From Warehouse to Doorstep: Navigating Merchandise Fulfillment Channels

From Warehouse to Doorstep: Navigating Merchandise Fulfillment Channels

“Omnichannel” might be a shopworn phrase at this point – marketers have tried to play up “unified commerce,” to no avail – but the concept is about as critical as it gets for (sellers, retailers, merchants, eCommerce companies). At the core, it’s really all about merchandise fulfillment.

If you’re like most companies falling under those headings, you’re selling products in more than one channel, and likely multiple channels. Since the advent of eCommerce in the late 1990s, when a startup from Seattle began its march to dominance, companies have been trying to figure out how to make that process as efficient as possible.

All today’s shoppers care about is, “Where’s my stuff?” Or in industry parlance, WISMO (where is my order?) Amazon has effectively seen to that, as it continually raised the bar of customer expectations for speedy, (mostly) hiccup-free ordering, fulfillment, and delivery. So companies are left to figure out the best way to make merchandise fulfillment happen – without a war chest in the billions.

The good news is that there are options available today that companies can pursue to make omnichannel a reality without breaking the bank. The quickest path is to partner with a third-party logistics company (3PL) that has made the people, processes, and technology investments to drive a highly efficient fulfillment operation.

Understanding Omnichannel Merchandise Fulfillment

To add a bit more definition, omnichannel in the context of merchandise fulfillment means the ability to fulfill orders across channels so that the customer experience looks and feels the same every time. On the back end, it means orchestrating the order flow so that one channel isn’t cannibalizing another and margins aren’t getting squeezed by massive shipping and delivery costs.

This means getting “available to promise” and “safety stock” right. What’s listed on the site for sale needs to match what’s actually in eCommerce stock as closely as possible. Conversely, too much allocation of a hot SKU to online could rob the retail channel in key locations with high demand, resulting in disappointed store shoppers.

So clearly, customer expectations and the need to deliver a consistently stellar experience are the main drivers of your merchandise fulfillment strategy. It means having the right order and inventory management software to not only optimize stock levels across channels but also pull orders as close to end customers as possible, saving on transportation costs.  

Taking Omnichannel Fulfillment to the Next Level

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are solving the evergreen problem of siloed inventory data. This next-generation technology is making it possible to finally achieve real-time visibility into stock levels across channel teams, optimizing orders even in between ERP data syncs.

AI and ML optimize order fulfillment and delivery by analyzing vast amounts of data to predict demand and allocate inventory efficiently. Through network intelligence, these technologies determine the most logical delivery routes and network nodes to pull from (DC, FC, store, drop ship), minimizing delivery distances. Customers get their orders quicker, shipping costs are reduced, and products are available where and when needed.

Fulfillment Strategies in Omnichannel

Many companies are moving away from the traditional hub-and-spoke model of distribution, which is becoming archaic in an omnichannel world, creating a more distributed network. This utilizes DCs, FCs, stores, and dropship partners as network nodes. It’s a much more efficient system because fulfillment is localized. Orders can be fulfilled from anywhere, with optimized inventory positioning based on analytics-driven demand signals, and get delivered fast, at a lower cost. 

Within the warehouse, an optimized omnichannel merchandise fulfillment process includes real-time inventory tracking, and tight integration between supply chain systems (WMS, OMS, ERP, TMS). Data analytics drives efficient stock allocation among storage, reserve, and forward pick locations. Inbound orders are placed strategically so items frequently sold together are in close proximity, shortening pick paths and reducing costly split shipments. Associates assisted by autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can be assigned to just an aisle or two, and the bots come to them.

On the outbound side, OMS and TMS coordinate to sync batch or continuous flow orders with carrier pickup schedules. The TMS also handles carrier selection based on predetermined criteria such as cost, service level and route optimization. In this entire scenario, workflows are streamlined, reducing errors and enhancing efficiency. The result is faster order fulfillment,  reduced costs, and improved customer satisfaction.

For many companies that don’t have omnichannel fulfillment as a core competency, an experienced 3PL provides an excellent turnkey solution for order processing. They offer specialized services such as warehouse automation, transportation management, and system integration. Many have invested heavily in technologies to optimize inventory management and delivery routing, increasing efficiency and accuracy. Industry expertise across categories enables 3PLs to tailor fulfillment strategies based on product types. Clients benefit from economies of scale for fulfillment and shipping.

When It Comes to Omnichannel Merchandise Fulfillment, Bring In the Professionals

Omnichannel fulfillment is crucial for meeting customer expectations of fast delivery without hiccups. Partnering with a qualified 3PL can provide the expertise and resources needed to ensure that orders are fulfilled quickly and accurately, no matter where the customer is located.

Shipbots, a specialist in LA fulfillment and omnichannel operations, can help you unlock efficiency and growth through efficiency and scalability. Our variable cost model and no-contract advantage mean significant savings on warehouse space, staffing, and logistics. All of this frees you up to focus your time and resources on what matters: growing your business. Get in touch today for a free quote.

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