What is multichannel selling?
Multichannel selling allows customers to shop and purchase through whichever channel they prefer. Traditional multichannel selling used to be limited to in-store experiences, catalogues, or by phone or email. For example, a manufacturer who is selling to a few wholesalers would have sent out a catalogue to them. The wholesalers would then have to call the manufacturer and order over the phone, or via email. This whole process is manual, involves plenty of paperwork, and is prone to mistakes or misunderstandings!
With the rise of digital selling, it has opened many more sales channels including any, all or some of the following:
- Social media channels
- Marketplaces such as Amazon
- Hosted eCommerce platforms like Shopify, where the business’ website is supported by the platform’s web server
- Non-hosted eCommerce platforms like Magento and WooCommerce, that allow businesses to run, host and support their own website
The low costs to enter the eCommerce market allows sellers to add eCommerce to their sales channels so they can effectively diversify their sales strategy. For example, a manufacturer might sell through the traditional methods of catalogues. They might also use a public marketplace like Amazon, and sell through their website. This way, their customers can choose which platform suits their needs best to place and track orders.
Businesses can now use digital channels to sell both to their traditional customers more efficiently, and to new business customers via Business-to-Business (B2B) transactions online. They can also create opportunities to sell direct to consumers (B2C). Forward-thinking businesses will have a multichannel selling strategy that combines the best of both worlds.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel selling
Omnichannel and multichannel are two buzzwords that are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing and managing them requires a different approach.
Omnichannel, meaning “all” channels, refers to a unified strategy that creates a single experience across different channels.
Multichannel, meaning “many” channels, refers to a strategy that has many distribution channels. Each channel offers a separate opportunity to interact with the brand and make purchases. The customer typically chooses their preferred channel.
Developing a multichannel strategy
In today’s competitive landscape, it’s crucial for businesses to establish a strong multichannel strategy to improve customer experience, improve business performance, and profitability. Consider these four elements of a successful multichannel strategy:
Understand your customers
Multichannel retailing is about more than just competing on price — and different customers will want different things.
B2C consumers typically buy one-off purchases and expect a range of payment options. With an emphasis on great customer service, they are looking for product variety, free shipping, easy product returns and more.
B2B buyers are after a more consumer-like experience, with personalised recommendations, detailed product information, real-time interaction and more. However, they are still a B2B business and will still need services such as:
- Access to their term accounts
- Quick delivery options
- Ability to track their order
- View product stock availability
Evaluate various sales channels
Successful multichannel retailers only sell in sales channels that make sense for their customers and their business; selling on irrelevant channels can do more harm than good. Carefully consider which channels have the potential for long-term profitability.
Many B2B merchants make the mistake of buying an add-on or plug-in for their existing financial or ERP system; they will not be able to scale as B2B sales increase. They also aren’t flexible enough to serve B2B buyers the way they want to be serviced. To be truly competitive, B2B businesses must choose the correct eCommerce platform that allows B2B selling functionality.
Start by adding one channel
Adopt one channel at a time to make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. It’s a good idea to start with the channel that can bring the most value to the business.
B2B businesses need to also consider starting with one product line — one that is stable and easy to show online. This allows them to work out any problems before scaling up.
Pay extra attention to inventory management
Avoid overselling, stockouts and other inventory mishaps. A robust multichannel strategy requires integrating your inventory management software to ensure important data from your channels is automatically synced across your channels in real time. This is also a great opportunity for businesses to review and update existing backend systems — outdated systems might not be capable of catering to many sales channels.
Capabilities needed for multichannel
Research each channel
Choosing new sales channels takes consideration — where are customers shopping and where does potential revenue lie? Each channel will have their strengths and weaknesses so picking one or two to focus on can help businesses tackle challenges one at a time.
The right systems in place
A multichannel strategy needs the right systems and software in place to support it. Some software are more suited for a multichannel strategy than others. As the number of sales channels grow, business processes are going to get more complex. Data needs to be shared across multiple channels and platforms so that the business can make sales, fulfil orders, keep inventory updated and more
Multiple sales channels should not be managed in silos. The best multichannel strategy creates a seamless experience for the customers and the business; integrated systems are the key to achieving this. A centralised location to manage orders, inventory and product data gives businesses a bird’s-eye view of the entire operation. As a result, the business will be able to keep inventory levels accurate, quickly and accurately fulfil orders, and create high-quality product information.
Consider future capabilities
Gear your multichannel strategy for growth by factoring in these extra capabilities:
- Ability to integrate with 3PLs
- Split shipments
- Define order fulfilment workflows
Challenges of multichannel selling
With more channels, there is a greater risk of losing control of inventory. Online merchants especially struggle to cope with demand fluctuations, overstocking, overselling and more. Not only will better inventory management help keep stock under control across channels, it also plays a crucial role in enhancing customer levels, which helps retailers in the long run.
Returning and exchanging challenges
Each channel might have its own returns and exchanges policies that merchants have to comply with. Whatever the reason for returns or exchanges, businesses need to be responsive and focus on keeping their customers happy.
Frustration caused by the returns process can decrease customer satisfaction and there’s a real risk of losing that customer altogether. This might not have serious implications for B2C businesses, but for B2B businesses who have relatively higher value customers, losing even one customer can be devastating.
Order management and fulfilment
Order management and fulfilment is a critical part of both B2B and B2C multichannel sales but they each come with their own challenges.
In B2C, the order fulfilment process is simple and there is a greater emphasis on enhancing customer satisfaction through a variety of shipping options, including free shipping or same-day shipping. However, shipping the orders can get complicated. The quicker the order gets to the hands of the customer, the more satisfied and loyal they will be.
In B2B, orders are often in bulk as their buyers stock up on products or materials. Order fulfilment must be focused on speed and efficiency to get products delivered on time. Delivery delays can severely damage your relationship and might even violate service-level agreements. B2B businesses also have to contend with regulations like tariffs, shipping levies, taxes and different government regulations.
Multichannel pricing strategy
Multichannel businesses often adopt a pricing strategy where they will offer customers different prices on the same products depending on the sales channel. It is common to offer customers lower prices when they purchase through online channels.
The benefits of multichannel pricing
Retailers that have an effective pricing strategy across all channels see a bottom line growth of 2% to 5%. Plus, a multichannel pricing strategy can:
- Attract new customers and retain existing ones
- Clear excess or slow-moving stock. Sellers can offer more competitive pricing in different channels
- Provide a platform to test which marketing and promotional activities are more effective in one channel compared to another
Multichannel pricing challenges
With more ways than ever to get products into the hands of buyers, pricing models must adapt too. Multichannel merchants have to handle these pricing challenges:
Lack of control over third-party resellers
Third-party eCommerce retailers can on-sell merchandise even though they aren’t the brand. They can also sell it for markedly low prices and take advantage of their lower costs to reap the profits. This impacts the original business’ price positioning strategy. There is a high risk of the original business losing control of their product and brand.
Inconsistent prices across channels
The line between online and physical stores are blurring for customers. However, a multichannel business might be managing the channels as separate business units — the way they manage and price their products might not be consistent through their sales channels. Different prices across the channels can be confusing for customers and make it difficult to manage expectations from a retail perspective.
Irregular product management
Multichannel businesses are faced with the challenge of keeping products consistent across channels. One of the biggest problems is that product numbers in store don’t match those online. Along with pricing differences, this inconsistency aggravates frustration and adds a layer of complexity to the buyer’s experience.
Rise in B2B eCommerce requires a multichannel approach
We are now leading increasingly cross-channel lives; multichannel shoppers, both in the consumer and business buyer contexts, spend more than single-channel shoppers. This forces traditional single-channel businesses to face a critical decision: adopt multiple channels or retain their single-channel model and risk losing out to new multichannel competitors.
To understand the B2B eCommerce model, let’s break it down to its components: the business-to-business part, and the eCommerce part.
When businesses are looking to buy from other businesses, the B2B model comes into play. In contrast to B2C transactions, the B2B model covers the raw materials, parts, goods or services which companies sell to other businesses.
For example, a manufacturer can have a complex supply chain. Not only does their job include assembling or producing the final product, but they also have to source all the materials that go towards making the final good, and then sell these through their channels. This means that their business can involve multiple B2B transactions.
The eCommerce aspect simply refers to transactions being made over the internet. eCommerce has grown to include eCommerce sites or even online marketplaces like Amazon.
The B2B Model
The Traditional B2B Process
If your business was selling parts to another company, the B2B sales process would have been relatively linear. You would introduce the potential buyer to the company and product line, then pitch the benefits of your products to the potential buyer. This sales process begins on the assumption that your potential buyer doesn’t know much about your business, and the sales transaction was normally a manual process involving a lot of paperwork and manual input.
The New B2B Sales Process
As eCommerce comes into play, the traditional B2B sales process is becoming obsolete for many businesses. B2B companies have been selling online longer than the eCommerce industry gives them credit for. According to a report by BigCommerce, most have been selling online for at least two to five years, or longer.
The B2B buying process is no longer linear; instead, it is fluid. While the buyer is exploring, they are also evaluating their options. When the salesperson is eventually involved in the process, the B2B buyer will already have an idea of what they want and what they expect from the vendor.
B2C digital shopping behaviour have also translated to the B2B field. Empowered by the Internet, B2B buyers are much more sophisticated and informed. They use digital channels to compare price and quantities, look for the most deal-worthy offer, validate information and transact online.
Gartner research found that 83% of surveyed customers accessed digital channels even in the late purchasing stages. This further stresses the importance of having a digital platform designed for buyers. Of our Unleashed manufacturers, those with a dedicated online channel completed over 3,500 sales transactions a year on average; this is 20% more than those manufacturers without a dedicated online channel.
How is B2B eCommerce evolving?
The B2B eCommerce industry has been growing over the past two decades; by 2020 it is predicted to grow to $6.7 trillion, making it twice that of the B2C global market. Find out why wholesale businesses need a B2B eCommerce strategy.
A shift in the buyer profile
The B2B purchasing process is often much longer and more comprehensive than it is for B2C, largely due to the increased scale of purchases. As such, it is vital that B2B companies are aware of the people who research and make the purchases.
There has been a dramatic shift in the B2B researcher demographic. According to a study conducted by Google and Millward Brown Digital, nearly 50% of B2B researchers were aged 18 to 35.
This generation, known as the millennial generation, is unlike the previous generations. As frequent online shoppers, they also expect the purchasing ease-of-use in the B2B sales process. Not only are millennials more active in the research process, but they also have greater influence over purchase decisions. In the same study by Google and Millward Brown Digital, although 64% of the C-suite have final sign off, 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions.
Millennials grew up with the Internet and smartphones, and have transformed the way B2B buyers research purchases, qualify vendors and make purchases — the rules of the B2B game have changed for companies. If you’re not already making it convenient and easy for millennial B2B buyers to purchase your products, then consider reevaluating your strategy.
The rise of mobile eCommerce
Mobile has a growing role in the B2B customer journey, from product research through to completing transactions. According to a study by Google and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 50% of B2B search queries are made on smartphones. This figure is expected to grow to 70% by 2020. Not only is the buyer profile changing, but also how they use technology at their disposal to make decisions. Interestingly, mobile increases loyalty – customers that have a positive mobile experience are more likely to repurchase and be loyal. For B2B businesses, this means that it is now more important than ever to have a sales process that is mobile friendly.
The need for personalisation
B2B buyers are researching companies and making decisions long before they even get in touch with a salesperson. The online sales environment also further emphasises that there are fewer touchpoints between the salesperson and the buyer. Despite that, buyers are still asking for a personalised experience.
As B2B transactions become more commoditised, listening to customers and addressing their needs are what separates the good B2B businesses from the great.
Personalisation is tougher but more necessary than before as 70% of buyers agree that the vendor’s website was the most influential channel in their journey. B2B businesses need to go beyond basic email personalisation and really cater to their customers’ needs.
Here are some ideas on what they can do to personalise their website to the unique buyer:
- Recognise a repeat visitor to the site by including a simple welcome back message
- Display relevant call to actions
- Ask website visitors what their role is to tailor the website content
The developing B2B multichannel supply chain
In a multichannel B2B business, buyers can purchase stock at a physical store, or place orders over the phone or online. Despite this, businesses continue to treat these multiple supply chain channels separate from each other — each channel has its own warehouse and transport solution. For the customer, this can be problematic because it hampers the multichannel experience.
Respond to changing B2B buyer expectations
The multichannel experience is more than just serving customers through a different channel. Business buyers expect merchants to provide enhanced fulfilment capabilities — services like next day delivery, order tracking and the ability to view stock availability across channels are now part of B2B customers’ expectations.
Leverage technology to serve channels
For B2B sellers, fully embracing multichannel capabilities means embedding digital initiatives into all aspects of their organisation. For your customers, it will mean providing them with order tracking features, past order history, and ease of re-ordering.
Manage inventory centrally
The potential for errors in shipping and logistics increases with each new channel, resulting in the correct products not being available for when the customers need it. This can result in lost sales and negatively impact customer satisfaction.
One way around this is to centralise inventory management. One caveat is to ensure stock is not sold twice through more than one channel. A successful multichannel strategy requires a robust inventory management system in place so that all orders across different channels are accurately recorded in real-time. This will ensure inventory is not mismanaged and that the team always has clear visibility over stock levels.
How does a B2B eCommerce strategy benefit your business?
Investments in B2B eCommerce platforms have not been a top priority for B2B companies, but this is changing. Market leaders are starting to recognise that their competitive advantage does not come from merely having a B2B online portal presence. It comes from having the right platform, and a solution that combines the understanding of business rules, processes, and issues to truly leverage this industry online.
Boost competitive advantage
The new generation of online shoppers grew up with technology and use it daily in their lives. They are comfortable navigating their way on the web, with the clear majority preferring to buy online. According to a recent study by Forrester, nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.
B2B organisations need to shift their focus to a process that appeals to this generation of B2B buyer. More millennials are moving into roles in which they are involved in B2B purchasing decisions, so the need to revolutionise traditional B2B sales channels to maintain competitive is critical.
A major barrier for B2B eCommerce is the lack of accessible eCommerce solutions. Many B2B companies combine back-office software, accounting systems, inventory management systems, and more. With such a complex set up, B2B companies find it difficult to introduce another component to the mix.
Things are changing, and there are many great solutions for B2B companies who need to introduce eCommerce but may be afraid of the level of complexity their business involves. eCommerce platforms can drive a customer experience online and create opportunities for wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers.
Using an online channel creates bigger opportunities for businesses as it opens up their market to more customers. For example, manufacturers that use Unleashed Software without an online channel have on average just over 200 customers, whereas those that have an online channel boast 1,200 customers on average – five times that of manufacturers without an online presence!
Lower operating costs
There are many benefits to B2B eCommerce, one of which is reduced operating costs. B2B eCommerce automates tasks like order confirmation, give status updates, track shipment and more. This reduces the amount of time salespeople have to spend on low-value activities, such as answering phone calls; instead, they can to focus on more strategic, high-value activities like building relationships with B2B buyers.
Keep customers coming back
As previously mentioned, B2B buyers access digital channels throughout their purchasing journey. Empower your customers by supplying rich product details, order information, and even stock levels. When your customers have transparency over product information, it can significantly lower the number of calls you receive about basic product information enquiries.
Giving them convenience
Your B2B eCommerce store is effectively open 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. This enables customers in core territories, foreign markets or different time zones to place an order when it suits them. No longer are they limited to placing orders over the phone or via emails – these methods require multiple human touches and are more likely to have data entry errors.
Personalising their experience
B2B buyers want and need a personalised shopping experience – catalogues, pricing and product selection should be curated for their purchases and organised according to their specific needs.
Imagine your business supplies a variety of drinks, from juices and water, to soda and energy drinks. If a healthy drinks distributor was browsing B2B sales website, the last thing they would want to see is your selection of fizzy drinks!
Ensure that you tailor catalogues, pricing and product selection for each customer and organise them according to their specific needs. Another tangible way of delivering personalisation is through customised or dynamic pricing; this takes into account purchase volume, frequency, and relationship value. Customised pricing gives loyal customers a greater incentive to purchase, compared to a buyer that does one-off purchasing.
Reach a wider audience
A B2B eCommerce strategy removes geographical boundaries, allowing businesses to tap into new markets and reach a wider audience. For example, distributors/wholesalers selling winter snow gear in the Northern Hemisphere might sell the most from December to February. With an eCommerce strategy, they can sell their gear to the Southern Hemisphere, where the demand for winter gear is contrastingly high from June to August.
See how the Unleashed B2B eCommerce platform can benefit your business
Multichannel Selling and B2C sales model
The B2C model refers to transactions that happen directly between a company and the end-user of its goods or services.
Traditionally, it referred to mall shopping, pay-per-view and infomercials. However, the rise of eCommerce has created a new B2C channel that sells goods and services over another channel — the internet.
B2C eCommerce trends
eCommerce growth shows no sign of stopping. According to Statista, retail eCommerce sales amounted to US$2.3 trillion globally; this number is forecasted to grow to US$4.88 trillion in 2021.
With eCommerce evolving at such a rapid pace, businesses need to keep up with the latest trends in order to boost sales and stay ahead of the competition. Here are some of the trends that are set to dominate in the future.
Blurring of the online and offline shopping experience
Customers no longer consider the difference between online and offline shopping, and will often go between them interchangeably. In America, Amazon has been pioneering the integration of traditional and online retail. Early 2017, they opened a corner store called Amazon Go. This revolutionary store does not have any registers; instead, shoppers scan into the store, shop and leave the stores with their items billed to their Amazon account. This move by Amazon is one of many plans to fuse online and in-store customer experiences.
Dynamic order fulfilment
Customers want convenient payment options and flexible product delivery options. In an effort to make sales as frictionless as possible for the customer, businesses are turning towards flexible order fulfilment methods such as:
- Buy online and pick from the store
- Buy online and return in store
- Delivering out of stock products from a warehouse
- Place order in store and get home delivered
eCommerce growth is primarily being driven by customers on their mobile devices. Mobile sales totalled $1.357 trillion, representing 58.9% of digital sales globally; this is a huge leap compared to 40.2% in 2015, while 62% of smartphone users have made an online purchase on their mobile device within the last six months. Furthermore, customers often switch between devices throughout their shopping journey; they might start off on their mobile device and then complete the purchase on desktop.
Mobile commerce is also on the rise because of digital wallets. The likes of Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Paypal, and Visa Checkout allow for frictionless purchasing that makes buying on the go less cumbersome.
As smartphone users and mobile eCommerce grow in number, mobile technology will enable buyers to seamlessly blend their sales platforms for buying and selling. This highlights the importance of creating an eCommerce site that’s optimised for both desktop and mobile browsing. Optimising your website for mobile commerce means making the mobile payment process just as easy, if not easier than the desktop counterpart. Aside from that, it also includes mobile-optimised search, digital wallets, and product videos.
Social networking sites as new marketplaces
Businesses have always cashed in on impulse purchases. With social media, this effect is magnified. Most platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, allow you to make purchases without even leaving the platform.
As more companies establish social media accounts, audiences have shifted away from having interpersonal communications; people are not just using the platforms to connect with individuals anymore. Many are using the platforms to share opinions and experiences about brands, develop tastes, and even shop.
Social commerce, the convergence of social media and eCommerce, is becoming increasingly important in the multichannel strategy. Most companies have a social media presence, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram. This allows them to build brand awareness and engage with customers.
Native shopping experience
Social media sites are already being used by millions worldwide and are great visual platforms – why not make the process seamless by allowing users to purchase directly through the platform?
Pinterest released a feature early in 2017, called Shop the Look. These Pins allow users to click on each element to find out more about it; users only leave Pinterest when they are ready to purchase and are directed straight to the retailer’s site.
Augmented and virtual reality
In 2022, the augmented and virtual reality market is expected to be worth US$ 209.2 billion. No longer are they unattainable futuristic concepts. Instead, retailers can leverage this technology to improve their shoppers’ experience.
IKEA offers an AR app that allows you to display true-to-scale 3D products in your home. With this, users can see whether the product will fit and how it will match the rest of the room.
Not only will we see AR and VR become part of the shopping experience, but also part of the packaging experience. For example, QR codes on the packaging can enhance the experience of the product, or the packaging can even be repurposed as a disposable AR device. AR and VR are only just getting started in the eCommerce world.
As voice assistants like Amazon Echo, Google Home and other voice-activated devices grow in popularity, voice search will soon become the preferred method of search.
Before businesses rush in to incorporate voice search on their website, they need to optimise their eCommerce store for this. This involves taking the time to understand their key customers, finding out how they interact on the social media platforms, and learning how to mirror their language.
Improving the customer experience
Great businesses are devoted to delivering great customer experience. This can involve providing great service, fast or free shipping, offering competitive prices and a user-friendly website. But as this becomes the status quo for eCommerce retailers, businesses that offer personalisation and localisation will stand out from their competition.
Personalisation usually refers to personalised merchandising. Businesses can use a variety of factors to serve contextually relevant content and products for each customer:
- Recommend products based on past search queries
- Recommend products based on purchase history
- Recommend products based on what’s currently in their shopping cart
- Recommend products based on their local climate or region
Localisation is a form of personalisation in which the customer’s IP address alters the site content in order to provide a contextual shopping experience. For example, a business could gather personal data like the customer’s gender or location and tailor their onsite popups and welcome messages.
The stress of multichannel on B2C supply chains
With multichannel retailing, there are more factors that influence the supply chain. Not only are consumers shopping in multiple ways, but businesses also have to factor in shipping costs, different models of order fulfilment and delivery times.
Most multichannel B2C retailers’ supply chains aren’t set up to handle current demands of speed and convenience in a cost-effective way. Here are some challenges they are facing:
Lack of distribution centres
Customers are demanding free and quick shipping. However, most multichannel retailers don’t have enough distribution centres to cost-effectively reach all their customers in the desired time frame. In the push for speed, retailers without sufficient strategically placed distribution centres will have to bear the cost of expedited shipping or redesign their network to be closer to customers.
Poor cross-channel coordination
Currently, retailer supply chains are optimised for stores, with online channels treated as an add-on. Each channel is managed separately to the others, leading to poor cross-channel coordination across channel-specific inventory and order fulfilment processes. This results in more frequent out-of-stock situations and stock markdowns.
Retailers typically stock a wide range of things to cater to their customers’ demand for choice. Stocking more products creates new capacity and cost challenges such as incurring extra expenses for picking additional online orders, requiring additional warehouse space and manpower in peak season.
How does a B2C eCommerce strategy benefit your business?
The internet is changing the way customers learn about products, select and purchase products. In fact, 56% of in-store purchases are influenced by digital commerce. If businesses don’t offer an online channel for their consumers, they could be losing half of their potential revenue. Here are some ways a business can benefit from having an excellent eCommerce strategy.
Access the global market
Without the confines of a physical store, an eCommerce strategy gives businesses the opportunity to expand their reach. This can be especially valuable for a growing SMEs as they can achieve this without a hefty price tag.
Customers now research products online and compare them across a wide range of vendors. While physical retailers rely on brand image and customer relationships to bring in foot traffic to their store, online retail has an additional benefit of driving traffic from search engines like Google, or even Amazon. Businesses that effectively improve their search engine optimisation (SEO) will see a boost in traffic to their store.
Lower operational costs
Because of its online nature, B2C eCommerce sales channels often have lower operational costs; there are less staff to pay and no physical store to pay rent for! Businesses can leverage an eCommerce strategy to increase their efficiency while also reducing their operating costs.
eCommerce is not strictly limited to retailers. Manufacturers can also open their own B2C eCommerce sales channel to service the end-customers; this additional sales channel can be very profitable. For instance, of our Unleashed manufacturers, those without an online sales channel have 217 customers on average and have a 48% sales margin. In comparison, Unleashed manufacturers with an online retail channel have over 1,200 customers and have a 53% sales margin.
With a dedicated inventory management software to manage manufacturing inventory, manufacturers that have an online retail channel don’t have to rely on channel partners or retail partners to sell their goods to the end-consumer. This opens the business up to many more customers to increase the bottom line.
Integrated software across the entire process
The entire eCommerce supply chain can be easily integrated to seamlessly manage the entire business process. For example, retailers can manage their inventory using an online inventory solution. They can efficiently manage their inventory, monitor stock levels at a glance, and place orders before they run out of stock, making procurement more efficient. They can also integrate accounting software to track their finances and more. Smart online retailers will have their software stack integrated so that data flows seamlessly across various business functions.
Building retail multichannel supply chains of the future
Be more than just a store
Multichannel retailers should offer more than just a place for customers to purchase. Successful multichannel merchants will offer a bundle of services that respond to their customers’ shopping experience and demands for cost, convenience and variety. Rather than managing their supply chain linearly, successful B2C multichannel retailers will redesign their supply chain in anticipation for multiple start and end points in the customer journey.
Have a unified view of the supply chain
To respond to the demand for speed, multichannel B2C retailers will have a single view of their supply chain that shows their team what’s available at each stage of the supply chain and in each channel at any given time. This will allow them to fulfil their orders more effectively.
Add more fulfilment centres
Strategically placing distribution centres near where customers are can speed up order fulfilment. However, adding more distribution centres might not be a practical solution for some retailers. Instead, they can adapt their stores to help fulfil orders. Successful multichannel retailers will have a deep integration across their operations, adopt uniform standards across channels and combine separate channel’s inventory to a single shared inventory pool.
Making the move to one supply chain requires agile retailers. The nature of multichannel means that there are many options for fulfilling a single order — retailers need to have agile processes to optimise order fulfilment. Greater inventory management flexibility will also allow retailers to test demand for a product in one channel before releasing it to other channels.
Optimising inventory management for multichannel
When you’re selling the same products on multiple platforms online and in physical locations, inventory management can be a nightmare if systems are not in sync, accurate and organised — you risk diminished customer satisfaction levels with each out-of-stock situation, losing money due to overstocking, increasing delays and cancellations due to inefficient fulfilment processes.
Successfully managing inventory across multiple channels requires clear and concise inventory strategies to combat the challenges associated with multi-platform sales:
Promote inventory visibility
Inventory visibility simply means knowing what inventory you have on hand and where it’s located at any given moment. While it has always been an important part of any business, it is even more important to enhance for a multichannel model — it’s key to improving order fulfilment times and customer satisfaction. It also allows for faster order fulfilment because of the accessible data providing the nearest location of a product for shipping.
Keep accurate inventory records
Regular inventory management can also be problematic when numbers don’t line up. Manual inventory management systems can be inaccurate — minimise this by investing in online inventory management systems. It will allow for continuous tracking throughout your warehouse and stores. This has a run on effect — improved customer satisfaction due to stock availability and improved store management.
Optimise safety stock levels
Getting the balance of stock to ensure the business is neither overstocked or understocked is the crux of stock control. With sufficient data, an inventory management system can accurately forecast sales to inform stock decisions and optimise the amount of items held on hand.
Manage it under one roof
Having a connected system is crucial since the business spans across multiple channels and potentially multiple geographic locations. The entire business will have one view of stock levels in real-time, regardless of location; they will be able to track orders and avoid customer dissatisfaction.