Written by Sasut Samal
The buying behavior of consumers has changed since the advent of modern e-commerce about two decades ago. But what seemed like a steadily changing ecosystem was abruptly decimated with the onset of the Covid pandemic. As the nationwide shutdowns reduced footfall in physical stores, online sales have seen a massive 10-fold increase. Until now, a lot of brands used to believe that Old Stock Merchandise (OSM) should be featured on e-commerce websites while New Stock Merchandise (NSM) is suitable for offline stores. But last year’s changing consumer trends and massive e-commerce adoption showed us that customers are now shopping through omnichannel marketing. Brands are beginning to realize that the best way to get higher product visibility and higher conversions is to have a consolidated inventory that can be accessed through both online and offline channels. This is the essence of omnichannel realization.
What is an omnichannel realization?
Omnichannel implementation integrates inventory across all sales channels such as stores, virtual marketplaces, e-commerce sites, social media sites and brand.coms and treats it as a single unit. Meaning, a brand can choose to fulfill an order placed on its online platform from its physical store anywhere in the world. By revealing 100% of their inventory to fulfill customer orders, brands can take advantage of their already existing stores to deliver much faster shipments to their customers.
In the omnichannel implementation model, stores act as fulfillment centers. For example, if a brand used two warehouses to store and deliver e-commerce orders, it can now do so from all of its stores spread across the country. Synchronizing and displaying inventory across all channels simultaneously means better presentation and increased sales. It also means that stalled store revenue such as unsold inventory can now take a new lease on life by making it available in the online marketplace.
The other main reason brands are looking towards omnichannel is that it frees up working capital. If a brand limits its inventory assortment to specific channels, it also withholds a financial resource that it can use to improve other aspects of its business. By making their inventory flexible and allowing customers to choose the sales channel, brands no longer need to strategize which items will sell best on which platforms.
What are the benefits of using an omnichannel implementation?
Grocery and food delivery apps like Zomato, Grofers, Swiggy, BigBasket etc., have set the gold standard for instant delivery. Amazon’s influence has also normalized faster same-day and next-day deliveries. Due to the increasing customer expectations, omnichannel implementation seems to be the need of the hour.
As the omnichannel model transforms a brand’s local stores into fulfillment centers, a customer’s order can be delivered from a nearby location directly by the physical store instead of the central warehouse located in a different city. For example, if a customer in Mumbai places an order online on Zara website, he/she can pick up the order directly from Zara’s Mumbai store. As a result, an order that could have taken five days to deliver will reach the customer within one day due to the omnichannel approach.
Not only that, but getting orders from the brand’s local stores also reduces logistics and shipping costs. By implementing omnichannel, online and offline retailers do not need to use large delivery fleet services for transportation. They can even choose to work with local express delivery service providers to deliver orders efficiently and at cheaper rates.
By displaying all their inventory on both offline and online platforms, the brands are giving customers a greater range of products to choose from. This enhances customer satisfaction and builds brand loyalty. As first responders in the logistics industry, we believe that as multi-channel adoption increases, brands will begin to respond to customer needs by providing ROPIS (online booking, in-store pickup), BORIS (online purchase, in-store returns), and BOPIS. (Purchase online from the store). Blending the online and offline retail experience will not only lower the rate of return but also help brands handle reverse logistics in a cost-effective manner.
Things to consider for an enhanced omnichannel experience:
1) The success of the omnichannel realization depends on the efficiency of the inventory or warehouse management software used by the brand. Omnichannel is not a manual process. It is a highly automated system that requires intelligent logistics software to sync order data, inventory and customer information across all channels into one unified platform. The SaaS logistics platform you choose should allow integration with markets, websites, warehouse and order management systems (WMS and OMS), etc.
2) The prerequisite for providing multi-channel fulfillment is transparency and communication between all channels. For this, brands must store inventory information from all sales channels and record inventory in real time. Your logistics software can do this by collecting inventory data in a central database which will allow the free flow of information between all sales channels. The omnichannel system updates the inventory within 2 minutes. So there are no chances of receiving orders on items that are out of stock.
3) The next thing to consider in order to achieve omnichannel is how the shipping takes place from a physical store to the customer’s doorstep. Some retailers choose to train their employees in order to make better use of the available workforce. Others rely entirely on the help of local delivery partners to manage their shipments. You can choose one or a combination of the two for your deliveries. Alternatively, you can also choose a smart logistics software like which comes pre-integrated with many local carriers like Shadowfax, Dunzo, BlowHorn, etc. Since one-to-one integration with local delivery providers is so difficult, partnering with SaaS platforms can seriously streamline business processes so you can start shipping without skipping a moment. Of course, this decision depends on the needs of the brand and its availability of resources.
4) The last thing brands should consider to have an optimized end-to-end channel strategy is a robust order tracking mechanism. Order tracking is one of the most important aspects of order fulfillment that directly affects customer satisfaction. Therefore, brands should pay close attention to maintaining a transparent line of communication between customers and sellers so that orders can be tracked in real time. Brands should keep in mind that between getting orders and having them delivered from nearby locations, the order tracking system has to stay the same.
Needless to say, technological empowerment is the key to breaking a multi-channel investigation. Comprehensive inventory approximation along with API integration with super local carriers ensures brands are closer to customers. We live in a world of social commerce where buying and selling goes hand in hand with conversations on platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat. Introducing omnichannel to your business opens the doors to access these newer avenues and reach a much wider audience. Today, your goal should not just be to achieve higher sales in a particular channel but to allow your customers to buy naturally from the channel they are most comfortable with.
(The author is an e-commerce expert, ClickPost. The opinions expressed are subjective.)