Everything merchants need to know about omnichannel and multichannel retailing

What is Omnichannel Retailing?

Omnichannel retailing is a sales strategy that involves listing products on multiple channels in order to establish a ubiquitous presence and get in front of as many consumers as possible. An omnichannel merchant will list their products on their own ecommerce website, on all major marketplaces (such as Amazon, Walmart Marketplace, eBay, and Wayfair), on social media, and in retail stores.


The key to successful omnichannel retailing is to streamline as many processes as possible to both simplify internal operations and present a seamless customer experience regardless of the sales channel.


Omnichannel Retailing

Savvy brands are no longer defining their business as solely B2B or B2C or segmenting their traditional retail and ecommerce channels. In today’s connected economy, businesses of every size need some kind of multichannel shopping experience to compete and grow. 


Over-reliance on a single sales channel makes it difficult for businesses to pivot and scale effectively. Additionally, an omnichannel retailing approach diversifies revenue streams and drives 80% more store visits. Whether a brand is focused on ecommerce or brick and mortar is no longer the question – now, brands need to do both to compete and grow. 


A true omnichannel shopping experience goes outside the walls of a traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience to encompass multiple online shopping experiences that make consumers feel connected to a brand no matter where they’re encountering it. The key to success with any omnichannel strategy is creating a seamless customer experience from purchase through delivery.


Today’s shoppers expect to not only be able to find exactly what they’re looking for right at their fingertips, they expect to have it delivered to their doorstep or ready for in-store pick-up in two days or less. This expectation is consistent across all sales channels, and consumers no longer differentiate between small to mid-sized businesses and large enterprises. 

Omnichannel logistics integrates anytime, anywhere dynamic delivery, fulfillment, and return options, giving shoppers a unified experience across all touchpoints and sales channels. Shoppers expect a convenient, branded, and personalized experience from the moment they first interact with a brand to the moment they crack open the packaging on their purchase. 


A successful omnichannel logistics solution is grounded in technology that integrates fulfillment for all sales channels through a single platform. Manually uploading orders from multiple channels or tracking fulfillment and delivery statuses through multiple portals is not a scalable solution and will eventually lead to redundancies and inefficiencies that are not sustainable long-term.


Omnichannel logistics must also be flexible enough to fulfill any order type, regardless of size or transit mode. A streamlined multi-channel logistics solution will be able to fulfill LTL shipments to retail and wholesale customers and small parcel shipments to D2C customers from a single network.

Oftentimes growth comes so quickly that businesses are forced to piece together logistics solutions as the need for more capabilities arise. This can result in a patchwork solution of regional 3PL’s, multiple SaaS solutions, and ad hoc process management. Ultimately this approach, is not sustainable over time and stunts growth, not for lack of demand but a lack of internal capacity.


For this reason, more merchants are outsourcing to experienced multichannel fulfillment partners. that can manage everything through one network. The benefits of managing all sales channels through one fulfillment network are 2-fold:


Reducing the operational burden of omnichannel logistics to free up internal resources for product development, customer service, and sales and marketing.


Having a consolidated view of inventory levels and order fulfillment statuses to make more informed and strategic decisions about business growth.


Technology solutions in omnichannel fulfillment combine the functions of IT provider, operations manager, and fulfillment director into a single platform. The new standard for WMS is full integration into a merchant’s tech stack to improve inventory management through on-time fulfillment. Using technology to support these functions has several advantages for businesses of all sizes:


Greater efficiency: When integrated with an ecommerce shopping cart, fulfillment technology can automate functions like order uploads. Automations ensures that orders are processed in real-time and eliminates the risk of missing the order cut-off time for same-day fulfillment.


Greater accuracy: Consumer expectations for accurate last mile carrier tracking are high. Integrated fulfillment technology ensures that order tracking is always up-to-date and regularly communicated to end customers.


Scalability: Relying on digital, rather than manual processes is the key to scaling quickly. High-growth businesses need a logistics solution that can scale as quickly as their digital sales and marketing channels.


Flexibility: Today’s merchants must have the flexibility to respond quickly to new opportunities. That could mean moving into new areas of geographic demand or shifting focus to an entirely new sales channel.


Intelligent insights: Tech-forward omnichannel logistics solutions give businesses of all sizes access to data and insights previously only available to large enterprises. Data around inventory placement, customer distribution, and demand planning equip small to mid-sized businesses to make more informed decisions to grow their business.

Once a business adopts an omnichannel sales strategy, automation becomes necessary. Multichannel order management requires a clear picture of inventory levels to avoid stockouts and backorders. Orders also need to be routed to the warehouse closest to the end customer to keep last mile delivery costs down.


This level of omnichannel order management can be achieved through a fulfillment software that integrates directly with the merchant’s ecommerce shopping cart, online marketplace, and in-store POS system.


A fully integrated fulfillment platform will simplify omnichannel order management by:


Automatically routing orders to the right fulfillment center based on inventory availability and customer location.


Showing at-a-glance inventory levels by sales channel and inventory location.


Calculating sales velocity at SKU level and suggesting appropriate reorder dates.


Making smart suggestions for reallocating inventory based on demand to increase sales opportunities.


Highly strategic omnichannel order management will seek to find the perfect balance of diversifying sales to minimize dependence on a single channel while focusing sales and marketing efforts on the most profitable channels to increase margins.

Traditionally, the tools and data needed to build an efficient omnichannel fulfillment network were available only to large enterprises for a high price. However, as the logistics industry continues to evolve, major strides are being made in the area of machine learning and AI to make the necessary data and reporting available to businesses of all sizes. The logistics industry is rich with data to help merchants solve complex omnichannel fulfillment problems like demand forecasting and network planning.


By leveraging machine learning to aggregate WMS, TMS, and OMS data, multichannel fulfillment platforms can help merchants:


Determine where to place warehouses according to their biggest customer bases and required warehouse or transportation capabilities.


Determine how much inventory they should carry and where to distribute it.

Efficiently manage SKUs and perform accurate inventory forecasting to   strike the right balance for carry costs and supplier bulk order discounts.


Use data-driven demand forecasting to align their marketing spend with inventory availability to get the most out of seasonal peaks.


Planning Your Omnichannel Fulfillment Network


Ware2Go’s free network planning tool, NetworkVu, is one such tool that analyzes historical sales and shipping data to strategically recommend warehouse placement and achieve optimal service levels while reducing cost to serve and time to serve.


Frequently Asked Questions

Multichannel Retailing and Omnichannel Retailing are often used interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the two terms. Both terms refer to diversifying and adding sales channels, but omnichannel retailing is overall more of an integrated approach to multichannel sales. The goal of omnichannel retailing is to create the same customer experience no matter where customers are interacting with a brand — whether in a brick-and-mortar store, on an online marketplace, or on social media.

Omnichannel selling is a strategy retailers use to provide a seamless customer experience across multiple sales channels. This approach gives customers the ability to purchase products on a website, across online marketplaces and in-store with the choice to have their order delivered or picked up in person. 

Adopting an omnichannel or multichannel sales strategy has largely become table stakes for retailers to compete and grow in an increasingly connected commerce experience. It is also a good idea because it diversifies revenue streams and increases exposure and reach with new customers.

Managing multiple sales channels is a big task, especially for small and medium businesses. A good omnichannel solution goes a long way to streamline operations and ensures that orders are managed effectively and effectively without costly delays or errors. 

Customers have come to expect the convenience of a seamless buying experience. They shop across channels and marketplaces to find the right product at the right price; when they do, the buying process has to be fast and easy for them to convert. The more obstacles or actions they have to take, the more frustrated they get before moving on to a competitor.