By Sankarshan Mukherjee
Over the past few years, multiple variables have changed the purchase pattern of consumers. Ever since the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent boom in E-commerce and Q-commerce, online sales traffic has increased massively. Dwindling footfall in physical stores and increased online interaction have pushed many retailers to reassess their stock management and fulfilment strategy.
In a post-crisis world now, shopping patterns are much more complex than just physical or online shopping. Customers are now shopping on omnichannel and this realization has further pushed brands to ensure an omnichannel presence for higher visibility. Along with an omnichannel presence, there is also a need for a unified inventory that the customers can access on both online and offline channels. This unified inventory management is what defines the need for omnichannel fulfilment.
The entire process of managing customer orders from order placement to the final delivery via multiple channels comprises omnichannel fulfilment. From the logistics point of view, this process involves pick up, warehousing, packaging, and delivery to the buyer on time in a synchronised, seamless format where the data channels are centralized.
Omnichannel retail fulfilment not only allows consumers to make purchases and receive goods via multiple channels but also research products, and compare prices and timelines. It opens up the possibility of sales by giving the consumers access to a wider inventory with no differentiation of online or offline inventory break-up.
With increased points of sale, omnichannel fulfilment continues to have a remarkable effect on fulfilment operations via logistics companies to meet consumer demands. This makes it an indispensable solution for retailers to stay competitive.
Brick-and-mortar retailers were caught in the rapid digital shift in retail with many storming the declining store sales and foot traffic while the online market was growing at an unprecedented rate. Adopting omnichannel order fulfilment strategies, retailers are not only increasing brand recall but also enhancing their store reach and better managing in-store inventory.
With the increasing demands of consumers for same-day deliveries, next-day deliveries or rapid deliveries in minutes, stores act as fulfilment centres. This availability of a space/outlet besides warehouses ensures that a brand can fulfil orders from all of its stores scattered across the country. Omnichannel fulfilment also optimizes inventory costs by allowing unsold store inventory fresh visibility online. Reduced geographical restriction makes the stuck store inventory available to a wider customer base online, increasing the probability of sale.
Omnichannel fulfilment not only optimists costs but also time. Presence on multiple channels for sale also means a high volume of orders. Ensuring customer retention and acquisition requires swift fulfilment. Omnichannel fulfilment thus allows companies to be responsive making it an indispensable factor in many business activities.
A huge part of E-commerce shopping is returning management. Inadequate returns management can lead to bitter consumer experiences, loss of inventory and even loss of face for businesses. Omnichannel order fulfilment also ensures that the centralized inventory analytics takes into account these returns as well via the same fulfilment channel to further streamline everything.
Increasing speed, agility and reach, the omnichannel fulfilment model helps retailers simplify and automate order fulfilment. Providing better sales, exposure and synchronization, omnichannel fulfilment has become an essential part of effective logistics.
(Sankarshan Mukherjee, Director Operations, CABT Logistics. Views are author’s own.)