The White Whale of Retail: Setting Sail on your Ecommerce Journey

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Battling the Complexities and Rising Costs of Omnichannel Order Management and Fulfillment

For retailers, successfully executing an omnichannel commerce strategy that exceeds customer expectations has become a White Whale – the epitome of achievement yet so elusive that it is nearly impossible to achieve alone.

Creating an engaging and personalized digital experience for your customer is not where the battle ends. While personalization is the changing tide that makes catching the White Whale more challenging, overcoming the beast weighs heavily on the ability to navigate. In other words, retailers must efficiently orchestrate omnichannel order management and fulfillment – including all the twists, turns, costs and complexities they may encounter. You can’t face the White Whale if you can’t find him quickly and efficiently.

Now that customers have the personalized experience they want across touch-points, they’re ready to place their order. However, this sets off a new chain of demands that retailers again are challenged to keep up with. Retailers must be ready to deliver on complex fulfillment operations that give customers what they want, when and where they want it. Effective navigation of the fulfillment machine requires sifting through all of the data to predict which course of action will satisfy your customer while keeping costs low for your business. Grasping this 360° view is more complex than your most powerful telescope can handle – which is why retailers have such a hard time balancing the rising costs of omnichannel fulfillment and customer demands.

Fulfillment and operations executives recognize that in the ‘omnichannel’ discussion there must be one central truth, one tool that must integrate, coordinate and orchestrate between every single channel, inbound and outbound. Fulfilling order lines, store returns, buy online and pick up in the store, real-time order status, and global inventory visibility all fall under the domain of order management. Sounds like a lot? That’s because it is.

The complexities of order management frighten even the most-skilled sailors because as the tides turn, traditional inventory and fulfillment planning methods are simply not equipped to keep up. The shift to online and the consumer demanding fast, no cost delivery in any channel has led to the need to fulfill orders from store locations and an increase in overall fulfillment costs.  With so much data to consider with new ship points, insights into product sale velocity in different markets and seasonal, political and weather-related information, the fulfillment process is more complex than any team can handle on their own.

Agile order management is foundational for successful omnichannel fulfillment operations. With the ability to leverage store inventories, inbound shipment availability-to-promise and fulfillment labor guidance for smaller ship nodes, AI solutions provide real-time insights that give retailers an enhanced view into these complexities to help determine the most profitable solutions. In a world that expects fast, free delivery, being able to leverage the explosion of available data points to instantaneously make the best sourcing decisions is vital to staying afloat.

If retailers want to slay the White Whale, navigation is key. Mastering order management and fulfillment – and all the costs and complexities that come with it – is a major part of meeting customer expectations and creating the ultimate brand experience that businesses need to survive. And this can no longer be done bare-handed. Retailers need to be equipped with the right solutions that help them think on their feet, making decisions that are best for their customers as well as their bottom line. Artificial intelligence solutions use machine learning to optimize omnichannel fulfillment operations allowing for fast, efficient and effective sourcing and inventory decisions that will propel retailers to the forefront of gratifying customer experience.

But the question remains, now that you find yourself at the face of this whale, how do you take it down? Read more in part three about maximizing storefront operations in the face of this online accommodation monster.


Omnichannel fulfillment doesn’t have to negatively impact your bottom line. View this slideshare to see how Watson Order Optimizer can help you leverage enhanced insight to solve your omnichannel costs and complexity challenges.

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