While online shopping rose in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic (and isn’t going anywhere), in-person shopping is still alive and well. A recent survey by PwC found that while 50% of consumers plan to increase their online spending in the near future, 50% also plan to continue going to physical stores. Your business can take advantage of consumers’ need for flexible shopping options by implementing an omnichannel supply chain.
The supply chain is the network of people and organizations involved in creating, transporting, storing, and selling products. An omnichannel supply chain integrates multiple sales channels—such as brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, and mobile apps—to allow data and goods to flow between them easily. Omnichannel strategies create consistent, personalized shopping experiences by synchronizing inventory, customer data, and pricing across all touchpoints.
Omnichannel supply chain strategies are focused on the customer’s experience. According to McKinsey, they “[meet] customer needs across all channels and [ground] all decisions in deep understanding of the consumer.” A consumer-centric omnichannel supply chain strategy involves these elements:
People have come to expect the convenience and flexibility of an omnichannel approach. By adopting an omnichannel supply chain strategy, you’ll position your business to attract and retain more customers.
While implementing an omnichannel retail supply chain strategy isn’t easy, it’s the ecommerce trend that’s here to stay. And it makes sense when you consider all the benefits. Here’s a breakdown of how adopting an omnichannel approach can fuel your business’s success.
Nothing in life comes free, and an omnichannel supply chain is no different. In addition to these benefits, an omnichannel approach also brings challenges. Let’s examine just a few.
Handled well, an omnichannel supply chain boosts your operational efficiency. But if you’re not properly prepared, this strategy can be difficult to execute. As products move between brick-and-mortars, distribution centers, and customers, things get complicated. The following obstacles are what make the omnichannel approach so challenging.
These difficulties are daunting, but they present an opportunity for growth. Just make sure to do your research, consult with experts if you’re unsure what approach to take, and tackle the problem head-on. The following strategies can help you get started.
Managing an omnichannel supply chain requires a firm foundation of technology and infrastructure. Using these six strategies, you can set your business up for success in omnichannel.
As you develop your omnichannel approach, make sure you start with the right tools.
Other valuable omnichannel tools include customer relationship management (CRM) software, which helps manage and track customer interactions and data, and point of sale (POS) systems, which facilitate sales transactions in physical stores.
Omnichannel supply chains must synchronize inventory information across all online and offline channels. Gathering this data into a central location provides full visibility into what inventory you have, when to reorder stock, and where to store it.
Visibility is key in striking the right balance between inventory levels and customer demand—but it can be tricky. In fact, inventory visibility is a major concern for omnichannel businesses, with 46.8% citing it as something they’d like to improve.
Fortunately, the right inventory management system will handle inventory integration for you. These systems track and control inventory levels, providing real-time visibility into the quantity, location, and movement of stock.
When you store inventory close to customers, delivery times and costs go down. Inventory management systems help you decide where to locate inventory to best meet customer demand. When orders come in, the system ensures that products are picked, packed, and shipped from the optimal location.
As your business expands into new regions, optimizing inventory location will fuel growth and lead to increased customer satisfaction.
With shipping costs high, and rising every day, most omnichannel businesses turn to shipping software like EasyPost Enterprise. These systems connect with major and local carriers, shopping for the best rates and delivery times and allowing you to print shipping labels automatically. They can also facilitate the returns process, shipment tracking, and route optimization. The result? Money saved for you and a great delivery experience for your customers.
Omnichannel returns are a customer’s best friend. With so many options for returning unwanted products—in-store, curbside, home pickup, and more—customers get the flexibility and convenience they crave. For businesses, though, it’s another story. With products flowing between channels in both directions, you could face major logistical challenges.
To prevent lost items and other errors during the returns process, you should create well-defined returns policies and procedures. These should be consistent across all channels, with standard return window dates, return labels, and customer communication.
Fifty-seven percent of businesses report that hiring and retaining qualified workers is one of their top supply chain challenges. But without staff members who stick around—and know what they’re doing—your omnichannel strategy won’t gain much momentum.
You can help employees become more qualified (and boost retention at the same time) by training them to handle omnichannel fulfillment. Start by defining the vision and high-level strategy of the approach, then get specific. For every employee—warehouse workers, cashiers, and customer service representatives alike—the training should help them become more customer-centric.
In addition to structured training sessions, foster a culture of continuous learning by encouraging employees to pay attention to evolving customer preferences and new technologies.
If you’ve heard the term multichannel, you’re probably wondering how multichannel and omnichannel strategies are different. Simply put, an omnichannel supply chain integrates sales channels, while a multichannel approach keeps them separate.
Omnichannel supply chains give consumers a consistent shopping experience no matter which channels they use. It works by allowing data and products to move between customers, online stores, mobile apps, physical stores, and other channels. For example, someone might buy something online and return it in-store, have an order delivered to their home, or go to the store in person to shop.
Like an omnichannel supply chain, a multichannel supply chain uses multiple channels: website, mobile app, physical store, etc. But in a multichannel model, these channels aren’t connected. Each one works in isolation, with its own inventory, pricing, and customer data. This means that BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) and other omnichannel offerings aren’t possible through a multichannel supply chain.
Now let’s take a look at an omnichannel strategy in real life. These three well-known brands have perfected the omnichannel approach to give their customers immersive shopping experiences.
While managing an omnichannel supply chain is challenging, it will help your business get ahead—as long as all the pieces fit in place. And shipping is one of the most critical pieces, with almost half of omnichannel consumers shopping somewhere else if delivery times are too long. EasyPost Enterprise can take your omnichannel strategy to the next level by ensuring that delivery is fast and affordable for every order.