Omnichannel Fulfillment: How to Deliver Your Best Across Every Channel

October 6, 2022

Rachel Go

Omnichannel Fulfillment v1 omnichannel fulfillment

To meet customer needs at any time or place, businesses around the world are embracing an omnichannel approach.

This shift is necessary as consumers no longer shop on a single channel but instead go through various touch points before purchasing.

For instance, 55% of shoppers research online (e.g., visiting your direct-to-consumer [DTC] store or price-checking on Amazon) to see what’s locally available, then buy their desired item from a physical store.

By selling on multiple channels and accommodating those behaviors, you offer customers more convenience and give your business a huge advantage.

Omnichannel ecommerce is here to stay, and the statistics support its growing popularity:

In theory, it’s a winning sales strategy. In practice, though, omnichannel retail involves complex logistics, order routing, and inventory intelligence.

With the move toward multichannel touchpoints, omnichannel fulfillment has become a game-changer. The big question is how to implement and execute it successfully.

In this article, we’ll cover:

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What is omnichannel ecommerce?

“Omnichannel fulfillment is the process of fulfilling orders for a product or service over multiple channels. Omnichannel fulfillment allows us as retailers to get our products in front of customers, at the right time, through the right channel.”

– Arthur Worsley, founder, The Art of Living

First, let’s cover the basics: Omnichannel selling (sometimes referred to as “multichannel selling”) leverages multiple sales channels to expand and boost your brand’s reach.

It allows shoppers to find you anywhere they look.

This could take the form of a merchant who sells primarily on their DTC store but also has storefronts on Amazon, Walmart, and social media, as well as brick-and-mortar locations so their customers can shop where they prefer.

You can implement multichannel logistics in many ways.

Offering a BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store) option lets you fulfill an online order from your retail store.

Alternatively, you could employ a prep company to restock your Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) inventory and a third-party logistics (3PL) to tackle your DTC orders.

Other examples of an omnichannel fulfillment strategy in action include:

  • One of your retail locations runs out of inventory, but you have stock at another nearby store. You can restock by sending items from one store to the other.
  • Your Amazon store is low on items A and B. You can restock item A from your own warehouse. On the other hand, Item B is out of stock there, but your partner 3PL can resupply its inventory.
  • If a DTC order arrives and there’s inventory in your warehouse, retail stores, and your 3PL’s warehouse, you fulfill it based on which one’s closest to the customer.

Benefits of an omnichannel fulfillment strategy

warehouse forklift omnichannel fulfillment
Image: Unsplash

Omnichannel fulfillment brings many advantages.

Chris Roth, founder and CEO of Highline Wellness, states:

“…the efficiency and impactfulness of our customer service have also improved significantly after optimizing our omnichannel process. We’ve also gained the ability to address specific customer needs in real-time, exponentially boosting our customer retention rate, our Net Promoter Score, and brand awareness across social media.”

With this in mind, we’ve outlined some of the top benefits of adopting an omnichannel approach.

Diversify your logistics

“The benefits of omnichannel fulfillment for us are twofold. First, it allows us to reach more customers and expand our sales channels without investing in additional inventory or infrastructure. Second, it gives us the flexibility to change our fulfillment strategy if one inventory source becomes constrained or unavailable.”

– Tom McSherry, owner & business manager, Smuggs Underwear

Omnichannel ecommerce builds business resilience.

Having multiple sources of inventory and shipping options ensures you have backups at the ready.

If one of them falls through, you can default to another without being late or interrupting sales—and your customers will be none the wiser.

You can expand your fulfillment methods based on the sales channels you want to run, which makes your logistics more robust.

For instance, if you have a physical store, you could leverage it as a distribution hub and fulfill orders within its reach.

Meanwhile, in-store and curbside pickup unlock sales in geographies your warehouses may not cover.

Another example of diversifying fulfillment is Amazon sellers using FBA to offer Prime badge shipping and let 3PLs take care of non-Amazon orders.

Unify your logistics assets

“You can use existing resources to deliver your product or service more cost-effectively, which makes it easier to offer more efficient services to your customers and enhance their satisfaction with your brand.”

– Lisa Richards, CEO and creator, Candida Diet

Each location where you hold stock is a fulfillment asset, including your warehouses, retail stores, and partner warehouses.

An omnichannel fulfillment strategy harnesses all of them to unify and optimize every process, from deliveries to returns.

Improve the customer experience

“The main benefit we’ve realized from omnichannel fulfillment includes increased consumer satisfaction because customers can access our products conveniently using their most preferred channel.”

– Chris Roth, founder & CEO, Highline Wellness

In addition to more reliable on-time deliveries, omnichannel fulfillment gives your customers greater choice.

Shoppers may prefer to buy items online and pick them up in-store, or they may want to return an item at a pickup location instead of shipping it back.

Offering a multitude of delivery and return options results in a more satisfactory buyer experience.

In the long term, this produces loyal customers and strengthens your follower base.

Make your team happier

“The gains from improved customer service and experience have also had a tremendous impact on job satisfaction amongst our employees, which has also positively contributed to our company’s profitability and employee retention rates.”

– Chris Roth, founder & CEO, Highline Wellness

An unexpected benefit of implementing omnichannel fulfillment is a happier team.

A better buyer experience yields more satisfied customers, which creates more amicable interactions for employees at every internal buyer touch point.

Boost sales

“The main benefits we’ve realized from using an omnichannel fulfillment process include greater customer satisfaction, increased sales conversion rate by more than 400% over the past two years, reduced costs through automation and efficiency, as well as better marketing and branding opportunities.”

– Arthur Worsley, founder, The Art of Living

Naturally, alongside an improved shopping experience come more sales and conversions.

With each happy customer, you increase the likelihood of word-of-mouth marketing, positive reviews, and repeat sales.

Increase visibility into internal processes

“The benefits of omnichannel fulfillment are many, but some key benefits for us include…increased visibility into our inventory levels across all channels and locations, which helps us to avoid oversells and out-of-stock [and] the ability to dropship items that are not stocked in our warehouse reduces our need for capital and storage space.”

– Stacy Lewis Owner and Interior Designer, Eternity Modern

Since an omnichannel strategy looks at fulfillment, logistics, and inventory as a whole instead of in silos, you can gauge your brand’s overall health more clearly and respond accordingly.

For example, at times, your ecommerce sales will be higher, while retail sales may decrease as a result.

Without seeing the bigger picture, you might think your brand is experiencing a dip by looking at the retail numbers alone.

However, it could be that your online advertising is working exceptionally well to drive conversions on your social sales channels.

The challenges of implementing omnichannel order fulfillment

boxes stacked up omnichannel fulfillment
Image: Unsplash

Despite its benefits, some issues can prevent you from adequately executing omnichannel fulfillment.

Omnichannel selling means more sales channels, fulfillment options, logistical necessities, and many more business components.

More moving pieces introduce a greater risk of making mistakes or things falling through the cracks.

For example, having one sales channel and inventory pool means little risk of selling out without realizing it.

However, what happens when you are down to one last piece of an item, and it gets sold on your DTC website and the retail store that had the final piece available?

Overseeing multiple channels and supporting elements makes it difficult to achieve seamless inventory management.

You’ll need a reliable system that syncs with all those moving parts.

Without one, you may face overstocking or overselling, and inventory could get lost or counted twice.

Omnichannel fulfillment also requires significant investment and resources to set up and integrate into your warehouses, retail stores, and overall infrastructure.

It has a high buy-in, and its success requires lots of time to plan, execute, and adjust your strategy as needed.

How to transition to omnichannel fulfillment

open sign storefront omnichannel fulfillment
Image: Unsplash

Noting the above challenges, here are some tips to make your transition to omnichannel fulfillment smoother.

1. Take stock of your existing resources

The first thing you should do is list what’s presently available to you. Some critical assets to include are:

  • Places you keep your inventory
  • Any prep centers and warehouses
  • Your physical stores
  • Vehicles you use for in-house logistics (if any)
  • Your fulfillment and logistics partners
  • Any remaining fulfillment essentials

Then, take into account their locations and how much space is available.

Consider what software or warehouse management system each space uses as well. With this information, you can then identify gaps in your fulfillment operations.

For instance, do you need to expand the scope of your distribution to access more customers?

Or are there bottlenecks in your inventory, order, or shipping management workflows? By pinpointing these issues, you can take steps to remedy them.

2. Find reliable fulfillment partners

city usps truck omnichannel fulfillment
Image: Unsplash

Whether or not you have your own warehousing, you can extend your reach and sales channels with the help of a fulfillment partner.

If you don’t have one yet, look for a partner that can accommodate all the places you currently sell and want to expand to.

If you already work with an outsourced partner or 3PL, talk to them about how they can incorporate your other logistics resources.

3. Implement software for central control

Search for a tool that lets you unify all of your solutions, including your:

  • Warehouse management system
  • Sales channels
  • Tracking tools
  • Order management apparatus
  • And more

Your software should serve as your central point of truth, becoming the command center or “brain” of your operations.

This technology makes fulfillment and logistics more cohesive.

It must be capable of real-time inventory tracking across all locations and routing orders intelligently according to where they make the most sense, among other functions.

4. Stay on top of each stage in the process

Fulfillment has many steps to keep track of for seamless operations. One stage that’s sometimes overlooked is prep.

For example, you have to prep items before they’re sent to FBA, and you may need to prep items before they go to your 3PL partners as well.

This involves tasks such as:

  • Picking/packing
  • Packaging
  • Labeling
  • Bundling (when relevant)
  • Stickering
  • And more

Proper prep also requires you to comply with any specific guidelines online marketplaces may have.

Find a solution that meets these requirements and can seamlessly fit within your processes.

From research and development to prep and delivery, it’s important to inspect every stage of your item lifecycle to ensure optimized processes no matter which sales channel the consumer purchases on.

5. Look into reverse logistics

Fulfillment continues even after you complete delivery—your omnichannel fulfillment strategy also needs to account for returns.

It should be a holistic system that can handle and manage returns seamlessly according to your policies.

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7 Omnichannel fulfillment software tools to streamline logistics

After reviewing the above considerations, it’s clear a comprehensive software or system that simplifies omnichannel fulfillment is essential.

To assist you in your search, we’ve listed a few tools that can do just that.

1. Veeqo

veeqo tool omnichannel fulfillment

Veeqo offers four key features at an affordable price to help you bolster your omnichannel fulfillment strategy:

  1. Integrated inventory management offers complete inventory visibility across your sales channels
  2. Shipping software lets you streamline tasks and connect to multiple shipping providers
  3. Omnichannel order management capabilities, from fulfillment to returns, for all your warehouses and locations
  4. Reporting and forecasting that encompasses your end-to-end fulfillment

Price: Starts at $10/month, up to Custom pricing for larger enterprises

2. Sellbrite

sellbrite tool omnichannel fulfillment

Sellbrite’s primary purpose is to make it easy to list and sell products on the largest online marketplaces. It also offers capabilities that streamline omnichannel fulfillment for you:

  • Inventory management software lets you manage product stock levels across various marketplaces while offering flexible automations for your warehouses.
  • Shipping tools support multiple warehouses and enable order routing and label printing.

It’s an ideal tool for smaller brands and retailers, being a free service for those who fulfill only 30 orders or less per month.

Price: Starts free; paid plans range from $19 to $179/month

3. Listing Mirror

listing mirror tool omnichannel fulfillment

Listing Mirror provides software, support, and automation to simplify omnichannel listing management.

Besides automated edits, it also offers effortless pricing management, inventory quantity syncing, and integrations for both internal and 3PL shipping.

It’s a customizable tool, which allows it to fit into your existing workflows smoothly. You can also have Listing Mirror’s support team set up your system for a seamless experience.

Price: Ranges from $85 to $1,519/month

4. GoDataFeed

godatafeed tool omnichannel fulfillment

GoDataFeed is a platform that boosts your marketing so you can create optimized and dynamic product feeds that fit your sales channels’ requirements.

Despite its focus on presenting relevant products to shoppers, its other features aid in omnichannel fulfillment as well:

  • Smart catalogs that serve as a consolidated source of data
  • Numerous integrations with industry leaders—like Google and Amazon—and hundreds of ecommerce channels
  • Full control over product content thanks to its rules engine
  • Order management tools that allow you to centralize, sync, and update your orders and inventory across your sales channels

Price: Starts at $39/month, follows custom pricing for a full-service plan

5. Expandly

expandly tool omnichannel fulfillment

Expandly is an all-in-one platform with a quick onboarding process and excellent customer service, making it the ideal tool for those with little omnichannel fulfillment experience. It lets you:

  • Manage and automate your listings
  • View and manage your orders and inventory
  • Integrate with numerous carriers and streamline shipping
  • Connect your channels to your accounting

It also integrates with your warehouses and 3PL partners. However, Expandly’s plans are more geared towards businesses that handle thousands of monthly orders.

Price: Starts at $195/month, up to custom pricing for the heftiest plan

6. Zoho Inventory

zoho inventory tool omnichannel fulfillment

Zoho Inventory is a powerful end-to-end solution that integrates with many sales channels, accounting solutions, CRMs, and shipping carriers.

It makes omnichannel fulfillment possible by simplifying inventory, warehousing, vendor relationships, and customer order management.

It even automates and streamlines business processes while improving full logistics visibility through in-depth reporting and analytics.

Price: Starts with a free plan, reaches up to $399/month

7. Linnworks

linnworks tool omnichannel fulfillment

Linnworks’ software offers a complete suite of solutions to strengthen your omnichannel operations, including:

  • Multichannel listing
  • Inventory management
  • Order management
  • Shipping management
  • Warehouse management
  • Insights and stock forecasting

The above components work cohesively thanks to integrations with a wide variety of sales channels, marketplaces, shipping carriers, and 3PLs.

It even automates and streamlines your workflows, allowing you to focus on properly managing your business.

Price: Unavailable on their website, must request a demo or contact Linnworks directly

Omnichannel fulfillment best practices & strategies

store window hanging apparel omnichannel fulfillment
Image: Unsplash

You’ve learned the essentials of omnichannel fulfillment.

Now, we’ll cover a few best practices to help you execute your strategy successfully. Some of these will and won’t apply, depending on your situation.

Invest in technology

This is to reiterate that spending resources on a robust ERP and omnichannel order management system will make omnichannel fulfillment much easier and more cohesive.

So, don’t be afraid to invest.

Some of the tools we’ve shown are all-in-one, end-to-end solutions covering everything from inventory to shipping management.

They even offer integrations for all your channels, warehouses, and existing systems, letting you consolidate every component of fulfillment.

Keep strategic processes in-house

This practice applies to larger enterprises that can support their own omnichannel fulfillment operations and facilities.

Keeping certain processes in-house, such as prep for low-margin items, helps you protect your revenue.

Other key elements, such as proprietary manufacturing secrets, help you maintain end-to-end traceability and visibility.

However, inventory storage can become an issue since, depending on how large your business grows, you may either exceed your capacity or fail to take full advantage of it.

Optimize omnichannel warehousing

Imagine your facility being the hub for not only your in-store and ecommerce goods but also the inventory for your B2B or wholesale customers—a true fulfillment center.

Unlike a typical warehouse where one is assigned to a single channel, an omnichannel warehouse fulfills customer orders from all your sales avenues, whether it’s online, brick-and-mortar, or other channels.

Each warehouse should be able to accommodate orders from any sales channel to optimize fulfillment and inventory spread.

Refine your order management systems

The primary objective of omnichannel order management is to meet customers where they are and when they’re in need.

It handles inventory, customer orders, returns, and data across every sales channel you run. It also includes proper order routing and store fulfillment.

Efficient omnichannel order management requires a software solution or system that conducts orders and provides insights for every point of sale—all of which are unified in a single point.

Master omnichannel fulfillment to grow your ecommerce brand

Optimized omnichannel fulfillment allows merchants to run more efficient processes, protect revenue, and reduce wasted time, inventory, and effort.

By understanding the benefits and challenges of omnichannel fulfillment, you can plan your logistics strategy based on your brand’s strengths and goals.

Use the tips and advice in this guide to master your omnichannel fulfillment strategy, so your brand leaves a lasting impression on your buyers and remains resilient (and profitable) for years to come.

 

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Exceed the limits of an average storefront<cta-title>Build a site that unlocks your next growth stage with Shogun Frontend, the all-in-one platform that gets you headless the easy way.Learn more

Rachel Go

Rachel is a remote marketing manager with a background in building scalable content engines. She creates content that wins customers for B2B eCommerce companies like MyFBAPrep, Shogun, and more. In the past, she has scaled organic acquisition efforts for companies like Deliverr and Skubana.

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