Despite pandemic restrictions tapering off and shoppers returning to stores in person, people continue to buy online more than ever before. U.S. eCommerce sales grew by 14.2 percent in 2021. Selling omni-channel (that is, everywhere) has never been more important, and retailers are challenged to adopt this strategy effectively in the midst of so many new tools and emerging sales channels.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of omnichannel eCommerce and cover best practices for multi-channel fulfillment within an omnichannel strategy. Understanding how the two operate in tandem is key to maximizing your revenue streams, meeting consumer demands, and maintaining a competitive edge.
The importance of omnichannel selling
Did you know 67% of customers use multiple channels to complete a single transaction? What’s more, 40% of customers won’t do business with companies if they can’t use their preferred marketplace. Consumer expectations have skyrocketed, forcing eCommerce businesses to raise the bar for the customer experience.
Omnichannel selling, a sales strategy where retailers use an integrated, multi-channel approach to provide a seamless shopping experience, makes it substantially easier to meet these increasing demands.
Read on as we dive into three key reasons to pursue omnichannel.
1) Diversification of experiences, risks, and rewards
eCommerce retail strategies that began as reactionary measures to the COVID-19 pandemic have now become the standard for excellent customer service.
Flexible features like click-and-collect, at-home delivery, and extended return options are here to stay. Accompanying these is the expectation that customers should be able to connect with a brand across multiple channels at any given time.
As consumer behaviors and interactions become increasingly diverse, many retailers struggle to pivot and adapt to the new demands.
Omnichannel selling brings a more personalized and integrated customer experience to the forefront, as well as develops a support system for your business behind the scenes.
In addition to experiences, you also diversify your risk and reward.
If the pandemic taught retailers anything, it’s to anticipate unforeseen circumstances that could affect your ability to sell on previously reliable streams. By selling items on multiple marketplaces and implementing various communication touchpoints, you spread your revenue, as well as your risk.
So, if your account gets banned or you’re unable to sell on a certain channel, or if a major player like Amazon or Walmart updates their selling policy and you need time to adjust, you can still lean on income streams from other sources.
The result? You improve the consumer experience and your business becomes more resilient. Two birds, one stone.
2) Access to more markets and their customers
Selling everywhere also lets you leverage each marketplace’s established audience. If you’re looking to increase your reach, Amazon gives you access to 300 million active users (172 million being Prime members). Walmart is another big-ticket seller, having achieved almost $65 billion in eCommerce sales in 2021.
Building brand recognition with a conspicuous presence on these larger marketplaces is crucial to healthy sales growth and might just be the competitive edge you need. This brings us to our third point…
3) Remain competitive across channels
Consumers increasingly research products before buying, using multiple platforms to compare prices and models. In fact, 74% of U.S. shoppers begin their online product search on Amazon.
When you sell wherever your customers shop, you minimize the risk of them choosing a competitor. Not only does it boost your brand’s visibility and recall, but it also makes your products more accessible.
And, if you’ve already built brand loyalty with a consumer group, expanding your product availability into their preferred marketplaces will solidify their allegiance.
Reports have found 51% of consumers choose not to purchase from a brand they were previously loyal to because of products being out of stock. You can thus prevent your customer base from shrinking by selling on multiple marketplaces.
Multi-channel fulfillment is an important factor in this endeavor. Keep reading to discover more about fulfillment options.
Multi-channel fulfillment best practices
To sum up, omnichannel selling improves customer service, increases brand recognition, diversifies revenue streams and keeps brands relevant in the rapidly evolving eCommerce world. So, why is multi-channel fulfillment important? And how does it tie into the omnichannel strategy?
In essence, it allows companies to put their money where their mouths are. The actual handoff of products to the consumer must be timely, intact, convenient, and flexible to keep people happy. The ultimate goal of an omnichannel strategy is a synchronized customer experience from the purchase point to end delivery, which is where multi-channel fulfillment comes in.
Here are a few ways you can optimize your multi-channel fulfillment to streamline it and keep it in sync with your omnichannel selling:
1) Layer your fulfillment options
Just like you shouldn’t rely on one marketplace for selling, you should avoid a single route for fulfillment. While Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and third-party logistics (3PL) providers are reliable fulfillment services, combining them will keep you competitive and offer a safety net for your business.
Consider how well a fulfillment service fits your business before committing to a partnership. FBA, for example, is ideal for best-sellers and fast-moving items on Amazon. A 3PL is also great for fast-moving DTC items (i.e., your own website) and other sales channels like eBay and Walmart (unless you also use Walmart Fulfillment Services). Meanwhile, for slow-moving items or products with low margins, we recommend in-house fulfillment, as long-term storage items can incur costly fees with 3PL fulfillment.
Ideally, you want to combine all three services — FBA, a 3PL partner, and in-house — to ship out fast-moving items quickly and save on fees for slow-moving items.
For example, even if you sell exclusively on a single marketplace, you should use both the marketplace fulfillment option and an external one, such as using FBA along with FBM, or Walmart Fulfillment Services alongside a 3PL.
When you’re selling omnichannel, you want to use each marketplace’s fulfillment arm to get the benefits of their promotions (Walmart +, Amazon Prime, etc.) alongside a nationwide 3PL that can replenish marketplace inventory as well as kick-in for deliveries in case the marketplace sells out.
One common set-up we see is a merchant starts out on Amazon, grows and establishes a brand, creates their own DTC store, and then tests out Walmart Marketplace.
For this setup, the merchant would send inventory into Amazon FBA, Walmart WFS, MyFBAPrep, and their own warehouse.
- Amazon FBA for Amazon orders
- Walmart WFS for Walmart.com orders
- MyFBAPrep for DTC orders
- MyFBAPrep to prep and replenish marketplace inventory
- MyFBAPrep to fulfill marketplace orders in a pinch
- In-house fulfillment for slow-moving or low-margin SKUs
Learn more here: How to create resilient eCommerce logistics and operations
2) Leverage marketplace options
Customers hate it when a product they ordered arrives late or, worse, in poor condition. Using marketplace fulfillment solutions provides access to many benefits and badges to help you maintain a top-notch customer experience. Take Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS) for instance: They give your listings two-day shipping and a higher chance to win the Buy Box.
It’s the same with Amazon and their world-class FBA service — your listings receive the Prime badge and associated benefits like fast shipping and high rankings.
Another reason to opt for Amazon or Walmart Fulfillment Services? They store, pick, pack, and ship orders while handling customer care and returns. This frees retailers to focus on core objectives, namely, selling and gaining new customers. They’re also highly established brands that gain instant trust with consumers.
Learn more here: Why to sell on Amazon with FBA
3) Outsource your non-core competencies
Although it’s important to maintain some of your fulfillment in-house , you should still outsource your non-core competencies. As a business owner, you want to spend your time and energy managing your brand, not taping boxes.
One of the biggest levers is to outsource your FBA prep. The main advantages of this are:
- It optimize your logistics to speed up processes and save you time
- Experts who understand the nuances of how to prep for FBA handle the work, which avoids costly mistakes and penalties you’d encounter on your own
Take a look at our blog for more info: How to choose an Amazon FBA prep service | My FBA Prep
Wrapping up – Use multi-channel fulfillment to power your omnichannel strategy
A strong omnichannel selling and fulfillment strategy can be challenging for retailers to coordinate on top of their day-to-day business activities.
Partnering with an outsourced fulfillment partner can provide the seamless consumer experience that customers have come to expect while strengthening your business.
The improved integration between your sales, ordering processes, and delivery can maximize your revenue stream and make you stand out above the competition.