Online-to-Offline Order Fulfilment for Omnichannel Commerce

Omnichannel management has been the new buzzword in the consumer goods industry because of a lot of D2C brands making their inroads into consumer wallets. There are 2 kinds of brands in the consumer goods industry from a distribution perspective:

  1. New-age brands which have taken Direct to Customer route as their main GTM.
  2. Incumbent brands which have existed and thrived on the back of their distribution channel.

Omnichannel management makes sense for both categories of brands – Brands strong in offline aiming to crack D2C, as well as D2C brands aiming to build on their offline presence.

Brands strong in offline distribution see D2C as a strong upcoming sales channel that they can develop using their existing distribution infrastructure. This direct sales channel can help push certain premium lines & introduce new products faster to consumers helping the premiumization of the entire portfolio in some cases.

At the same time, strong D2C brands want to capitalize on the strong customer awareness they have created to translate into sales at scale and to improve unit economics by choosing a fulfilment network that makes their offline entry & online fulfilment in-sync & efficient.

For all the orders, coming from different modes, the success of that order depends on the fulfilment experience being provided to customers. Amazon & Flipkart have done a good job at this by aligning all their systems to the north star metric of customer experience.

All the incumbent brands have been trying to augment the physical presence of distribution channels through technology in order to be able to provide customer experience at a viable unit- economics.

Online-to-Offline ecommerce executed through existing warehouses and retail touchpoints.

So let’s have a look at what role all stakeholders will play right from brand to the sales team to any distribution partners towards this aim.

  • From a product standpoint, the first thing is there needs to be certain store mapping for the stores which will act as last-mile fulfilment for mapped locations. This will act as a network of last-mile fulfilment partners – these partners can be distributors or major retailers who have this kind of infrastructural capability supported by technological capability from the brand side.
  • The second part from a product standpoint is the order’s intelligent routing – Since there are multiple stores that are mapped. With orders coming from multiple sources these orders need to be routed to the right store depending on service parameters.
  • The third part which comes is Inventory management – brands need to ensure continuous visibility of inventory and take that into factor while collecting orders mapped to their respective last-mile fulfilment partner.

Now that we have discussed the role of the product being deployed in order to achieve this, let’s move to the role of the sales team in order to have an omnichannel approach to distribution.

The transition of the sales team from being order guys to business guys

The sales team will have two roles to play –  one is sales management while the other is fulfilment management.

In terms of sales management – their primary responsibility is collecting orders & generating demand which they have been doing conventionally.

Fulfilment management will deal with executing confirmation of orders, routing of returns, return processing & return management process with the micro accounts assigned as last mile partners. Fulfilment managers will have to deal with partners for ensuring their ROI from investment in delivering direct customer orders.  Partner will have to ensure high fill rate, complaints & return handling, and delivery SLAs according to defined by the brand.

The fulfilment manager needs to ensure that the distribution partner looks at overall distribution (B2B & D2C) holistically so they do not ignore the latter because of lesser volumes at the start. This way this business can be built with channel partners. The sales team will need to onboard partners at scale, deboard certain partners not fulfilling criteria and manage existing ones.

It is exciting to be building this space for our product team at BeatRoute. With govt initiatives such as ONDC seem to be only proving as great tailwinds for the space. To know what we can do for your brand in your Omnichannel journey, please connect here.

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