From the sales channels you choose to the moment orders are delivered, every part of the customer journey must meet increasingly high expectations. At minimum, inventory and orders data must be synced across all platforms in real time to ensure accurate and fast fulfillment and shipping.
If you sell across sales platforms, a solid omnichannel order management approach is essential.
In this guide, we’re sharing what you need to know to establish an omnichannel order management system, plus tips on how to get started.
Table of contents
- What is omnichannel order management?
- Omnichannel order management examples
- Key benefits of omnichannel order management
- How to define and level up your omnichannel strategy
- Choosing an omnichannel order management system: a turnkey solution
- Key omnichannel order management features to consider
- How Linnworks and ShipBob can help
- Omnichannel order management FAQs
What is omnichannel order management?
Omnichannel order management refers to the process of managing inventory, customer orders, ecommerce returns, and data and reporting across multiple sales channels, including physical locations, your website, social media, and online marketplaces.
The goal of omnichannel retail is to meet customers where they shop, on their terms, with a seamless experience across each sales channel. Linnworks calls this customer experience approach “Total Commerce.”
Omnichannel order management examples
What does omnichannel order management or “Total Commerce” look like in practice?
Let’s say a shopper sees one of your products featured on an Instagram ad. They tap the link to learn more but aren’t ready to purchase.
A few days later, they see the same product while running errands around town.
They come back home and do some product comparison on Amazon, check out customer reviews, and compare prices. Convinced, they purchase the product via your Amazon product listing.
Unless you are selling $5 impulse purchases, this multi-touchpoint approach is how most customers shop for products.
Let’s look at another example:
A customer purchases an item through your website. They opt to have the item ship-to-store then pick it up using curbside pick-up.
As they’re setting up the product at home, they discover a part is damaged. The customer initiates a return. Instead of going back to the store, they use a return shipping label, included in the shipment, and ship it back via Australia Post.
In each of these cases, the experience was seamless, inventory was recognized and updated across all channels in real time, and their customer information was recognized online and in-store.
Having a multi-channel inventory management system in place enabled a product to be sold on one channel and inventory levels automatically updated across all channels.
5 key benefits of omnichannel order management
A robust order management system is key a component of a multichannel retailing strategy.
Here are the top benefits of omnichannel order management.
1. Sell, ship, and return anywhere
The larger the business and the more inventory involved, the more challenging sales and returns can be. Omnichannel order management allows you to sell and ship finished goods from anywhere while also connecting customers to their order history for a smooth shopping process.
In case a customer needs to return or make an exchange, it’s crucial that you offer a seamless returns process by offering your customers the option to return and initiate exchanges in-store or through self-service tools.
You may lose money on a return in the short run, but you can easily gain a repeat customer by handling the return in a positive manner.
2. Improve customer satisfaction
Customers want to know that no matter where they are, they will have access to your product.
Implementing a seamless omnichannel order management workflow greatly improves customer satisfaction with the ability to sell, ship, and return product from anywhere.
It also ensures that all sales channels are using the same real-time inventory data to prevent stockouts and backorders.
Omnichannel order management makes the buying and returns process as smooth and frictionless as possible.
3. Simplify logistics workflows
Not only does the customer experience improve, but so does your internal logistics operations. When all of your orders are connected in one place, it’s simply easier to manage your order, inventory, and returns.
Omnichannel order management can be implemented easily using software like Linnworks and a 3PL like ShipBob.
Omnichannel solutions, from order management to retail fulfillment, enables accurate inventory, order, and returns data across channels to ensure orders are fulfilled and shipped quickly and returns are processed smoothly.
4. Maintain a consistent brand experience
Another key benefit is the ability to maintain a consistent brand experience across channels.
So no matter what your customers’ preferred methods to shop are, you can provide the same brand experience for orders purchased in store, on your website, and through third-party channels.
This gives you a unified presence across different channels of distribution and touchpoints, increasing customer loyalty in the long run.
5. Scale operations with ease
It’s easier to add new sales channels to your operations when you have a system in place.
For instance, adding an additional sales channel would mean adding it into your existing strategy, not trying to accommodate one from scratch.
You would instantly start selling on the new platform without any disruptions to your current operations, including inventory management, fulfillment, and shipping.
How to define and level up your omnichannel strategy
Before you can start implementing a new omnichannel strategy, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Your current order management strategy
- Your customer journey, from brand awareness to last-mile delivery
- The available solutions and options for omnichannel retailing
Audit your current order management strategy
First, you’ll need to take a closer look at your current inventory and order management processes.
- How are you managing inventory and orders?
- Do you have a system that scales as you launch new sales channels?
- Is inventory synced between all of the channels you sell on, or is it siloed?
For example, are you using spreadsheets to track your inventory? This can become a costly mistake as your business grows. Spreadsheets are tedious and subject to human error. They also lack the real-time capabilities that come with order management software.
If someone places an order, you would have to manually move the inventory in your spreadsheets throughout the fulfillment process.
The likelihood of costly errors only increases as you scale to more channels. The sooner you make the switch to a cohesive order management system, the better.
Understand your customer journey
Knowing how an omnichannel solution could fit into your business starts with understanding your customer journey.
- Where do your customers go to purchase your product?
- Do you have physical locations? If so, do you customers want curbside pickup?
- Are customers asking to make returns without going into the store?
- Are they interacting with your brand through social media?
- Do you offer products on major marketplaces like Target, Amazon, and Walmart?
The more touchpoints and channels you have, the greater the need for an omnichannel order management software that connects them all.
Consider the different solutions available to you
If you think your ecommerce operation is in need of an omnichannel order management system to help you manage your shipping and logistics across the different platforms, there are several solutions available.
For instance, if you are looking for a holistic order and inventory management platform, Linnworks helps you expand into new channels easier and customer information, inventory, and order management can be synced across all platforms.
If you sell across different channels and need to streamline fulfillment, you might want to consider partnering with a 3PL like ShipBob, which also offers direct integrations with leading omnichannel solutions, including Linnworks.
“Outsourcing both retail and DTC order fulfillment to ShipBob really just gave us the flexibility that we needed to effectively grow our business — not just the DTC segment, but the retail segment also. Honestly, it changed the game for us. So we were just thrilled that ShipBob has come to lead the way in providing fulfillment solutions for small to medium sized businesses like ours.”
Nathan Garrison, Co-Founder and CEO of Sharkbanz
Choosing an omnichannel order management system: a turnkey solution
Fortunately, you don’t have to build an omnichannel order management system from scratch. Omnichannel order management software makes it easy to implement a turnkey solution so you can hit the ground running.
Here are some of the key benefits and features to consider as you shop around.
Key benefits of using an omnichannel order management software to scale your business
The primary benefit is the ability to connect, manage, and automate your retail and ecommerce operations from a single, centralized platform.
This means all of your brick-and-mortar, website, call center, wholesale, and third-party marketplace orders and returns are in one place. It also means reduced data entry for your staff, increased visibility across platforms, and the ability to analyze sales data and forecast demand.
Another benefit is how the system allows you to deliver a consistent brand experience to your customers. No matter where customers make a purchase or interact with your brand, they can expect the experience to be cohesive, which helps eliminate any friction when making a purchase.
These benefits are key to being able to quickly and effectively scale your business. Without them, you’d be looking at disrupted order processing, inaccurate inventory counts, and dissatisfied customers.
Key omnichannel order management features to consider
While the omnichannel order management software you choose will vary based on your business needs, here are the must-have features to look for:
1. Inventory management
At the minimum, it should be able to automatically update inventory across all of your channels. So, if a customer buys something via an Amazon listing, the stock levels are updated automatically across all of your sales channels.
In addition, it should also include algorithms that route your orders to appropriate warehouses and fulfillment centers and identify the right shipping options for each sale. The inventory data should be useful during picking, packing, and the shipping process.
2. Order management
You should have centralized workflows for processing all customer orders as well as any returns. In addition, you’ll need to be able to access past and current customer data, including all purchases across different channels.
3. Multi-channel listing management
A way to update SKUs and catalog management features are also important.
The software you choose should make it easy to create and update product listings (including price information) across any and all of your channels from one place, instead of having to do manual updates.
4. Shipping integrations
Does the software integrate with all of the major shipping carriers (like Australia Post, FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.) as well as your 3PL’s technology?
Many omnichannel softwares offers integrations with shipping and fulfillment solutions.
For example, Linnworks integrates with ShipBob’s technology so you can track orders and shipments from one place.
5. Business intelligence
An added advantage to using omnichannel order management software is increased customer reporting and insights.
You get a holistic view of all of your sales channels, SKUs, order status, and more.
For example, Linnworks’ insights tools makes it easy to keep track of key metrics on stock history over time and key channels by date or by fulfillment partner.
How Linnworks and ShipBob can help
Taking the time to properly set up your omnichannel order management strategy is a worthwhile investment.
Not only will it make your sales process more efficient and improve your company’s ability to scale, but it’ll have a positive impact on the customer journey at every turn.
For instance, using a 3PL like ShipBob to manage order fulfillment can free up your time to focus on growth initiatives instead of packing boxes. And a Total Commerce solution like Linnworks enables you to provide a seamless customer experience that will grow with you. So, you can spin up new sales channels without creating inventory and order management bottlenecks.
Click here to learn more about the ShipBob and Linnworks integration.
Omnichannel order management FAQs
Still have questions about omnichannel order management systems? Here are some of the top questions we hear about omnichannel order management.
What is the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel?
Omnichannel strategies are becoming more common in the DTC landscape, but they’re often mistaken for multi-channel operations. The two are similar in that they have multiple channels, but their implementation is very different.
Omnichannel strategies are integrated and customer-centric. They focus on a seamless experience across the various channels. Multi-channel, on the other hand, means simply having separate channels. The channels are not connected and operate independently of each other.
What are the benefits of omnichannel?
Omnichannel management comes with multiple benefits. The key benefit is the ability to manage orders from each of your sales channels (in-store, website, mobile, social, etc.) in a single location. This reduces data entry, increases visibility, improves the customer experience, and aids in data analysis.
How do you create an omnichannel strategy?
The key to creating an omnichannel strategy is auditing your current systems and processes. Carefully consider when and where your customers are making purchases and interacting with your brand. Once you have an understanding of what your company needs, you can look at the different omnichannel strategy options available.
If you decide to utilize an omnichannel order management system, be sure to keep in mind the features you want from the software when doing your research and before making a purchase.
How can ShipBob help omnichannel order management?
ShipBob is a 3PL with fulfillment center locations across the globe. We manage the fulfillment process for DTC brands so that your customers can get the fast and affordable shipping they expect.