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What is omnichannel fulfillment? And why does it matter for online retailers?

Omnichannel fulfillment. What was once just a buzzword is now considered the norm for shoppers in 2023. If brands want to keep up with the ever-changing consumer persona and continue to grow, an omnichannel fulfillment strategy may be the answer.

Why? Omnichannel fulfillment meets customers where they are while giving them more flexibility to create their own, unique purchasing journey.

For online retailers, an omnichannel fulfillment approach is the key to customer satisfaction. It differentiates a brand within such a highly saturated direct-to-consumer environment while building trust and loyalty.

Because brands are currently in the throes of an economic slowdown, they’ll need to pay extra attention to their optimizing their current selling channels, and developing more channels to meet the needs of their customers.

In this post, we’re going to be diving deep into omnichannel fulfillment – what it is, why it matters in e-commerce, and how to develop a stellar strategy.

Let’s begin!

Omnichannel fulfilment, defined

is an operation that uses multiple channels to fulfill customers’ orders. This can include third-party marketplaces, online websites, social media channels, pop-up stores, or brick and mortar retailers. Instead of each channel having its own separate inventory management process and operations, omnichannel fulfillment brings everything under one streamlined, unified system.

While it’s easy to define omnichannel fulfillment as simply selling goods on multiple channels, there’s more to it than that. Omnichannel fulfillment means that no matter whether customers use curbside pick-up or ground shipping, the experience is the same.

Think of it this way: if a customer purchases from a brand’s social media page, they’ll receive the same fulfillment experience as a customer who purchases directly from the brand’s site.

Ultimately, a genuine omnichannel fulfillment approach will keep the brand experience consistent – no matter where the order has been placed.

The benefits of omnichannel fulfillment in e-commerce

Meet customers where they are

The power of omnichannel fulfillment lies within its flexibility. For customers, engaging with an omnichannel brand means they have more options for how they’d like to receive their products.

If a customer spends most of their time on social media, they may want to stay within the app and place an order that way. Alternatively, if a customer wants their product that same day, they could opt to purchase for same-day pick-up.

No matter the brand, giving customers the ability to choose their own shopping journey only strengthens their loyalty to a brand. Plus, if the experience is a smooth one, they’ll be sure to come back for more!

Build a stronger brand image

Omnichannel fulfillment opens the doors to a greater brand reach and a stronger brand presence. How? Branding is no longer confined to one place. Rather, it’s in-person at stores, online via the website, or on third-party selling channels.

Plus, with multiple options, customers will think of your brand as being customer-centered – something that personalizes the experience and increases retention.

Did you know that shoppers who purchase products from a brand both in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who only shop through one channel? It’s clear that having multiple selling channels increases customer retention while giving repeat customers the confidence to spend more.

Discover consumer behavior insights

With more consumers engaging with different channels, brands have the unique opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at overall customer behavior.

Why does this matter? Consumer data can help brands focus their efforts and optimize their business. For example, if a brand sees that social commerce sales drop drastically over an hour, it could point to a bug that needs fixing.

Plus, with the help of a or order management system (OMS), retailers should be able to understand which channels are resonating most with their customers as well as which channels may be underperforming.

4 tips for a seamless omnichannel strategy

1.    Know your selling channels

The first step to building a is knowing what sales channels you’ll be developing. For brands, this typically means having to take a deeper look into their target audience and their current fulfillment process.

If a brand’s audience does most of their shopping online, they may want to invest more time and energy into their social commerce strategy and fulfillment marketing for online orders.

Likewise, if a brand’s audience does most of their shopping in-person, the brand may want to invest in a buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) option to diversify the experience.

2.    Train your customer success associates for each channel

With more customer touchpoints, brands will need to factor in an increased number of support cases. Because let’s face it, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ omnichannel fulfillment operation. Somewhere along the way, there will be miss-picks, delayed deliveries, supply chain woes and more.

With this in mind, it’s vital for brands to train their customer support team for each channel. This way, the customer feels supported and valued no matter whether they purchased online or in-store.

3.    Partner with a 3PL for technology integration

Perfecting omnichannel retail is no easy feat. With customer orders coming in from multiple avenues, brands may find it difficult to keep up with fulfillment processes without the help of a seasoned omnichannel partner. Partnering with a third-party logistics company that specialized in omnichannel order fulfillment provides brands with access to:

  • Omnichannel fulfillment technology for real-time order and inventory visibility
  • Experience streamlining
  • Multiple fulfillment centers for multi-node solutions
  • Detailed KPI reporting for continuous improvement
  • Specialized packaging and shipping methods for each selling channel

4.    Continuously improve and test your selling channels

In omnichannel fulfillment, it’s really all about the customer experience. Without a consistent shopping experience, customers are less likely to feel any sort of connection with the brand. Meaning, they could spend their money elsewhere.

Brands that want to remain profitable within their omnichannel strategy will need to continuously improve their order fulfillment process for each channel to ensure customer satisfaction, timely delivery, and increased sales.

The value of omnichannel fulfillment in e-commerce

There’s no getting around it; Today’s online shoppers want options. Providing omnichannel fulfillment in 2023 is essential for e-commerce retailers, as long as there’s a cohesive brand experience from start to finish throughout each channel.

The reality is this: consumer expectations are always changing. Any online retailer that wants to stay ahead of the curve and remain profitable in volatile times will need to understand what their audience wants and do everything they can to consistently meet expectations.

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