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An ideal omnichannel logistics network requires active communication, visibility, and coordination between many players and engagement point with customers.

Source: Urbanfox Blog

Relevance to the Future of Logistics

Logistics As An Omnichannel Differentiator

The successful implementation of an omnichannel strategy today depends, above all, on the online presence of companies and their e-commerce sales channel.

For companies that are adopting an omnichannel strategy, a key differentiator is logistics. Logistics service providers play an important role in the entire customer journey. Research shows they even influence the final purchase decision, as 46% of online customers abandon online shopping carts if required to wait too long for delivery of their purchase. There is also clear evidence that customers want the ability to track the shipment of their purchases right to their pickup point or front door.

To ensure a superior customer experience, the key to success is end-to-end integration of supply chain planning involving all relevant stakeholders. After all, an omnichannel strategy can only be successful if there is continuous visibility of product locations and quantities as well as seamless integration of all relevant platforms and service providers.

Furthermore, a successful omnichannel strategy includes giving customers the options to choose their preferred logistics providers and services, as well as delivery time and location, regardless of whether they use one or multiple channels throughout their entire customer journey.

The realization of various delivery options requires the omnichannel strategy is taken into account when planning the supply chain network in close cooperation with the logistics service provider. In future, a combination of ‘dark stores’ which are small micro-fulfillment centers near city centers and strategically positioned distribution centers will be of enormous importance for fast and cost-efficient delivery.

Companies can benefit from the know-how of logistics service providers and improve the customer experience through this collaboration to achieve long-term customer retention.

Anytime & Anywhere: Last-Mile Omnichannel

The growth of e-commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated developments of comprehensive omnichannel offerings. Companies recognized pandemic-favored delivery options such as ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ (BOPIS); in fact, the use of BOPIS services in the US increased by 106.9% in 2020. Other new omnichannel examples include a kiosk solution from collaboration between e-commerce software provider Shopify and Portuguese kiosk manufacturer PARTTEAM & OEMKISOSKS. Designed for use in brick-and-mortar stores, this digital kiosk presents customers with a complete online store selection, including individual offers and discounts. After making a purchase, the customer can opt to have their goods delivered or decide to take them directly from the store, if this option is available.

Customers appreciate this flexibility and particularly like choosing their delivery location. This could be the nearest branch, a smart locker solution such as the DHL Packstation, or even delivery to a neighbor. They also want to select the most convenient delivery time.

To offer this level of flexibility, companies must have an accurate inventory management system, one that is connected to all retail stores as well as warehouses and production facilities, with seamless connection to the logistics service provider.

In future, autonomous deliveries via drones and vehicles such as the Nuro delivery vehicle can help further personalize last-mile services, enabling a fully anytime, anywhere solution.

Inventory Movement

With the reopening of retail stores in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of brick-and mortar stores as a place for customer engagement and brand building has become more visible again. New delivery and return models such as BOPIS or in-store return options have led many retailers to increasingly use their brick-and-mortar stores as fulfillment centers.

This is evidence of a clear trend towards omnichannel solutions, so that online and offline channels are becoming more and more complementary and connected, and are no longer seen as substitutes. A central aspect of the implementation of an omnichannel strategy is the movement of inventory, which requires a high degree of precision and even more flexibility to respond to fluctuations in demand. Strategically, this also means a shift from large distribution centers to a more decentralized setup, local micro fulfillment centers or even using brick-and-mortar stores as inventory hubs. This shift was first accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when retailers began using their retail storefronts as fulfillment centers when they were not allowed to open them.

Currently, the decision on warehouse locations and quantities is primarily made by humans. However, companies are increasingly aiming to automate these decisions in regards to internal movement of inventory using smart algorithms based on various data points, such as regional weather changes or online customer behavior.

The challenges for logistics are finding the ideal logistics solution for the respective shipments and, above all, to adapt the more flexible, smaller-scale movement of inventory to route planning, as exact information about delivery options (eg, specific delivery periods and zones within inner cities) as well as measurements to help select the right means of transportation (eg, small van or large truck) are necessary for efficient planning. Only in this way can effectively shared inventory be realized across the various channels, online and offline, and an omnichannel strategy be successfully implemented.

Challenges

Omnichannel logistics operations require complete and accurate visibility of inventory across all locations, from distribution centers to retail stores.
Integration of many different IT systems across the supply chain is a complex task – from warehouse management systems and e-commerce platforms to retail point-of-sale platforms and enterprise resource planning software.
To offer a variety of delivery and return options and ensure cost-efficient transportation, companies must undertake complex planning of delivery routes as well as accurate forecasting.
Cost-to-serve management of an omnichannel approach is complex but crucial for maintaining profitability.

This trend should be CLOSELY monitored, with implementations available for many use cases today.

Outlook

Omnichannel strategies will remain highly relevant to the success of companies in the future, as indicated by a survey of 100 e-commerce decision makers in Europe and North America, 20% of whom rated an omnichannel strategy as quite important and 47% as very important to their organization in 2021.

Logistics will continue to play a major role in omnichannel concepts and collaboration between companies and logistics service providers is essential to the success of an omnichannel strategy. New, emerging customer channels such as the Metaverse and growing customer expectations in terms of speed and convenience of delivery will continue to shape omnichannel strategies in the future and, accordingly, also place new demands on the supply chain and logistics services.

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