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Omnichannel Fulfillment Complexity

Yitz Lieblich
December 31, 2018

Everything that happens from the time an item leaves your warehouse to the time your customer opens it up is part of omnichannel fulfillment. This already complex process requires more coordination than it did in the past, and customer expectations are continually raising the bar. Although this is one of the most difficult parts of e-commerce, even small advantages can give you an edge over other brands.

"When is it coming?" Is the first thing a customer wants to know after they've narrowed down their choices for the desired product. If your product is just as good and ships just as fast on Amazon, your brand can effectively compete with the online giant in your market space. And, it certainly gives you an edge over smaller competitors. 

Going on the Offense with Your Omni Channel Fulfillment

There are two ways to go with your fulfillment strategy. You can be reactive and follow your competitors, which always puts you a step behind. Alternately, you can go on the offense to gather the people and tools you need to realize your vision. As your e-commerce business growths, it also becomes more complex.  This is most evident in the more nuanced sales channels; expansion in customer locations; and a growing need for technology and people who can use it effectively. 

Sales Channels 

As you grow, you might add new channels quickly or even at the same time, especially if you're following an aggressive growth model. Let's look at a few strategies that can help you keep all the balls in the air and you move forward.

Adding new channels. A dynamic organization looks forward to new avenues that lead to their customers and recognize each as an untapped opportunity. This not only puts more money in the coffers through additional sales but also positions your business for long-term success. These new channels might include: 

  • New e-commerce websites
  • Resellers
  • Dropshipping
  • Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon,
  • Wholesale markets, such as B2B channels

Build a strategic plan. Despite the desire for aggressive growth, a huge part of going on the offensive is having an actual plan of attack. Here are some questions to ask at each milestone:

  • Did you put sufficient time and resources on important initiatives? 
  • Did the leadership establish and rally the forces behind a unifying vision? 
  • Does each department understand and support the vision?

Find and hire the right people. Professionals with experience in supply chain overhauls are not only valuable but essential during periods of rapid growth. These savvy players already understand omnichannel fulfillment and can help your organization come up to speed quickly.

Keep in mind that adding new people to the team is going to strain relationships, especially if they see the new girl or new guy holed up with the leadership team to discuss strategies. This often causes existing employees to push back on changes and drag their feet. This is why Does each department understand and support the vision? has to be answered affirmatively before you hire a complement of new people. Transparency is also received favorably and can cut back on negative feelings that can hamper growth.

Find the right technology. A proactive company finds technology that can help it meet corporate goals. This varies from reactive companies that look to technology as a savior for poor planning and bad business practices. Planning the architecture of what a company's system should look like should begin on paper, not working backgrounds from disparate legacy systems spread across several departments. 

Each of the sales channels above may also bring new platforms for managing inventory. These systems should pass customer data to an order fulfillment system to get the product shipped. However, every time data passes from system to system, something can go wrong, which is why the technology plans need to include integration so that the company is using as few systems as possible.

Customer Locations

Even some e-tailers start out with local customers and grow into national or international entities. Shipping can be a real challenge, especially if your customer base expects free shipping, meaning the price points have to take into account the customer's location. 

If your e-commerce site expands to international customers, it's not just a matter of price since shipping beyond the continental U.S. brings a whole other set of regulatory and risk factors to bear. 

Error and Opportunities

With all the moving parts, you can expect to make some errors and some of them will be costly ones. That's fine and it part of the learning curve that you can apply to future scenarios. However, every person, channel, connection and sales channel can break anywhere along the way. These issues often get escalated to the corner office, if you have one. This is a big distraction that can largely be avoided through setting clear expectations, bringing onboard systems that unify rather than further fragment your operations and laying down the law on following the new protocols.

In this regard, you can also look at omnichannel fulfillment complexity as an opportunity. If you do things mostly right and the transition goes smoothly, customers will have an amazing experience ordering, receiving and using your products. They'll tell their friends to order your stuff, and so on and so forth. There's one secret that makes everything go a lot more smoothly.

What's the Trick?

Software designed to support omnichannel fulfillment is an investment in customer goodwill. You see immediate dividends whenever somebody orders from you thanks to a great experience in your order management system. And you will see great returns when their friends begin to order from you due to a flawless delivery system. Without this software, you might see your aggressive growth arc trend downward.  Here's what you should be looking for.


There's a way to improve the customer experience and match the arrival time of major retailers. To do this, you have to prioritize two areas: multichannel fulfillment and accounting. The holiday season is in full gear and this is the best time to look ahead to improvements for the new year. 

Check out our ultimate guide to order management for great ideas on how to take the next step.

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