Many online retailers are moving toward a multi-site distribution model—distributing from, and delivering to, non-traditional locations such as retail stores and parcel lockers.

Consumers expect to be able to purchase from multiple channels, and they want their products to arrive at their door faster than ever before. The table stakes are now providing real-time information on product availability and order status; a seamless, personalized shopping experience across all channels; and a variety of cost-effective delivery and return options.

In response to these trends, many online retailers are moving toward a multi-site distribution model—distributing from, and delivering to, non-traditional locations such as retail stores and parcel lockers.

A robust order management system offers retailers a competitive edge

Steve Congro, director of omnichannel fulfillment technology, Saddle Creek Logistics Services

“They’re strategically expanding their fulfillment network to get closer to the end customer, move products through the supply chain faster and minimize transportation costs,” says Steve Congro, director of omnichannel fulfillment technology at Saddle Creek Logistics Services, an omnichannel supply chain solutions provider. “This distribution model requires more sophisticated order management capabilities.”

Retailers must be able to view inventory across their entire enterprise, fulfill orders from multiple sources—including warehouses, stores and drop-ship vendors—and satisfy consumers’ demand for detailed information about product availability, order status and shipment tracking. “They want to view orders as soon as they’re placed all the way to the end customer and back, if necessary,” he adds.

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Retailers need more sophisticated omnichannel technology and order management systems to accommodate their increasingly complex supply chains, Congro says. For instance, their order management systems (OMS) need to manage all aspects of an order’s lifecycle to help online retailers provide consumers with more information, seamless service and faster, more cost-effective deliveries.

“Robust omnichannel technology helps retailers to address product visibility, inventory management across multiple locations, order-processing speed, reporting and analysis, and seamless services,” he says.

Retailers should consider outsourcing their omnichannel technology, including their OMS, to optimize their distribution network, Congro says. “By working with an experienced third-party partner, retailers can access state-of-the-art technology and expertise without a major overhead investment,” he says. “It also frees them to focus on growing their business—not on owning and maintaining technology systems.”

Saddle Creek’s OMS, for example, lets retailers service multiple distribution channels with a single inventory, rather than separate inventories for each sales channel, by using inventory pools for different sales channels—even integrating inventory from their drop-ship vendors, retail point-of-sale systems and supplier in-transit inventory. “This gives retailers a consolidated view of their inventory world,” Congro says.

E-commerce medical supplies retailer allheart recently turned to Saddle Creek for custom fulfillment. Saddle Creek implemented an OMS, which integrates with the retailer’s proprietary enterprise resource planning system and feeds into Saddle Creek’s warehouse management system.

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“This seamless integration provides complete visibility to allheart’s customer orders and vendor purchase orders, allowing the company to better manage inventory for rapid order fulfillment and provide customers with real-time order status information,” Congro says.

Allheart CEO Richard Pope says the technology has helped him become more efficient. “With Saddle Creek, I can now spend my time running my business, and I don’t have to worry about the warehouse or call center anymore,” he says. “Now we’re in growth mode, and I really look forward to growing our business and partnering with Saddle Creek.”

As e-commerce becomes more competitive, Congro suggests retailers rely on third-party fulfillment providers. “Their integrated logistics services and technologies take the burden off of retailers to get products where they need to be quickly, cost-effectively and seamlessly—allowing them to focus on what’s most important to them: growing their business,” he says.

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