Growing up can be hard. With growth comes growing pains and learning to adapt to new things all the time. Having the right support systems in place can make the transition easier.
Your business is growing up, and instead of being worried about where this will take you, you should be excited that you’ve done so well and are ready to move up in the world.
Multichannel order management is one of the support systems that can help your little baby-bird business out in the big world.
What is multichannel order management?
Multichannel order management is how retailers keep all of their order and inventory control from multiple sales channels under one umbrella. Multichannel order management solutions streamline ordering, fulfillment, shipping, pricing, warehouse management, and many other functionalities across selling channels, whether it’s online or offline.
For example, you may have a brick-and-mortar clothing store, but also sell to customers through e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce, or marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. It would be a real pain to keep track of online and offline orders and inventory from each individual channel separately. Especially when there are so many e-commerce options.
Multichannel order management software gathers together all data from all your channels and presents it in a single platform.
The challenges of multichannel order management
Selling on multiple channels allows you to grab customers wherever they may be looking for a product. They may prefer one channel to another, and by being on multiple channels, you’ll be covering all of your bases.
However, this approach creates a complex web when it comes to post-purchase business operations.
1. Inventory management can become tricky
Inventory planning is essential when you’re selling across multiple channels.
Forecasting how much inventory you’ll need for each channel and when you need it can get troublesome. Overstock and you’ll be looking at excess inventory for a month. Understock and you might run out of product right when you need it most. Overselling can do huge damage to customer satisfaction.
Another issue? Routing your inventory to the most optimal warehouse to optimise costs and fulfillment time. Having high inventory levels at a warehouse for your web store is no good to a customer in your retail shop with an empty shopping cart and credit card in hand.
2. More complexity in order fulfillment processes
Ticking SKUs off on spreadsheets, printing individual shipping labels, and simple, manual picking and packing probably cut it when you were just starting out and only selling on one channel.
But now you’re on multiple channels, and things are far more complicated. Not only does the quantity of orders to be fulfilled multiply, but the order fulfillment workflows become more complex, as you may need different fulfillment methods for different channels and need to transit inventory between different warehouses. Having the right software can ease the complexity: It allows you to process orders in one place and in real-time, automatically update order statuses, and mostly importantly automate the multichannel order fulfillment workflows tailored to your business.
3. Insights on channel performance
Data is the MVP of any e-commerce business. Unfortunately, having a selling presence on multiple channels can leave you with a pile of unorganized and scattered data. That’s before you add in extra complications like if you use dropshipping or Amazon FBA.
With a fractured view of your business, it can be hard to pinpoint where you need to focus more time and attention. You won’t have a clear picture of how demand is changing or what’s selling well.
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Key features you need in your multichannel order management system (OMS)
1. Native e-commerce integrations
Every multichannel management system worth its salt should be able to connect to all of the e-commerce channels you use, without the need for additional third-party integrations.
Eliminating third-party integrations from the equation will reduce the chance of disconnection issues. A seamless connection will ensure a seamless workflow. Also, with native integrations that are developed and managed in house, you usually get better and faster support without a 3rd-party that stands in the middle.
E-Commerce integrations can also streamline the checkout process.
For example, merchants who use Square as a payment platform will need an OMS with a good integration with that platform. That way, they can manage Square payments and refunds, all without leaving their central system.
2. Flexible order fulfillment options
Getting orders to a customer in the fastest and cheapest way means you need flexible order fulfillment options.
A multichannel order management system should be able to automate multichannel order fulfillment based on your own workflows. For instance, it should be possible to automatically pick the fulfillment method or warehouse based on which channel the order is from and where the delivery address is.
3. Multi-location inventory management
A multichannel order management system really shines when it comes to inventory management.
Instead of seeing the inventory for each e-commerce channel separately or combining them manually into a rudimental inventory management system, you’ll be able to see them all in one place and seamlessly integrated.
On top of that, multichannel inventory management software with multi-location management capability can send fulfillment orders to warehouses that have stock available, saving you the time lost in manually re-routing. They can even trigger purchase orders with suppliers or a backorder to replenish stock levels in future.
4. Integrated POS
Do you ever wish that the inventory you sell in your brick-and-mortar store would instantly be reconciled with the inventory you’re selling through your e-commerce channels?
Multichannel order management systems that have integrated POS can make that a reality. This is especially useful if you offer your customers the option to buy-online-pick-up-in-store or click-and-collect.
5. Data-driven inventory planning
All your data across all channels are at your fingertips with the right multichannel order management system with an integrated inventory planning. You can forecast the right products for the right channel and at the right time.
Using meaningful KPIs, a data-driven inventory planning solution will level up your inventory management, allowing for an efficient data-driven growth strategy.
6. Workflow automation
Automation is changing the world. No more so than in the world of e-commerce and fulfillment.
Workflow automation can be scaled to suit your business needs, taking over the time-consuming operations, so you can work on anything that needs a human touch.
You can manage the workflow automation on all of your different sales channels to create a seamless omnichannel customer experience.
This integration of workflow automation in your order management software will reduce human errors and speed up order processing, ensuring speedy delivery and order accuracy to your customers.
7. Reporting and business intelligence
When making decisions for your business, you don’t want to lose time. You want to have all the information you need upfront and at your fingertips.
A multichannel order management system must have straightforward yet robust reporting that can source data from your entire sales channels, giving you real-time insights about your business. Furthermore, if you want to have more in-depth analytics around your channels, products and customers, you should consider retail business intelligence that will tell a full story of your business performance. So you’ll have all the insights you need to make data-driven decisions.
8. Retail accounting
Post-purchase metrics are essential for managing your business, and the right OMS should make this as easy as possible. Look for an OMS that provides inventory, order, warehousing, and purchasing data in real-time, sending it right into your retail accounting software of choice.
Having your financial information from multiple sources all on one platform will help you make better business decisions.
These are just some of the essential features you should look for when optimizing your multichannel order management system.
For example, if you want a more informed view of your suppliers, the right OMS can help you automate PO creation with purchase order and supplier management. Or, look for an OMS that provides a 360 degree view of your customers.