Before the internet, retail revolved around brick and mortar stores and catalog order fulfillment. Online sales have entirely rewritten that paradigm, introducing significantly different channels that have split fulfillment into digital and physical hemispheres. For years, brands have been treating e-fulfillment as a separate business with its own distribution network. Most have since realized that, even though omni-channel order fulfillment involves complex, multi-form processes, customers just want a consistent and satisfying experience.
Today it’s easier than ever to merge the physical and digital worlds – and it doesn’t involve a price increase.
Creating a United Front Between the Physical & Digital
Successful leaders are those who recognize where the industry is headed and aim to get there first. Converging worlds was an inevitability. The pioneers who understood that forged such innovations as “buy-online-pickup-in-store” (BOPIS), “buy-online-return-in-store,” and in-store kiosks that offer greater access to inventory and free home delivery options for out of stock or bulky items.
Much like a magic trick, the impression of merged worlds, without discrepancy or disconnect, is far from simple to achieve. Creating such an illusion of seamless unity within omni-channel order fulfillment takes impeccable skill and agility to pull off.
Feeling the pressure to perform, companies have been quick to boost their customer experience. But it often comes at a great cost and compromise to operational excellence. Part of the problem is that many have already established segregated processes using a multitude of segregated systems and business partnerships. Isolated operations aren’t ideal for creating a unified experience. Returning to magic: the left hand must communicate with the right.
Converging Worlds Requires Converging Systems
With customers submitting, exchanging, and returning orders worldwide from multiple channels and to multiple regions, brands must not only be strategic about their stocking locations, but they must also gain accurate, real-time visibility into their collective inventory and processes. An omni-channel order fulfillment strategy must include a unified view, including over products in-transit, to minimize mistakes, stay on top of availability, and optimally source and route items every time.
Such holistic visibility also allows businesses to better integrate and streamline all order types (sales, purchase, stock transfers, returns) and flow types (inbound, middle mile, last mile), regardless of the channel. Beyond maintaining a uniform customer experience, converging systems and flows enhances operational excellence by introducing more opportunities for order splitting and consolidation.
Unified platforms further make it easier than ever for businesses to provide full transparency on orders through status updates and feedback – including through their web-shops.
Optimizing E-fulfillment Through Micro Supply Chains
With today’s technology, brands can offer customizable delivery or fulfillment options to their customers – regardless of the channel – and boost their own efficiency simultaneously. Smart software now allows companies to tailor supply chains to balance both customer and business demands.
A supply chain consists of a network of enterprises that businesses rely on to source and fulfill orders. Yet no one supply chain (or definitive set of partnerships) is ideal for all customer requirements, constraints, and circumstances. That’s why MPO’s unique Multi-Level Order Management system provides granular visibility, analytics, and control into each stage of supply chain planning and execution, so businesses can dynamically model their networks based on all the given needs and constraints (i.e. regarding service levels, inventory, transportation, and costs), creating an optimized “micro supply chain” for every order.
No matter what sales channel the order comes from – and no matter what type of order it is – businesses will always source from the best possible location and choose the best possible routes to take via the best possible carriers to fulfill that order. Moreover, it’s a real-time, continuous process. If conditions or requirements change, the platform immediately adapts and re-optimizes the flow.
MPO offers the world’s only natively unified platform for supply chain orchestration. Because of our unique integration layer, the transformation doesn’t not require a rip-and-replace. We connect your systems to create a united landscape which enables holistic visibility and Multi-Level Management. To learn more about how our platform enables consistent and cost-effective omni-channel order fulfillment, reach out to our friendly team via email or schedule a demo today!
Martin Verwijmeren is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of MPO, a global, cloud platform that is transforming the way businesses handle multi-enterprise digital order management and supply chain orchestration. He holds a PhD in distributed systems for integral inventory management from the Eindhoven University of Technology.