Consumers continue to demand more of their shopping experiences – more options, more products, more instantaneous gratification. And as shopper habits evolve, so do warehouses.
Perhaps the most conspicuous change caused by multichannel fulfillment, or the process of completing orders destined for both brick & mortar shelves and customer porches, is the demand for greater efficiency – getting packages out the door quicker. However, warehouses face a more fundamental change: they’re catering to new audiences, and their operations must reflect this shift. Multichannel fulfillment requires maintaining the right stock and the proper rules for both customer and retailer orders.
Because multichannel fulfillment increases the variables in warehouse management, today’s supply chain requires better tools to get the job done. That’s where a warehouse management system (WMS) comes in. More warehouses are turning to WMS, bringing order and efficiency to their inventory processes, which can vary from one row to the next.
Consider these three reasons why a best-of-breed WMS is crucial for success in the age of multichannel.
Operations: Manage changing rules by buyer
Retailer fulfillment and direct-to-consumer fulfillment require different processes. While the team in one area of the warehouse may pick large pallets of the same item, another team across the warehouse may pick thousands of single items. Warehouses must also manage different shipping requirements, as direct-to-consumer items will likely ship through a third-party company such as UPS or FedEx, while retailer fulfillment may remain within the company’s purview.
With orders coming from all angles, you need a system that can keep your picking and packing rules straight. An advanced WMS manages these rules within one system, eliminating the need for paper-based workflows – a crucial step toward successful multichannel fulfillment.
Customer experience: Meet ever-changing demand
Multichannel fulfillment adds new hurdles to your inventory management processes. Consumers expect deeper visibility into product availability, no matter if they’re standing at customer service or shopping from their couch.
According to a recent Gartner L2 study, nearly 58 percent of consumers say it is important for inventory status to be visible online, and more than half wanted to receive back-in-stock alerts. Your systems must work together to deliver accurate information no matter the channel. An advanced WMS can integrate with your e-commerce platform and point-of-sale system, ensuring accuracy through efficient, real-time data on inventory stock. You can keep up with complex shipping demands, enable greater transparency and deliver a seamless customer experience, no matter how and where customers interact with your brand.
Also, don’t let your positive customer experience end at shipping. To make the most of multichannel fulfillment, it’s imperative you master reverse logistics. A WMS can give you deeper visibility into your return processes to help you keep track of what is returned, why it’s returned and where it could be stored – no matter if the customer returns a product online or in-store.
Competitive edge: Lead the charge on emerging platforms
As eCommerce competition continues to grow, so has the number of channels. Participating in a major platform’s multichannel program can add a lucrative level to your fulfillment operations, and that’s why some retailers have expanded to platforms they don’t own, governed by standards they can’t control.
Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime is one of the most well-known third-party platforms. Amazon maintains high expectations for its sellers – including accuracy and on-time delivery goals just shy of 100 percent – but utilizing the platform can significantly increase sales. Employing a strong WMS grants your warehouse access to the data it needs to streamline processes, increase accuracy and meet Amazon’s requirements.
For more information on how to qualify for Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime and how a WMS helps you achieve approval, read our blog post here.
Challenges into Opportunities
As multichannel fulfillment becomes a mainstay of warehouse operations, challenges come from every direction. Continually shifting demands within the “always on” economy mean stability won’t arrive anytime soon – but the best warehouses thrive when faced with a curveball.
Still, it’s impossible to keep up with these changes using manual processes and dated technology. If you want to rise to the challenge and embrace the opportunities of multichannel fulfillment, consider adopting a best-of-breed WMS to manage your fulfillment rules and data – and start walking the path to success.