With consumers expecting a seamless shopping experience whether they buy products in-store, online, or with a mobile phone, it’s no surprise that retailers and brand manufacturers are using a unified commerce platform to enable a seamless front-end shopping experience for their customers.
A unified commerce platform integrates data from disparate software systems such as order management, customer relations management, and inventory management into a central information repository in order to provide a company-wide picture of product availability and offer a seamless buying experience to shoppers. The platform enables would-be customers to see all in-stock products in a company’s network of stores and warehouses, and even the holdings of its supplier partners in some instances, so that shoppers can have complete access to all available inventory. In providing a single mechanism for customer engagement, account management, and order and payment processing, retailers ensure the kind of front-end shopping experience today’s shoppers have grown to expect. As a result, retailers also preserve product margin (by retaining inventory and controlling discounts), while enhancing revenue generation and brand value.
But when it comes to delivering a seamless shopping experience, a unified commerce platform is only part of the equation. And in order to provide real customer satisfaction and build true customer loyalty across all sales channels, retailers need to find an equally unified fulfillment solution that ensures the same level of satisfaction at the delivery end of the transaction that shoppers have at the front end of the experience.
So what kind of unified fulfillment solution works best for omnichannel retailers and brand manufacturers?
If omnichannel retailers are to provide a truly seamless shopping experience, they need a back-end solution that tackles fulfillment for e-commerce, retail, and often wholesale channels with equal proficiency. This is easier said than done, because each sales channel has its own set of unique requirements that need to be met without negatively affecting the fulfillment for the other channels. The challenge with e-commerce, for example, is not just in keeping pace with the relentless demand or processing flexibility needed to fill last minute orders, but the unpredictable and fluctuating velocity — or day-to-day rate of change — of the stock keeping units (SKUs) that are needed to fill orders on any given day.
Simply put, this means systems typically designed for predictable in-store and wholesale fulfillment will not provide the level of performance needed to ensure a seamless shopping experience for online and mobile shoppers. And worse, the efficiency of such systems will be compromised if they are tasked with the dynamic processing requirements associated with e-commerce fulfillment.
What is needed to complete the seamless shopping experience for all shoppers is a fulfillment solution that utilizes a waveless processing methodology to accommodate the fulfillment demands of all sales channels equally. Unlike the wave-based fulfillment systems typically used to process retail and wholesale distribution demands, a waveless fulfillment system offers the ability to dynamically react to fluctuations in order demand on the fly to ensure every order meets its service level agreement requirements.
Wave-based fulfillment systems push a fixed number of orders onto a processing operation based on criteria made at the front end of the process. Subsequently, reprioritization of orders or accommodation of last minute orders entering the system is generally not possible without a high cost to the overall efficiency of the system. This limits a retailer’s ability to accommodate the day-to-day demands of e-commerce and, as a result, dramatically compromises a retailers ability to offer a seamless shopping experience.
Waveless fulfillment solutions, on the other hand — particularly those offered by Invata — constantly adjust the prioritization of orders within the system as conditions change from moment to moment. Invata’s warehouse execution software then dynamically reacts to conditions as needed, algorithmically recalibrating the system to accommodate all order requirements on a real-time basis. This enables an operation to accommodate fluctuations in demand for all sales channels without compromise to the fulfillment requirements of any single channel — and in doing so, enables retailers to offer a truly seamless shopping experience to all shoppers.
So when considering a unified commerce platform, be sure to give equal consideration to the waveless fulfillment solution needed to complete the transaction.