Learn How to Bring All Your Fulfillment Channels Closer Together
Retailers rarely start as established, fully integrated businesses with seamless customer fulfillment. It’s much more likely for a company to start a life in one form, evolve to respond to challenges, and then carry on evolving as it grows. Maybe it acquired a brand or two with separate systems and processes, then added e-commerce capabilities as it became necessary.
This kind of growth is extremely common — but it can be the antithesis of efficiency if not done with a holistic mindset. As a retailer, you can appear to be operating with close alignment, but you will miss opportunities if your fulfillment ecosystem isn’t fully integrated, and it will become more and more difficult to fully cater to rising customer expectations.
Let’s look at exactly what the biggest challenges are in achieving a truly omnichannel brand, how to solve them, and the major advantages of going through the work to achieve end-to-end integration.
There’s No Time like the Present: Traditional Fulfillment Solutions Are Not Meeting Customer Demand
There are a number of reasons why you may have delayed integrating your store and e-commerce processes up till now — but even more for why you shouldn’t wait any longer.
Because consumer demand is unpredictable and order profiles can vary wildly, retailers have had to consider many options for processing orders. And as Statista’s 2021 e-commerce report shows, retailers have been thinking ambitiously about order fulfillment — from parcel delivery boxes and exact delivery times for working people, to drone deliveries of time-sensitive products like medicines.
All the different permutations of purchase, collection, and returns can be bewildering — but consumers have precisely zero sympathy for your predicament.
The reason why you are feeling the squeeze on cycle times is because of their growing expectations. Fast or free shipping has somehow become fast and free shipping almost overnight. Same-day and next-hour delivery raise the bar even higher. Retail and B2B operations are also seeing increasing shipment frequencies and requests for store friendly, aisle-ready containers.
Consumers are rightfully focused on their convenience, regardless of the issues that it may cause down the line for retailers. Inventory management and control are essential if you expect to stay on top of satisfying consumer expectations.
If you want to keep total cost of ownership down, and do more with less, you need to work out how you can cater flexibly to that demand — and sooner rather than later.
Beware the Boutique Solution: Narrowly Focused Plugins
You may have seen a few different boutique software solutions offering a plugin that will connect various elements of your operations. Tread carefully. There’s a dizzying array of options and solutions (some of them potentially effective), but unless you currently have a truly holistic system, they are not so much integrating your system as gluing together existing pieces for a makeshift operation. Plugins can be great — you just need the right overarching software to avoid making a messy situation even messier by overwhelming your IT team.
It doesn’t matter how smart your parallel systems are — if they are not integrated, your operations will not be as agile as they need to be. In fact, the agility of your operations is likely being hampered by the inefficiencies implicit in having competing systems.
Think of It like a Three-Legged Race: Incompatible Data and Dispersed Systems Create Silos
Remember three-legged races? Two people stand next to each other and tie their inside legs together so when they run, they must coordinate their stride with the one shared leg? Imagine one of those people is your brick-and-mortar operation and the other is your e-commerce operation. Speed and agility depend on that shared leg. It needs harmony, so instead of being two separate things, it operates as one.
Now think of your data and systems through that very same lens. Incompatible data and dispersed systems create silos of essential information. This places a heavy reliance on area managers within your operation to interpret and integrate your critical performance intelligence. This often leads to inefficiencies, miscommunication, and material-flow interruptions. They can’t track all the different real-time requirements, permutations, priorities, and fluctuations. Nobody can! It’s just too complex and happening too fast for any person to respond.
That’s why holistic software — specifically software powered by AI — is so valuable. AI-enabled supply-chain management has allowed early adopters to improve logistics costs by 15%, inventory levels by 35%, and service levels by 65% according to McKinsey.
A platform capable of connecting nodes outside your four walls means you can make smarter, more dynamic decisions and respond to consumers rapidly without sacrificing accuracy.
Putting the Theory into Practice: An Omnichannel Integration Solution That Meets Your Needs
So how do you make it happen? Every organization is different, so unsurprisingly, there’s no single solution that works for everyone. The best way to work out how to align all the different moving parts you currently deal with is to choose the right partner. And that means someone who is used to operating at scale in highly complex scenarios — like Dematic.
The options available to you are growing all the time, and it’s natural to be skeptical that a new shiny tech investment might become obsolete before it’s paid for itself. That’s why you need to start and carry through a holistic approach to the software that oversees everything.
A strong omnichannel brand requires an ecosystem mindset. You need to think in terms of streams, not nodes. AI gives you visibility over that ecosystem, so you can make better decisions, optimize your people and assets, manage just one inventory, and make everything you do as sustainable as possible. The result is highly efficient operations and total consumer satisfaction.
Because that’s what omnichannel integration is all about at the end of the day — happy customers who can buy and return what they want from you whenever, wherever, and however they choose.