When people ask “What is omni-channel management?” they are usually referring to all of the moving parts of the ecommerce process. The individual categories of that process include purchasing stock, assigning SKUs, scanning, inventory, sales, bundling, labeling, shipping, returns, data analytics, and customer care. Omni-channel inventory management is the management of inventory across all the channels you sell on. For some, that includes a brick-and-mortar store and multiple social media channels as well as one or more online stores. Omni-channel inventory management can be difficult because of all those moving parts. A good omni-channel ecommerce solution will help you automate and streamline every one of those moving parts for maximum efficiency. Because those parts grow as your business grows, it’s a good idea to invest in a system that’s scalable. Some of the most common challenges small ecommerce businesses face are:
- Gaps in your supply chain
- Lack of inventory visibility
- Inaccurate order information
- Inadequate order tracking
- High inventory storage costs
- Lack of automation
Returns can also be a challenge, especially considering that according to one study, 41% of customers buy the same item in multiple sizes or colors with the intent of returning some of them. Effective omni-channel communication with your customers, manufacturers, suppliers, warehouses and shippers is essential. With an integrated system, you can maintain contact with all of them from the same platform, using the same dashboard. You’ll also be able to view exact inventory numbers in multiple locations throughout each stage of the process. Once the merchandise is scanned into the system, your inventory is automatically updated with every sale. That gives you real-time cloud visibility of your inventory, which will be connected to the other processes in your integrated system. Investigate a few vendors with comprehensive systems. The highest-rated ones, like Ordoro, offer demos that show you the features they offer in action.
Just what is a fulfillment center? Well, it’s still a warehouse, but it’s a warehouse equipped with inventory management and shipping technology designed specifically to fill customer orders with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Just as automation technology transforms a warehouse into a fulfillment center, it also transforms storage into fulfillment center inventory management. A fulfillment center is like command central for your inventory. Before you decide if online orders should be filled from stores or fulfillment centers for your business, you should probably do a little research. Not all fulfillment centers, or the fulfillment services they provide, are alike. If you are going to entrust your customers’ orders to a service, you want to make sure they have a proven reputation for consistent, dependable service. Fulfillment services usually include most of the behind-the-scenes processes like storage, pick and pack, kitting and bundling, and shipping and receiving. Some include custom packaging and even gift services. Custom packaging is one way that small business owners can set themselves apart from the competition and provide a personal touch. If that’s important to you, you might want to partner with an all-inclusive service like the Shopify Fulfillment Network. Fulfillment centers usually charge for their services by the hour or unit. Even if custom packaging isn’t one of your priorities, whatever software system you decide to invest in should be able to integrate easily with potential partners like Shopify, Amazon, and eBay. If you want to sell your one-of-a-kind items on multiple ecommerce platforms, smooth integration of all the moving parts is essential. It’s that integration that makes it possible for your system to continue working 24/7, even while you’re out hunting for the elusive new customer. Automated technology is the single biggest factor that allows small business owners to transform first-time customers into return customers.
When you’re thinking of expanding your business, how do you decide between omni-channel or multi-channel strategies? The difference between them can be compared to the difference between all and many. Omni-channel can be described as all access all the time. Your customers are directly connected to every process, from shopping to ordering to shipping to delivery. If your business has grown to the extent that you are considering an omni-channel strategy to keep up with customer demand, first, congratulate yourself. Then ask yourself what tools you need to keep your existing customers happy while cultivating new ones. An omni-channel sales strategy requires software that allows you to connect your customers with multiple storefronts, suppliers, and shippers. With a multi-channel sales model, the same products are listed on more than one sales channel. The channels can be digital, physical, or a combination of both. However, unlike omni-channel e-commerce, you and your customers have access to each other through just one channel. Some of your customers access your business through your online store. Others may access it through a social media channel, while still others might access it from a channel you partner with, such as Amazon. You might charge different prices for the same item on different channels, depending on shipping options and costs. You can use specific channels for specific inventory, which is a great strategy for niche marketing. It’s even more effective when coupled with creating different images and descriptions for different channels. Good multi-channel inventory management software helps you reach a wider audience for your products. Some experts estimate shipping costs to be as high as 15-20% of your total net sales. When it comes to omni-channel vs multi-channel, no matter which strategy you decide to use, having suppliers in multiple locations can really reduce shipping costs.
When debating the merits of an omni-channel strategy vs a multi-channel strategy, the most important thing to remember is that neither are single-channel. One channel is all you need for those selling hand-made items as a second income or a satisfying hobby. However, in today’s world of ecommerce, a single channel is no longer an option if your livelihood depends on the success of your business. No matter what inventory management strategy you choose, the ability to connect with multiple suppliers and shippers is essential. Omni channel distribution means that orders from your customers in California don’t have to be fulfilled from a single warehouse in Maine. Reducing shipping distances by utilizing multiple warehouse locations results in big cost savings. Studies show that the omnichannel customer experience is overtaking all others in popularity. The reason for that can be summed up in one word— choice. Customers want the choice of returning an item to a local store for a refund or exchange instead of having to mail something back and wait for a replacement item. They want a choice of websites they can order a product from. Websites are designed for specific audiences with individual audience members’ particular preferences in mind. The omni-channel experience allows customers to participate in the process and make choices every step of the way. One that allows them to actively participate in the process from beginning to end. The results of one study revealed that nearly 75% of shoppers use multiple channels to compare prices and find discounts. It also showed that omni-channel shoppers spend more on average than single-channel shoppers. Whether the sales were in-store or online, their overall orders were larger and consisted of a greater number of items. That must be why retailers that use omni-channel strategies are reporting higher annual revenues.
Success in using the omni-channel strategy depends on having the right comprehensive omni-channel software system. It’s definitely an investment that’s well worth making. Because it is an investment, it’s important to choose a system designed specifically for ecommerce. Ordoro is the best omni-channel inventory management software available today for small businesses in the process of becoming medium-sized businesses. After interviewing a ton of small business owners to find out what features they needed most, their software engineers delivered them. Ordoro allows you to automate all of your processes and integrate all of your sales and warehouse channels into a common inventory. That common inventory can be shipped from multiple locations, too. Whether you use your garage, Fulfillment by Amazon, a drop-shipper, or all three, you’ll always be able to choose where it’s most cost-effective to ship to. Ordoro’s barcode scanning capability means that your inventory is automatically adjusted over multiple channels with every sale or purchase. It also means that you virtually eliminate fulfillment errors. You can also print shipping labels in bulk and bundle multiple orders together to save on shipping. You’ll have kitting capability to help you move merchandise that isn’t selling well and receive notifications when it’s time to restock merchandise that is. Ordoro seamlessly integrates with major suppliers, making it not just the best option for Shopify omnichannel inventory management, but for Amazon and eBay as well. Data analytics takes all the information provided by your scanner and transforms it into charts and graphs that allow you to make smart buying decisions. Most importantly, by automating the behind-the-scenes processes, Ordoro gives you more time to devote to your customers. They offer a free 30-day onboarding to demonstrate all their features and help you customize them for your specific business for maximum efficiency. They also provide the same level of long-term support that your long-term customers expect from you.