Omnichannel shopping isn’t just a passing trend. It represents the new normal in how B2B and B2C consumers research, purchase, and acquire products. A recent survey of 1200 US consumers found that the majority of respondents are shopping online, 41% via ecommerce websites, and 16% via shopping apps.
Worldwide, ecommerce purchases grew by nearly 30% in 2020, with different behaviors emerging based on product availability, new purchase triggers, and environmental factors like virus outbreaks and mandatory shutdowns.
When Google mapped the post-pandemic shopping journey, they found that consumers use multiple online and offline sources to research products, including search engines, online video, social media, in-store browsing, TV ads, word of mouth, and more.
Consumers are dividing their shopping journey across multiple online and offline channels, including in-store browsing, ranked as the most useful touchpoint by consumers in the Google survey.
It’s clear there’s an enormous need for retailers to provide high-quality omnichannel shopping experiences, but meeting consumers’ expectations means retailers must master omnichannel order management. To do this, you need a robust omnichannel fulfillment strategy and the right order management software to support it.
What Is Omnichannel Order Management?
Omnichannel order management is the process of using a single order management system (OMS) to holistically manage customer orders across all touchpoints and channels. An omnichannel OMS uses real-time inventory data combined with capturing orders and facilitating process fulfillment across online and offline commerce channels.
Here are some examples of what omnichannel order management looks like in the real world:
- Curbside pickup: A customer orders groceries at Sam’s Club via their mobile app. They schedule a time to pick up their order curbside at a physical store location. They drive to the store, park in a designated “pick up” spot, and an employee brings the order to their car.
- Click-and collect/BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store): A customer orders a new computer from Best Buy for immediate in-store pickup. They visit the store later that day to pick up the item. While in the store, they buy a video game and an extra charger cable for their phone. (94% of consumers will pick up extra items when visiting a store to pick up a BOPIS order).
- B2B hybrid purchase: A contractor researches HVAC units for her client via the supplier’s website, checks stock availability, and adds an item to her cart, but visits the local brick-and-mortar store to complete her order. At the time of purchase, she schedules the unit to be delivered to the client’s home. All information is logged into the same omnichannel system to send alerts and updates to the contractor’s phone and email.
The shopping journey for a B2B customer typically tends to be more complex, involve larger-ticket items, and take longer to complete than a B2C purchase. Even so, B2C and B2B customers are using multiple touchpoints and delivery methods to make purchases. That’s why omnichannel order management is so critical to meeting customer needs.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Order Management
Omnichannel order management is not interchangeable with multichannel order management. A multichannel approach looks at each channel separately. While it addresses the issue of selling products on more than one channel (e.g., in-store and an ecommerce website), it fails to unify the channels.
The shopping experiences are siloed with a multichannel approach, so inventory data isn’t shared, making it impossible to optimize order management and fulfillment across channels.
Think of omnichannel order management as a next-level multichannel approach. Omnichannel commerce considers the holistic shopping journey, taking into account that consumers start in one place and end in another. A true omnichannel strategy considers all touchpoints equally and shares important data across each system, aligning inventory, customer data and history, and fulfillment methods via one central platform that can integrate other systems.
Omnichannel retail is only possible with an omnichannel order management system.
Benefits of an Omnichannel OMS
Meeting customer expectations for good shopping experiences depends on getting the fulfillment process right. That’s why having the right software is critical for a successful omnichannel retail strategy. B2C and B2B organizations gain advantages from using an omnichannel OMS to handle the nonlinear shopping journey.
- Lower shipping costs: Omnichannel OMS software optimizes the shipping process by tracking the entire process from product location, inventory availability (e.g., shortages and overstocks) to mapping out the best shipping methods and routes, which enables retailers to leverage all available supply sources, turning physical stores into distribution centers (for example).
- Inventory transparency – An omnichannel OMS gives you a single, consolidated view of your inventory, pulling from all channels across your entire company, which makes it possible to track stock availability, reorder high-demand items, and select the most efficient delivery method and route.
- Advanced analytics & forecasting: Fulfillment reporting and insights built into leading OMS tools help retailers eliminate redundancies and understand buying patterns. You can use this information to improve the fulfillment process and manage inventory across channels more efficiently (and effectively).
- Omnichannel fulfillment: A key benefit of an omnichannel OMS is, obviously, the ability to deliver omnichannel fulfillment across all distribution channels. Whether this includes warehouse fulfillment, in-store product pick-ups, home delivery, or a hybrid approach, a modern OMS enables you to get orders into the hands of customers in the most efficient way possible.
- Retailers can turn returners into shoppers: Omnichannel fulfillment lets retail channels work together in a way that increases order sizes, encourages return visits, and maximizes all available shopping methods. As noted above, customers who place an order online for in-store pick up tend to pick up extra items when they’re in the store. In-store browsing can also motivate future online purchases, another reason why it’s important to make inventory available in real-time to customers who are shopping in-app or on your website.
The net benefit you get from omnichannel order management is improved customer satisfaction—better inventory management, lower shipping costs, more accurate forecasting about product demand and availability and speedier delivery times.
That last point is one of the most critical to achieving high customer satisfaction. McKinsey recently reported that when delivery takes too long with one retailer, nearly 50% of people will shop elsewhere. Expectations among US shoppers currently fall within the 2-to-3 day range for delivery.
Level Up Your Omnichannel Strategy
About 10-20% of retail sales are omnichannel and most retail businesses face similar fulfillment challenges. For those of you who have already incorporated an OMS into your distribution process, here are some best practices that can take your omnichannel strategy to the next level.
Align the online and in-store customer experience: Make sure customer information is shared across channels and accessible to all personnel whether in-store or online. A single view of your customers’ preferences, order history, and account information enables you to streamline the shopping journey and provide relevant content and offers.
Leverage real-time inventory visibility: A key benefit of an OMS is the ability to track inventory in real-time. Make use of this commerce superpower by offering accurate, personalized product options based on item location and availability, time-to-fulfillment for shoppers, and customer preferences.
Fulfill orders faster with distributed order routing: An advanced order routing engine—inherent in a modern OMS—lets you easily group and prioritize your fulfillment locations. You save money with a more efficient fulfillment model, and customers are happier because they get their orders quickly.
Real-world case study: Laura Canada, a Canadian Women’s fashion retailer with over 150 stores and a large ecommerce presence, created an omnichannel order management system using Kibo Order Management, an open architecture order management technology. The Kibo OMS gave Laura Canada increased flexibility with inventory management and order fulfillment.
The retailer reassigned stores as warehouses and modified stores to create hybrid fulfillment centers once pandemic shutdowns were lifted. They were able to leverage their website and physical stores for smoother order management and processing.
The omnichannel fulfillment approach led to a 25% increase in revenue by unlocking store inventory for online shoppers, turning all 150+ stores into fulfillment centers, and contributing to a 400% increase in online sales growth.
Omnichannel order fulfillment maximizes opportunity
Thanks to modern OMS technology, it’s possible for retail businesses to evolve quickly and adapt to changing customer behaviors and expectations. An OMS that’s cloud-based, developer-friendly, and API-first can help you increase sales, optimize inventory, reduce costs, and deliver orders faster.
Kibo Order Management is all of these things. Read about how our omnichannel order management system can help you enhance fulfillment, improve returns, and keep customers happy.