3 reasons WMS is crucial for mastering multichannel fulfillment

As we are all aware nothing stands still for long in the world of retail and e-commerce.  As consumers we continue to demand more of our shopping experiences – more options, more products, more immediacy. We hate to wait; and as shopper habits evolve, so do warehouses. 

Perhaps the most noticeable change caused by multichannel fulfillment, or the process of completing orders destined for both bricks and mortar stores and households, is the demand for greater efficiency – getting packages out the door quicker. 

However, warehouses face a more fundamental change: they’re catering to new audiences, and their operations must reflect this shift. Multichannel fulfillment requires maintaining the right stock and the proper rules for both customer and retailer orders. 

Because multichannel fulfillment increases the variables in warehouse management, today’s supply chain requires better tools to get the job done. That’s where a warehouse management system (WMS) comes in. More warehouses are turning to WMS, bringing order and efficiency to their inventory processes, which can vary from one row to the next. 

Here I outline three key areas for you to consider why a best-of-breed WMS is crucial for success in this age of multichannel commerce:

1. Operations: manage changing rules by buyer 

Retailer fulfillment and direct-to-consumer fulfillment require different processes. While the team in one area of the warehouse may pick large pallets of the same item, another team across the warehouse may pick thousands of single items. Warehouses must also manage different shipping requirements, as direct-to-consumer items will likely ship through a third-party company such as UPS or Hermes, while retailer fulfillment may remain within the company’s logistics. 

With orders coming from all angles, you need a system that can keep your picking and packing rules straight. An advanced WMS manages these rules within one system, eliminating the need for paper-based workflows – a crucial step toward successful multichannel fulfillment. 

2. Customer experience: meet ever-changing demand 

Multichannel fulfillment adds new hurdles to your inventory management processes. Consumers expect visibility into product availability, no matter if they’re in a store or shopping from the comfort of their settee.  

According to studies, 58% of consumers consider it important for inventory status to be visible online, and more than half want to receive back-in-stock alerts. Your systems must work together to deliver accurate information no matter the channel. An advanced WMS can integrate with your e-commerce platform and point-of-sale system, ensuring accuracy through efficient, real-time data on inventory stock. You can keep up with complex shipping demands, enable greater transparency and deliver a seamless customer experience, no matter how and where customers interact with your brand. 

Also, don’t let your positive customer experience end at shipping. To make the most of multichannel fulfillment, it’s imperative you master reverse logistics. A WMS can give you deeper visibility into your return processes to help you keep track of what is returned, why it’s returned and where it could be stored – no matter if the customer returns a product online or in-store. 

3. Competitive edge: lead the charge on emerging platforms 

As e-commerce competition continues to grow, so has the number of channels. Participating in a major platform’s multichannel program can add a lucrative level to your fulfillment operations, and that’s why some retailers have expanded to platforms they don’t own, governed by standards they can’t control.  Employing a strong WMS grants your warehouse access to the data it needs to streamline processes, increase accuracy and meet the latest standards expected from various these various channels.

Summary: challenges into opportunities 

As multichannel fulfillment becomes a mainstay of warehouse operations, challenges come from every direction. Continually shifting demands within the “always on” economy means stability won’t arrive anytime soon (if ever) – but the best warehouses thrive when faced with a curveball. 

Still, it’s impossible to keep up with these changes using manual processes and dated technology. If you want to rise to the challenge and embrace the opportunities of multichannel fulfillment, consider adopting a best-of-breed cloud-based WMS that can seamlessly adapt and grow with you, without costing the earth.  

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Tony Dobson

About the author…

Tony Dobson is the Managing Director at Snapfulfil. With more than 35 years’ experience in supply chain technology, both on the vendor and end-user side, Tony has a unique understanding of the role of technology in helping companies achieve their strategic goals.

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Tony Dobson

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