Retailers looking to make it big in the e-Commerce landscape must consider a future-proof strategy for all their operations. An effective omnichannel supply chain helps retailers transition from brick-and-mortar stores to a combination of online and in-store shopping models.
As the demand from multiple market segments increases with each passing year, retailers are facing supply chain challenges. While most retailers sell from stock on hand, others rely on third-party suppliers and vendors for order fulfillment.
Upon implementing the omnichannel model, retailers need to consider the requirement of fulfilling multiple requirements simultaneously. This article covers everything you need to know about an omnichannel supply chain, its benefits, and its implementation.
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What is an Omnichannel Supply Chain?
An omnichannel supply chain covers an interconnected and cohesive system that helps retailer manage their overall business flow across various channels. This means you get to oversee supplies, stocks, and deliveries to and from brick-and-mortar stores, online marketplaces, and social sites.
The aim of an omnichannel supply chain is to personalize the customer experience across all channels with consistent content that is updated in real time. Whether your customers prefer a mobile channel or opts for in-store shopping, they get the same personalized experience.
In the ideal case, an omnichannel supply chain must be built upon data synchronization and coordination among different business departments. This includes manufacturing, procurement, marketing, logistics, and customer services. For this purpose, modern retailers are looking to adopt advanced technologies like AI and data analytics.
As a result, you gain real-time visibility into the supply chain, optimize inventory levels, and streamline order fulfillment.
By implementing an omnichannel supply chain, businesses can improve customer satisfaction, increase sales, reduce costs, and gain a competitive advantage in today's fast-paced and digitally-driven marketplace.
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How it Differs from Traditional Supply Chain
As you are dealing with multiple channels, an omnichannel supply chain serves the purpose of satisfy different types of shopping journeys. Here, an omnichannel supply chain differs from a traditional supply chain in that only one supply chain that covers all aspects. This is because retailers adopting the omnichannel model use the same catalogue of products for online and offline stores.
On the other hand, a traditional supply chain focuses on transporting goods from suppliers to manufacturers and then to distributors, retailers, and customers. The aim of a traditional supply chain is to keep a continuous flow of goods. However, an omnichannel supply chain focuses more on customer experience.
An omnichannel supply chain connects and integrates various channels, allowing customers to shop for their favorite products online and pick up in store.
Similarly, you can manage inventory levels across every channel and provide your customers with real-time stock availability numbers. This also gives purchasers the confidence to make their decisions, knowing that the number they are looking at is true.
Omnichannel Vs Multichannel Supply Chain
Multichannel supply chains have different channels operating independent of each other. This means that each channels has its own inventory and distrubuted sales operations. As a result, you get inconsistencies in pricing, promotions, customer services. As an eCommerce retailer, the last thing you would want is to frustrate your customers with such bad experiences.
Instead of simply trying to optimize the flow of goods through a supply chain, an omnichannel model focuses on creating cohesive customer journeys across every channel.
Why an Omnichannel Strategy is Necessary
Thriving in today’s retail environment requires strategic adaptation to rapid digitization and improving overall brand experience. This is only possible when modern retail supply chains are driven by omnichannel strategies. An omnichannel strategy not only accounts for improved sales and traffic, but also improves accessibility with integrations for different digital touchpoints.
When customers have the convenience of shopping from mobile, web, or physical stores, they tend to spend between 15 to 30% more as compared to single and multichannel customers.
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Benefits of an Omnichannel Supply Chain
As online shopping has changed over the years, retailers have been struggling to establish their digital presence. Together with immersive websites and social media pages, businesses have implemented the omnichannel strategy for a common goal of developing stronger relationships with their customers.
Improved customer experience
An omnichannel supply chain links together your marketing strategy with the rest of your business operations. The good news here is that the main beneficiary in this process is your customer.
For instance, a cross-channel strategy can link an email marketing campaign with your landing page, hence convincing customers to make a purchase from two different marketing channels at the same time.
An omnichannel strategy comes with a complete marketing strategy that is designed solely for the benefit of your customers. It goes above and beyond both multichannel and cross-channel marketing, combining all the right techniques to form superior strategy.
Using an omnichannel supply chain, a customer who purchases a mobile phone through an app will have the same user experience as one who has bought it from a brick and mortar store.
Increased customer loyalty and retention
Omnichannel strategy also allows you to improve customer retention rates as you get real time insights into customers’ end to end journeys. From this point onwards, improving customer experience is only as far as making the necessary updates from time to time.
It’s important to keep an eye on any changes in customer demands or new ideas implemented by competitors. Furthermore, monitoring customer behaviour across all channels and touchpoints allows you to offer better loyalty rewards.
By mapping customer journeys, you can also identify customer types and segment them to deliver personalized product recommendations. An omnichannel supply chain also helps determine the pain points in customer journeys, which in turn allows you to make improvements to your retail system.
Developing a better understanding of your customers’ decision making process is always beneficial in eCommerce. Not only are you able to generate higher revenue but also retain existing customers for longer.
Better inventory management and order fulfillment
Inventory management is one of the major aspects to consider when running a modern retail business. While it is difficult to manage inventory through a single channel, managing multiple channels just multiplies the effort.
Implementing an omnichannel supply chain helps effectively manage inventory across all channels and prevent a siloed process with inaccurate data insights. An omnichannel retail system comes as a unified solution that serves as a centralized hub to manage the operations for all channels simultaneously.
While automation removes the burden of manual efforts, you can work on improving order fullfilment with real-time data. AI-based retail POS solutions provide insights related to all business processes under one dashboard, meaning you can measure progress without having to do anything.
Effective inventory management helps you avoid stockouts and overstocking, which ultimately helps reduce the cost to move products through the supply chain. Similarly, connecting various channels with the right integrations allows you to improve order fulfilment, providing customers the ease of shopping from one channel and picking up their order from another.
If that wasn’t enough, you can also factor in the direct and indirects costs from errors in logistics. An omnichannel supply chain eliminates this problem unlike the others to improve efficiency of operations and your staff.
Given that you are getting real time insights into customer journeys and details of individual product sales, what’s next?
With these valuable insights, you can optimize all areas of your retail business to deliver highly personalized content. Not only do you get data generated from transactions performed through online banking apps, but you also get insights from data exchanges, social platforms, and SaaS applications.
Using all this data in the right way takes retail business to new heights, as they can predict the demand for particular products, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and eliminate discrepancies in customers’ shopping journeys.
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Implementing an Omnichannel Supply Chain Strategy
As you may have guessed by now, an omnichannel supply chain strategy comprises various business operations to be carried out in sync. At the core, you must have a great inventory management system, an equally good order management system, and of course, you cannot ignore order fulfilment.
With a retail management solution like XStak, you can handle the processes mentioned above, and much more. Not only does the software automate inventory and order management, but also carries out data analysis in the background to keep your business in the top spot.
And how can you miss out warehouse management? Yes, XStak has got you covered there as well. So you do not have to worry about ensuring inventory visibility and process optimization.
Key steps in implementing an omnichannel supply chain strategy
Given the importance of inventory management in an omnichannel supply chain, let’s cover this aspect of your retail business first. The take here is to achieve real-time visibility across the whole supply chain. The last thing you would want as a retail business owner is a customer abandoning their purchase just because it took a little longer to find an item.
With an efficient inventory management system by your side, you will be able to show your customers the real number of items left in stock, regardless of the channel or touchpoint they are using.
Next up - order management. Another critical aspect in implementing your omnichannel supply chain, a distributed order management system empowers you with the right rules and criteria to fulfill numerous orders at the same time.
XStak’s Omnichannel Engine also automates end to end order management from the moment a customer places an order, on any of your channels. Not only that, automatically decides which order to prioritize based on business intelligence and AI.
After all, customer satisfaction is the primary goal of an omnichannel supply chain.
Common challenges and solutions for implementation
Considering the large scale benefits of an omnichannel supply chain strategy, you might be wondering if there are any downsides to it. Well, there are certainly some challenges you might face while implementing this strategy.
Here is a scenario where you have yet to invest in the right omnichannel retail solution. For starters, you will face the challenge of providing your customers with information on the availability and ETA’s of all products across all channels.
Then, it’s up to the customer to choose the channel of their liking, whether it is offline or online, to shop for their favorite products. When it comes to inventory, the more you know, the better. So you want to know exactly how many items are there in your warehouse and what is their status.
The time your retail business takes to deliver orders can be one of the decisive factors for customers. So you have to make it count. This brings yet another challenge, where you need to develop manual methods of delivery and then optimize them to suit the demand from your customers. Not to mention, if your customers are from diverse locations, this challenge just gets bigger.
Having fast delivery speeds is crucial because most customers want their order delivered the next day after placing it. This means you will be stuck between different volumes of deliveries from multiple channels, and calculating the shortest delivery times manually.
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Tips for Optimizing Omnichannel Supply Chain
Where there are challenges, there are also solutions. And nobody does omnichannel retail better than XStak. If done right, an omnichannel supply chain is a gift for your retail business. For instance, the key to solving the inventory problem is to implement an effective inventory management system that tells both you and your customers the quantity of a product available at any and all locations.
Not only is it a challenge to manually manage inventory, but it is also virtually impossible when your business has grown to an enterprise level. With the right technologies and software working for you, numbers are guaranteed to go up.
Automated inventory management is the part of omnichannel supply chain that you can simply not miss out. In this case, not only does the retail solution do the job faster, but it also does it much better. You get details of any product from any warehouse at any given time, and so does your customer. So there is no hurdle left to make them abandon their purchase.
Foster collaboration and communication across departments
The powerhouse of omnichannel commerce has yet another great feature that allows you to take your business to the next level. Since all your channels and touchpoints are connected along with your digital marketing strategy, an omnichannel supply chain enables better communication and collaboration across different departments.
This is a concept worked upon by tech giants like Apple and many others, where coming together to share ideas makes room for innovation, and therefore, allows businesses to grow.
In order to succeed in today’s eCommerce landscape, businesses need to remove operating silos and manage multiple sales and distribution channels. An omnichannel supply chain combines warehousing and fulfillment operations to help you serve both in-store and online shopping requirements simultaneously.
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