Why a WMS is critical for Omnichannel fulfilment

Omnichannel fulfilment is all about delivering a seamless shopping experience. Whether your customers are ordering via an app, your website, by phone or buying in-store, they expect the same service levels and overall experience.

Distributors rely on a sophisticated interplay of systems and processes to manage everything. There’s the warehouse and stock, the multiple sales channels and then the varying delivery options, such as stock going into stores and orders going direct to customers or to pick-up points.

To manage all this in a streamlined way that gives you the best opportunity for profit, you need a warehouse management system (WMS).

Manage processes according to the buyer

The fulfilment processes involved with supplying an end-consumer direct and with supplying your retail outlets are very different. For your stores, your picking team will probably be selecting a few shipments made up of full pallets or large qualities of the same time. But for consumer fulfilment, they’re picking and packing perhaps hundreds of discrete orders made up of maybe just one item at a time.

And when it comes to shipping, your consumer deliveries will possibly go through third-party carriers, such as Royal Mail or DPD. While you’re store deliveries may be delivered by your in-house fleet or in full truckload (FTL) shipments.

So it’s vital to have a WMS. WMS systems have sophisticated functionality that can manage complex rules for picking and packing, and they can be applied according to products, buyers or carriers. It’s near impossible to manage an omnichannel fulfilment operation with a paper-based system.

Satisfy consumer demands

Consumers experience varying levels of customer service and order transparency when they shop these days. Some online retailers will provide a great deal of information, allowing buyers to track their orders closely. This includes precise views via a map showing the courier and its current location and number of stops before it will deliver your order.

They can also see stock levels, or request alerts when out of stock products they want to buy are available again.

Consumers also expect to be able to return items as effortlessly as possible. So providing a simple and widely available reverse logistics route is key. You need to be able to allow customers to return directly, through the post or via a collection point, or to get refunds in your stores.

These experiences up the ante for everyone operating in omnichannel fulfilment. Customers expect this level of service and visibility wherever they are shopping now.

To meet these expectations, omnichannel sellers need to employ a WMS that can link to their ecommerce website and show real-time stock data. A WMS can also track returns too, identifying the precise location of goods while they are in the reverse logistics path.

Supply through non-owned platforms

Consumers like choice. But they also like convenience. And the rise of the likes of Amazon is largely due to its vast inventory and fast delivery. Its huge appeal and reach makes it attractive as a platform for third-party sellers to operate on.

Offering your products via Amazon and similar platforms, such as eBay or Gumtree, can expose your brand and products to a larger audience, and in turn can bring you increased sales.

But you need a WMS that can integrate with these marketplaces. They each have their own specific requirements of sellers; for label placement, barcodes, bills of lading, packaging and so on. Some require that a seller uses ASNs (Advanced Shipping Notices) and a specific EDI specification if using EDI.

A WMS and specific integration not only makes the processes compliant with the relevant platforms, but also significantly streamlines the procedural and operational aspects of fulfilment via these channels.

Multi-channel fulfilment opportunities

The internet has enabled consumers to shop 24 hours a day. And in response, retailers need to ensure that they can meet the varied challenges that are presented by omnichannel selling. The best way to do this is to employ a WMS that can match up to the requirements needed with omnichannel fulfilment.

If you would like to know more about how you can manage your warehouse operations to meet sales through multiple channels, call us on 020 8819 9071 or get in touch for a demonstration of our WMS, carrier integration and marketplace integration software.