, select View Details to see if it is in stock at another location or warehouse and available to ship.
2. Collect customer shipping information
Once products are added to the cart, you need to add the customer’s contact information to the order. This ensures the customer receives a shipping confirmation and notifications on the order’s status.
If the customer already has a customer profile, you can search for it in Shopify POS using their name. If the customer doesn’t already have a customer profile, create one, collect their contact information, and associate it with the order by clicking Add to cart.
💡 PRO TIP: When you create customer profiles, we recommend collecting the customer’s name, email address, and shipping address. This makes it quicker to associate their customer profile to an order.
3. Select ship to customer
Once the customer’s profile has been associated with the order, store staff can select ship-to-customer from Shopify POS' home screen.
The primary shipping address in the customer’s profile will automatically be used to fulfill the order. If the customer wants the order shipped to another address, though, you can modify the shipping address for that order.
4. Select shipping method
Next, you need to select a shipping method. Shipping methods and rates are pulled from the shipping profiles you set up for your online store.
Ask the customer which shipping method they want to use, and select the option. If you want to offer a custom shipping rate, like free shipping, you can do so by selecting Custom shipping rate.
📌 GET STARTED: Before offering ship-to-customer, ensure you’ve set up shipping profiles in Shopify admin. The shipping locations, rates, and methods you set up will be selectable when you select ship-to-customer, making checkout quicker.
5. Process the transaction
When the customer is ready to pay, you just need to proceed to checkout and take payment like you normally would to complete the sale.
6. Fulfill the order
After you complete the sale, ship-to-customer orders are marked as unfulfilled in Shopify admin. Since the order was not fulfilled in-person, you can fulfill the order the same way you would fulfill any online order that requires shipment.
When a ship-to-customer order is processed, it’s marked as Unfulfilled in the Orders section of Shopify admin and can be fulfilled the same way regular online orders are.
Tips for offering ship-to-customer
Now that you know how ship-to-customer works, let’s cover some tips to make using ship-to-customer a great experience for both your customers and your staff.
- Determine which store locations will fulfill orders
- Set up shipping profiles
- Add a ship-to-customer tile to your smart grid
- Make a habit of creating customer profiles
1. Determine which store locations will fulfill orders
Ship-to-customer follows the same order fulfillment logic as online orders. With that in mind, it’s important that you determine which of your store locations or warehouses you want to ship online orders from.
The store locations or warehouses you set up to fulfill online orders will be the same that fulfill ship-to-customer orders.
Get started by first setting up fulfillment locations in Shopify admin. If there’s a particular store or warehouse that carries the bulk of your inventory, consider setting it as your top priority fulfillment location.
💡 PRO TIP: You may want the inventory at certain store locations to be reserved exclusively for in-person sales. In this case, prevent that store location from fulfilling online orders from Shopify admin.
2. Set up shipping profiles
Shipping profiles help you set shipping rates for specific products and charge different amounts based on where you’re shipping to and from. You can even set up shipping zones and rates for each store location or warehouse that fulfills ship-to-customer orders.
By default, each Shopify store is created with one general shipping profile that contains general shipping rates. But if you have multiple locations in different countries or regions, we recommend creating custom shipping profiles to ensure shipping costs and a product’s regional availability are accurate.
💡 PRO TIP: If you have multiple store locations, consider setting up shipping zones to specify which regions those stores will fulfill orders for. This ensures customers get the cheapest and fastest order fulfillment available.
3. Add a ship-to-customer tile to your smart grid
To speed up your store’s checkout process for ship-to-customer orders, consider customizing the Shopify POS smart grid.
Adding a ship-to-customer tile to your smart grid helps store associates select it as a delivery method in fewer clicks and check out customers quicker.
4. Make a habit of creating customer profiles
Shopify’s customer profiles are the best way to save shoppers’ names and contact information.
This is especially useful for ship-to-customer because, rather than manually adding their contact information and shipping address, you can add their customer profile to the order and those details are pulled automatically.
💡 PRO TIP: Customer profiles also store shoppers’ online and in-store purchase history, average transaction value, total lifetime value, and more. Use customer profiles to build segmented email lists and fuel your retention marketing.
How to set up ship-to-customer in Shopify
Now that you know what ship-to-customer is and how it helps you keep selling even when you’re out of stock, it’s time to set it up for your Shopify store. Read this Help Center article for a step-by-step walkthrough.
How to fulfill ship-to-customer orders from Shopify POS
For a visual walkthrough of how to fulfill ship-to-customer orders in Shopify POS, watch this tutorial video.
Use ship-to-customer to make sales even when you're out of stock
One of the biggest challenges retailers with physical stores face is inventory management. Ensuring your store has enough inventory on hand to fulfill demand is essential for making sales.
But with ship-to-customer, merchants can worry less about managing inventory between multiple stores and warehouses, and focus more on what matters: their customers.
Ship-to-customer helps you get customers the products they want without having to wait, while helping merchants dedicate more of their store’s square footage to displaying products rather than storing them. The result is a unified shopping experience that blends the experience of discovering products in-person with the convenience of having them shipped to your home.
Sell online and in-person with Shopify
Shopify POS is the easiest way to unify ecommerce and store sales and data. Have all the tools you need to manage inventory, track performance, understand customers, and sell everywhere in one easy-to-understand back office.