As e-commerce and online sales continue to be a significant trend in customer purchasing patterns businesses have realized a need to adjust and rethink the way that they fulfill orders for customer. Customers have now become accustomed to shopping the way they want and have the same expectation of service across all channels and brands.
As a result, omnichannel fulfillment has become an important part for brands and businesses if they want to have continued success given today’s digital savvy consumer.
With omnichannel fulfillment becoming more important let’s take a look at what omnichannel fulfillment is, how this strategy can prove advantageous, and how the challenges it might present can be overcome with the right approach.
Omnichannel fulfillment is a centralized approach to your order fulfillment across multiple sales channels, which would include brick and mortar retail stores, online sales, and other sales channels (I.E. direct rep sales, third-party etc). All orders and inventory management from receipt, picking, packing, and shipping are centrally managed for all channels.
This type of fulfillment method thus requires inventory and order data to be synced across the various channels so that visibility and a single source of truth for inventory and orders can be achieved. To achieve this requires the right technology solutions in place and which we’ll touch on later.
Omnichannel thus provides businesses with an efficient and organized way to manage orders and inventory across all their sales channels. It also enables businesses to provide customers with multiple purchasing experiences and allows the customer to use the channel that is most convenient or comfortable to them, while guaranteeing the same consistency in service.
When a business offers customers multiple avenues to interact with and purchase from businesses are more likely to increase sales with every new channel and encourage repeat business. In a competitive market or industry where simply grabbing people’s attention can be difficult this can prove to be a difference maker.
Omnichannel fulfillment allows improved efficiency for your order fulfillment process. This increases accuracy as the inventory management and fulfillment becomes streamlined. Whether the order comes from a retail location, online, or sales rep, each party has visibility of product availability. The warehouse or fulfillment center can then process each order seamlessly no matter the channel and ensure that it is done flawlessly.
In turn this boosts customer satisfaction. How so? Say for example let's say three customer orders from different channels purchase the same product. Unfortunately, because the channels aren’t sharing the same inventory data that the fulfillment center has you end up only having enough product to fulfill two of the orders. This can be frustrating for a customer, especially if they’ve pre-paid or made commitments based on wrong information. By having omnichannel fulfillment you guarantee that customers have the right information when they’re purchasing. As well because orders are centrally fulfilled turnaround times are shortened meaning they can receive their orders faster. In a digital age customers have come to expect a certain amount of expediency with their orders. Omnichannel fulfillment will keep customers satisfied and in turn make them more likely to come back.
As we’ve mentioned data sharing is a core principle of omnichannel fulfillment. This not only makes your fulfillment process more efficient but also helps your business to generate meaningful reports. With omnichannel you can effectively compare which channels are most successful and why. How much inventory you require to fulfill the needs of each channel. Which products are more successful according to channel and so forth. By having a central point for your data and order fulfillment you can gain clear insights on your entire business, make comparisons, and take informed decisions.
Of course, omnichannel does present some challenges. One of the primary challenges is inventory management across multiple channels. Say you have three different channels and 500 units of a particular product that you’re offering through these channels. Would you would want to tell each channel that there are 500 units of product available? This could cause a situation where overselling occurs with the result being that you have no more stock available across these channels. Instead, you’ll want to allocate inventory for each channel accordingly. Of course, determining how much you allocate for each channel may present its own challenge, where one outsells the others creating a shortage for one channel and idle stock for the others.
This type of challenge, as well as reporting, and your fulfillment process can be supported with the right technology. One of the prime technologies you will want in place is a WMS to support your omnichannel fulfillment. With a robust WMS you will be able to manage your inventory across all your channels, provide real-time inventory data, receive and communicate customer order information, manage orders and shipping, allocate inventory for each channel, as well as establish your warehouse and order fulfillment processes and work flows. Furthermore, the data your WMS gathers and maintains will create a clear single source of truth across your entire organization, and allow you to report on your fulfillment activities concisely and accurately. Akatia’s WAM solution for Salesforce has been developed with this type of functionality in mind and will allow you to manage your omnichannel fulfillment successfully and put into practice the principles we’ve outlined.
Omnichannel fulfillment has a great deal of advantages for businesses that have or are looking to offer more purchasing channels to their customers. As our world continues to digitally transform customers will continue to expect different experiences and services from the businesses they purchase from. By leveraging the right methods and solutions your business can thrive as it seeks to take advantage of these new trends and continue to satisfy your customer’s needs.
If you’re looking to change the way you approach your order fulfillment, warehouse, and inventory management, simply click the link below to get in contact with us. We’d be happy to speak with you!