What are omnichannel logistics? What are some top omnichannel logistics challenges?


By Komal Puri | October 13, 2022

What is omnichannel logistics?

Omnichannel logistics is a multi-channel approach to delivering products purchased across multiple sales channels to consumers.

Consumers are shopping online more than ever before and demanding deliveries in increasingly shorter timeframes. In order to satisfy rising consumer demand, omnichannel logistics and distribution must work to give consumers quick access while delivering to the consumer’s choice of locations including: in-store pickup, parcel lockers, workplace delivery and at-home delivery. Brick and mortar stores remain a strong channel for shoppers, though in-store consumers can opt to have the goods shipped directly to their homes from the store, rather than leaving with them.

Achieving seamless omnichannel logistics demands that retailers, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers work together to achieve the goal of making a sale and delivering it while also providing a superior customer experience.

Why is omnichannel logistics important for retailers?

Retailers can drive sales and traffic across multiple digital touchpoints and provide consumers with a more cohesive shopping experience at any time of day or night. Retailers need to have both the available inventory and the logistics operations to deliver them, whether through their own logistics operations or through 3PL providers to provide timely, branded superior customer experiences.

Omnichannel Logistics Challenges

With so many options for companies to deliver to consumers, they must learn how to optimize end-to-end omnichannel fulfillment with precision while minimizing last-mile cost. Retailers and logistics companies must mitigate supply chain disruptions including weather, transportation delays and driver shortages. They must also continually adjust and adapt to increased consumer expectations.

Executing seamless omnichannel logistics has its share of challenges. Below is a list of challenges for retailers and logistics providers to overcome to satisfy today’s consumers.

Siloed Supply Chain Processes

Global markets bring many challenges to supply chain processes. Supply chains have been used to working in silos, which are inefficient with today’s omnichannel distribution options. There may be little to no interoperability between a warehouse management system (WMS) in Malaysia and a delivery tracking platform that sits with a retailer in the United States. Such disjointed operations make building a robust delivery logistics ecosystem difficult.

Lack of Inventory and In-transit Visibility

Modern consumers demand fast deliveries but dated logistics operations cannot keep up with demand. Many companies still use manual inventory management which means they cannot provide real-time in-transit updates. With fast and same-day deliveries, it’s critical to automate core aspects of inventory management and provide visibility to shipments in transit.

Delivery Visibility

Delivery visibility leads to a better last-mile delivery experience for consumers. Dispatch managers get real-time information on the loading and unloading of packages, the assigned delivery agents, and how near or far these agents are from the package drop location - all this information is communicated to the consumers. Visibility helps in communicating accurate ETAs to consumers, enhancing brand experience.

Last-mile delivery visibility facilitates route efficiency which has a direct impact on delivery timelines. New-age technologies are harnessing the powers of machine learning algorithms to provide predictive visibility empowering businesses to accurately forecast on-time or delayed deliveries and maximize consumer experience.

Traditional Order Fulfillment Processes

Since same-day and next-day deliveries can be brand differentiating factors, more retailers are committed to providing them. However, many may not be able to execute these timeframes without having advanced delivery tracking capabilities, real-time route and driver optimization and automated delivery task allocation.

Many companies still leverage traditional delivery fulfillment methods that are prone to delays including manual route planning, which increases overhead costs and shows limitations when trying to build omnichannel logistics operations and delivering on evolving customer demands.

Poor Reverse Logistics Operations

Reverse logistics or returns are extremely important with omnichannel logistics as they directly impacts customer loyalty. A bad returns experience does not bode well for a brand. A McKinsey report says that 33% of repeat consumers would choose to abandon a retailer if they had a “difficult” returns experience. Deploying digital tools that simplify and optimize reverse logistics processes becomes key in an omnichannel logistics framework.

Inefficient Selection of 3PLs

To ensure timely delivery of orders, it’s important to select and assign the right parcels, based on dimension, destination and capacity, to the right partner. It's crucial to leverage a 3PLs capability with regards to executing fulfillment jobs. Such capabilities include understanding the KPIs that ensure faster fulfillment, routing knowledge about a specific locale or geography, compliance awareness, adherence to SLAs and more. Often businesses only focus on rates and shy away from exploring new 3PL providers and this might not be the most efficient way to drive omnichannel logistics operations.

What in Omni-channel Delivery?

Omni-channel delivery is a retail strategy that provides customers with a seamless and integrated shopping experience across all available channels, including online, mobile, in-store, and other channels. The goal of omni-channel delivery is to create a consistent and personalized experience for customers, regardless of the channel they choose to use for shopping.

In an omni-channel delivery system, customers can browse, purchase, and return products through any channel they prefer. For example, a customer might browse products on a retailer's website, order online for home delivery, and then return the product to a physical store. This approach provides customers with maximum convenience and flexibility, while also increasing customer loyalty and improving overall customer satisfaction.

Difference between omni-channel and multi-channel delivery

The terms "omni-channel" and "multi-channel" are often used interchangeably in the context of retail, but they actually refer to two different approaches to delivering a customer experience across various channels.

Multi-channel delivery refers to the practice of providing customers with multiple ways to shop and purchase products, such as in-store, online, and via mobile apps. With a multi-channel approach, each channel may operate independently, and customers may have different experiences when shopping across different channels.

Omni-channel delivery, on the other hand, focuses on providing a consistent and seamless customer experience across all channels. In an omni-channel system, all channels are integrated and share real-time data, allowing customers to move seamlessly between channels and receive a consistent experience throughout their shopping journey. For example, customers can browse products online, add them to their cart, and then pick them up in-store, all without any disruption to the shopping experience.

Omni-channel delivery typically requires a more advanced and integrated technology infrastructure than multi-channel delivery, as it involves coordinating and synchronizing multiple channels in real-time. Additionally, omni-channel delivery requires a deep understanding of customer behavior and preferences, in order to provide a personalized and consistent experience across all channels.

A Personalized Delivery Experience

One of the greatest benefits of online shopping is personalization. The consumers choose when and where they want their purchased items. Different consumers may prefer different times and places for deliveries. Some may want last-minute changes to their order. Customizable deliveries are the backbone of seamless last-mile delivery experiences.

Personalized last-mile delivery experiences are critical for creating a great consumer experience. In the post-pandemic world, consumers are either working remotely or in hybrid mode, and they want to choose where and where they receive and return their packages. When it comes to building brand loyalty and long-term consumer relationships, retailers must focus on delivering a flexible and easy returns experience.

Frictionless Order Tracking

From the retail warehouse to the consumer’s doorstep - providing real-time updates on orders enables businesses to enhance the post-purchase experience and increase brand credibility. Last-mile order tracking solutions keep consumers informed about their packages through text alerts.

These alerts usually contain the order number, delivery vehicle, and delivery agent’s phone details. It also provides customers with information on the specific time slot they can expect the delivery agent to bring their order. The greater the communication with consumers in the last mile, the more likely they are to stick to the brand and recommend it to their family and friends.

Enhance Speed, Flexibility and Personalization in the Last Mile

Consumers today expect to make purchases and receive deliveries anytime and anywhere. Orchestrating fulfillment options across channels requires great flexibility in supply chain networks. Leading retailers are now using converged inventories to optimize enterprise-wide stock levels while maximizing availability across channels. Retailers must be able to dynamically allocate and fulfill the deliveries.

With the advent of new-age technologies, companies can deliver seamless experiences at an optimum cost. Brands can ensure customer loyalty by empowering them with real-time visibility. Building a flexible and adaptive omnichannel logistics plan is key for all supply chain stakeholders in order to provide a superior customer experience.

What is omni channel distribution?

Omnichannel distribution is a business strategy that allows customers to purchase products from a company through multiple channels, including online and offline channels, and have the products delivered through a seamless, integrated supply chain. In other words, it enables customers to shop for and purchase products through various channels, including brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, social media, mobile apps, and call centers, while ensuring a consistent and seamless customer experience.

Omnichannel distribution involves integrating multiple sales channels, inventory systems, and logistics networks to provide customers with a seamless shopping and delivery experience, regardless of where they make their purchases. It allows customers to access a company's products through various channels and provides them with multiple options for delivery, such as in-store pickup, home delivery, or same-day delivery. This strategy provides customers with greater flexibility, convenience, and choice, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How does omni-channel distribution strategy work?

Omnichannel distribution strategy is a comprehensive approach to delivering a seamless and consistent customer experience across multiple sales channels. Here are some key elements of an omnichannel distribution strategy:

  1. Integration of sales channels: An omnichannel strategy requires integrating all sales channels, including online, offline, mobile, and social media, into a seamless and consistent experience for the customer. This means that the customer should be able to access the same products, pricing, and promotions, regardless of the channel used.
  2. Real-time inventory management: A key element of an omnichannel fulfilment is real-time inventory management. This involves the integration of all inventory systems across different channels, enabling customers to access accurate and up-to-date information on product availability and delivery times.
  3. Multiple fulfillment options: An omnichannel strategy should provide customers with multiple fulfillment options, including in-store pickup, home delivery, or same-day delivery. This allows customers to choose the most convenient option for them and provides flexibility in their shopping experience.
  4. Data analytics and customer insights: An omnichannel strategy requires advanced data analytics capabilities to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences. This data can be used to personalize the shopping experience for each customer and provide targeted promotions and recommendations.
  5. Seamless customer service: An omnichannel strategy should provide seamless customer service across all channels. This means that customers should be able to access support and assistance through any channel, and their interactions with the company should be tracked and consistent across all touchpoints.

Implementing an omnichannel distribution strategy requires significant investment in technology, logistics, and personnel. However, it can provide a significant competitive advantage by improving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.

Komal puri

Komal Puri is a seasoned professional in the logistics and supply chain industry. As the Senior Director of Marketing and a subject matter expert at FarEye, she has been instrumental in shaping the industry narrative for the past decade. Her expertise and insights have earned her numerous awards and recognition. Komal’s writings reflect her deep understanding of the industry, offering valuable insights and thought leadership.

Komal Puri
Sr. Director of Marketing | FarEye

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