Omni-Channel Retailing is Here: Are You Ready for Omni-Channel Fulfillment?
We’ve been hearing the phrase “omni-channel” for quite a while now in conjunction with omni-channel commerce, retailing and fulfillment. But what does it really mean and how is it impacting the supply chain process? The concept is new enough that its official definition is still solidifying.
E-commerce expert PFSWeb defines omni-channel commerce as the “uniting of online and traditional brick-and-mortar channels and operations,” while POS software provider Vend describes it as “the ability to connect with users on multiple channels and touch points simultaneously or even interchangeably, giving customers the ability to interact and complete transactions on their own terms.”
In today’s omni-channel commerce world, shoppers use multiple channels to initiate and complete a purchase, and their smart phone or tablet is an integral part of the experience.
They may begin by visiting an e-commerce site or perusing a catalog. They may be “showrooming,” or using the physical retail store to view merchandise, but purchase it online. They may choose have the order shipped or choose to pick it up at a local store location. Wherever they buy, they want fast, accurate fulfillment and return options.
All the resources of the retailer’s supply chain—from manufacturers to transportation providers to distribution centers to warehouses to the stores themselves—are marshaled to serve a single shopper who has placed a single order. The need to optimize this end-to-end, omni-channel customer experience is transforming the way the retail supply chain delivers the goods. 
The right supply chain execution strategy is crucial to creating a positive shopper experience. Many retailers are already adapting their business and supply chain solutions to address this dynamic world.
Retail Customer Experience predicts that “By 2016, 50% of national retailers will invest in distributed order management, enterprise inventory visibility and workforce management to enable same-day fulfillment.”
According to Motorola Solutions’ Retail Vision Survey, the most dramatic shift is in the in-store pickup of goods ordered on mobile devices, a fulfillment option predicted to virtually double by 2017. Mobile computing technology, including wireless technology, equipment and devices, will be integral in achieving real-time visibility at every point in the supply chain process – from suppliers to internal operations to delivery.
Some Quick Reads on Omni-Channel Trends
Many retailers are already dealing with omni-channel fulfillment without using that exact term, and have backed into the process in reaction to their customers’ changing preferences. To learn more about the omni-channel concept and what experts predict, consider the following:
- Ten Omni-Channel Trends in 2014 by Matthew Brown, PFSweb
- Retail Trends and Predictions in 2014 by Vend
- Five Steps to Omni-Channel Merchandise Management by RIS News
Not surprisingly, success in the omni-channel commerce means the retooling of traditional thinking on supply chain execution workflows. Companies will need to invest in new technologies that deliver real-time visibility and a high degree of predictability into their inventory at all locations for their operations staff and their customers.
DOWNLOAD WHITEPAPER: Fulfilling Expectations: The Heart of Omni-Channel Retailing
 “Fulfilling Expectations: The Heart of Omni-Channel Retailing,” Motorola Solutions, 2013.
 “Retail Trends and Predictions in 2014,” Vend Limited, 2014.