The pressure to embrace omnichannel is on. Now that Aussie retailers have acknowledged the demands of today’s consumers, they’re scrambling for the best solutions to accommodate them. Customers want it all — personalisation, optimal customer service and convenience. Integrating all systems for an omnichannel fulfilment strategy and omnichannel delivery is vital.
So how do you deliver (literally and figuratively) and keep costs down? How do you integrate your inventory — and choose the right software? What’s the best shipping and omnichannel delivery model for retailers? How do picking and packing fit in? And how can retailers keep returns costs down? We answer these questions here.
Moving to an omnichannel strategy will help your business find solutions to these issues. And it will dramatically benefit your business — not just the customer experience. Making the change to combine inventory, logistics and distribution channels is worth the effort. Once everything is centralised, the chaos can subside, and the benefits can significantly boost your bottom line.
Let’s look at what omnichannel order fulfilment processes and strategies mean (e.g., dispatch, shipping, delivery, etc.), and the meaning of logistics management in eCommerce and physical retail. Then, we’ll share vital tips to make sure these changes work for your business.
First, let’s be clear on exactly what omnichannel retail is.
What is omnichannel retail?
Omnichannel retail (or omnichannel commerce) is an integrated multichannel approach to sales that focuses on the customer, giving them a seamless customer experience from start to finish, regardless of the platform they choose.
The customer could be in-store, on a mobile phone, or at their desk. Wherever they are, their experience is seamless from start to finish.
And today, this omnichannel experience is more important than ever.
What is an omnichannel fulfilment strategy?
Omnichannel fulfilment is an integrated approach to retail that gives today’s consumers a unified experience for sales and returns across all channels. All inventory, logistics and distribution functions are integrated into one system.
In basic terms, ‘omnichannel retail’ is about integrating all systems to create a seamless experience for the customer (and increase the potential for more sales). ‘Omnichannel fulfilment’ is about the delivery model, from the moment the customer places an order to when it is picked, packed and shipped to the customer’s door.
“Omnichannel fulfilment’ is about the delivery, from the moment the customer places an order to when it arrives at the customer’s door.”
To excel at omnichannel fulfilment, retailers must integrate several systems and change some of their business operations.
For example, you must merge the logistics and distribution functions so all channels become available for dispatch. Then, (if appropriate), you can decentralise your fulfilment and use the nearest channel to the customer for dispatch.
Long-lasting benefits of an omnichannel fulfilment strategy
An integrated omnichannel fulfilment strategy benefits retailers by:
- Dramatically reducing shipping costs
- Satisfying consumer demand by providing more options and a much faster delivery time — both leading to more sales
- Helping the environment by minimising our environmental impact
Think of it as a win/win/win!
So, let’s look at how you can achieve this omnichannel fulfilment success.
Tips for a successful omnichannel fulfilment strategy
IMPORTANT: Successfully implementing this omnichannel fulfilment strategy requires the right e-commerce POS software. Try to achieve the below with manual processes like using spreadsheets, and you’ll end up with more headaches on your hands.
Retail Express has powerful eCommerce POS software that can automate dozens of processes, including fulfilment and delivery, making the following steps for omnichannel fulfilment success possible:
- Inventory is visible across all channels: Our software allows inventory levels to be displayed across all sales channels, maximising sales. So, if stock is not available at one location, the customer can see if it’s available at another. Likewise, to decentralised fulfilment, you’ll have live, centralised cloud visibility across all channels: eCommerce, physical stores and warehouses.
- Offer real-time freight visibility: Freight updates are increasingly necessary for today’s customers. According to Australia Post Delivery Experience Report 2021, consumers prefer certainty over speed; however, fast delivery still matters. Either way, customers want to be kept informed. With Retail Express, you can integrate with logistics app Shippit, so you can offer a seamless fulfilment experience including updates and accurate Estimated Times of Arrival (ETAs).
- Integrate your supply chains: Running various warehouses and distribution centres as independent silos can result in ongoing problems. Integrate these processes with the powerful retail inventory software, and you’ll enjoy far superior inventory control and more affordable delivery options.
- Automate stock volumes in physical stores: With our sophisticated retail inventory management software, you can predict what stock levels you need based on which items are selling - and at what rate. Consequently, you can replenish stock to keep the optimal amount in-store rather than overstuffing your store with unwanted products.
- Decentralised fulfilment: This allows you to offer an outstanding customer experience without compromising on price or eating away at your margins. But there’s more to it than that. Certain retail businesses such as fashion, homewares and pet stores — anything with lightweight items — can decentralise fulfilment and focus on a Ship from Store model, offering even more advantages.
Let’s look at this Ship from Store concept in detail below.
Decentralised fulfilment & Ship from Store
Retail businesses covering lightweight items (e.g., as opposed to furniture) can decentralise their fulfilment and offer Ship from Store. Ship from Store allows you to ship from your physical stores to offer rapid home delivery for your online customer orders. Instead of shipping from a centralised warehouse, you can decentralise your fulfilment and ship from a nearby store in the same region as your customer.
This allows you to differentiate yourself from competitors without competing on price or constantly eating away at your margins. After all, no one wants to compete in a race to the bottom. And with decentralised fulfilment, you don’t have to.
By implementing omnichannel Ship from Store options, you’ll offer shoppers the best customer experience that exceeds their expectations. It’s a quick and sustainable way to win market share — and your store benefits in several ways too.
Once again, successfully implementing this strategy requires the right software. The retailer must set up local stores within a specific region in a prioritisation order. Then, your software finds the best outlet that holds the stock to fulfil the order.
Ship from Store benefits
- Your customer gets their goods much faster (reduce delivery times) as you dispatch closer to the customer. By offering rapid home delivery by shipping from nearby stores, in combination with ‘live stock in-store’ and Click and Collect (aka Buy Online Pick Up In-Store – BOPIS), you give customers the full range of choices and convenience to get the goods as quickly as possible.
- By delivering such an outstanding customer experience, you’ll drive massive loyalty to your brand. This will lead to better branding and better market share as well.
- Dramatically reduce your freight costs. Dispatching from a local outlet is far better than shipping from a warehouse thousands of kilometres from the customer.
- You can potentially offer same-day delivery.
Decentralising your fulfilment in conjunction with Ship from Store does require you to have the appropriate systems on board. You need the right processes, fulfilment partners and employee training in place. But it’s all very possible — and well worth the effort.
Choosing the right eCommerce and omnichannel POS software is also vital. You’ll need software that can:
- Integrate online and in-store stock levels – This allows you to manage inventory in a unified way
- Location-based prioritisation – Recognise customer locations and then set up a workflow to allocate the stock from a list of prioritised stores within the region
- Alert store staff live at POS to fulfil the orders – This can happen in real time as orders come in
- Continuous replenishment – Ensure that the inventory is continuously and automatically replenished to stores to meet both online and offline (walk-in) demand
- Real-time reporting – Provide real-time management to ensure all locations are fulfilling orders
- Reassign orders to other stores – Have the opportunity to reassign orders to other stores with the available resources
Building up stock in your stores to offer these services also allows a significant benefit for the performance of each store. You can use this increase in stock levels for:
- Click and Collect orders (save money as no delivery speed is required)
- Savvy shoppers who do their research to check your live stock in-store before making a purchase
- Walk-in traffic – more stock is displayed and immediately available, offering better convenience and choice to store visitors