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Omnichannel fulfilment: It is here to stay.

Today consumers are becoming more demanding. They want a convenient, quick, and efficient shopping experience with the least stress. Leading retailers and service providers are responding. They are providing more channel choices, faster deliveries, and highly flexible solutions, using an omnichannel strategy.

What is omnichannel fulfilment?

Omnichannel fulfilment means bringing every option offered to the consumer within one seamless process. The sales channels will include both offline and online solutions. Bricks-and-mortar stores will continue alongside e-commerce sites, apps, and social media platforms. A customer may buy from a store, order via a website or app, and choose to have it delivered or collect it from the store. Omnichannel has its own terminology:
  • BOPIS - Buy online, pick up in-store.
  • BORIS - Buy online, return in-store.
  • SFS - Ship from Store
  • Click-and-Collect.

The importance of omnichannel in the retail sector

An omnichannel strategy delivers a seamless shopping experience using different sales and communication channels. With omnichannel solutions, every process is interconnected. This is significant in ensuring a uniform communication experience for the consumer. For the seller, the key is to streamline inbound and outbound flows of goods across the different channels. Omnichannel also drives customer retention, more sales, and improves supply chain productivity and profitability. Multi channels are not the same, they operate independently of each other without information sharing.

The role of technology

To implement an omnichannel strategy, companies with more than one warehouse or store need logistics-specific software to organise their operations, control inventory and determine the most cost-effective method of fulfilment per customer order.

Systems and data

For omnichannel fulfilment, you will need a warehouse management system (WMS) that keeps track of stock in real time. Inventory information must be shared between stores, warehouses, and distribution centres to prevent stockouts or overstocking. Real-time data interconnectivity is vital. You will also require a robust order management system (OMS) for efficient picking, packing, and shipping from the optimum location.

AI and augmented reality

AI-based forums, chatbots and augmented reality (AR) innovations are becoming the norm. Cosmetic retailer Sephora has an AR marketing strategy designed to boost customers’ confidence in its products. Sephora provides customers with in-depth views of different makeup products, colours, and shades as they appear on different skin tones. It has also fully integrated online marketing with its mobile app, allowing customers to get all tutorial videos, beauty news, fashion trend information, and new product launches on their phones. Timberland has pioneered an (AR) campaign that allows customers to photograph themselves “trying on” clothes by projecting their faces onto a digital mannequin.

The benefits of an omnichannel strategy

  • Better order fulfilment efficiency with more options for cost savings
  • Increased customer satisfaction and retention through more flexibility
  • Enhanced brand image
  • Accurate customer data providing insights.

Challenges in omnichannel fulfilment

To manage omnichannel fulfilment in-house you will need the right systems and resources. Without the full visibility of inventory and the ability to synchronise stock levels across all channels, there is the risk of either overstocking or stockouts. Lack of technical expertise, access to staff and time pressures are the reasons many retailers choose to outsource their fulfilment. Boots, the UK’s leading pharmacy retailer, has integrated its omnichannel marketing strategy through partnerships with major tech companies. ASDA is a supermarket chain that has seen significant success with an outsourced omnichannel marketing approach. ASDA has integrated its website, mobile app, and physical stores to provide interrelated shopping experiences. A hybrid solution may work for you: fulfil some orders yourself and partner with an outsourced third party to process orders from a specific channel.

How to successfully implement an omnichannel strategy

  1. Understand your market and customer expectations: Research your target customers and their buying behaviours and preferences.
  2. Systems and technologies: Understand your current resource capacity including technical expertise. Invest in solutions that communicate with real-live data including inventory management, order fulfilment, and customer relationship management.
  3. Enhance visibility into your supply chain by using advanced analytics, IoT devices, and real-time tracking.
  4. Offer various fulfilment options, such as ship-from-store, pick-up in-store, same-day delivery and alternative returns processes to suit the consumer’s needs.
  5. Provide a consistent and seamless experience across all channels, ensuring that customers can transition between online and offline channels effortlessly.
  6. Implement communication tools that allow customers to engage with your brand in a way they choose.
  7. Collaborate with suppliers, distributors, and logistics partners to streamline communication and coordination.
  8. Train employees to understand the omnichannel strategy and provide them with the tools and knowledge to deliver a quality customer experience.
  9. Monitor and analyse order fulfilment data against metrics to identify processes to optimise. Collect and analyse feedback from customers and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement.
Omnichannel is not a fad. It is a way to increase sales and introduce flexibility into your business. Implementing an omnichannel supply chain strategy requires commitment, investment, and a continuous improvement mindset. Regularly assess performance and adjust to stay agile in a rapidly changing business environment. Omnichannel requires the seamless coordination of all supply chain processes. Not clear on how WMS and technology solutions can streamline workflows and fulfilment. SCCG can help you build the best strategy for your business. Our consultants can provide tailored recommendations to help you, minimising cost without compromising the needs of your customers.   Contact our supply chain consultants

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