Omnichannel retailing means more touchpoints to reach customers. But often at a cost of greater complexity, more returns handling and a host of other logistics dilemmas. Here are 5 ways warehouse management can help you lay the omnichannel puzzle.

According to the Harvard Business Review (1), omnichannel provides… “a seamless shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores and through a variety of digital channels that not only differentiates retailers from their peers, but also gives them a competitive edge over online-only retailers by leveraging their store assets.”

But what are the consequences on logistics management? And how can we best adapt warehouse strategies to optimize flows, manage returns and keep costs down? Here are 5 ways to do it:

1. OPTIMIZE YOUR STORAGE SPACE

Omnichannel adds complexity by adding delivery of single items to individual consumers along with the traditional challenge of moving big boxes and pallets. By working with product data, dimensions, and frequencies you can utilize storage in the best possible way. Maybe some items should be stored in pick area only (i.e. not buffer). And of course the most efficient way is to not store at all. Some of your items might be cross-docked from receiving directly to shipping.

2. CONCENTRATE ON INBOUND FLOWS

Many warehouse managers neglect savings from inbound flows. For instance, look to make savings on equipment that could be used for receiving and put-away, ensuring an efficient process from inbound trailers to storage location. Work with your suppliers to get an ASN in advance. Also work with statistical models for inbound audits to learn which suppliers need extra attention.

3. TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT PICKING

By definition, handling an increased numbers of articles adds to the cost of picking. In the first instance the answer may simply be adding an extra shift. Look particularly at how to pick smaller and larger items. Should they be in the same location? Or separated? And how can you minimize travel times, to keep pick areas as dense as possible? As labour costs increase, start to look at automation and semi-automatic picking solutions.
Read more about how error picking costs money here!

4. PROPERLY ANALYZE BUYING PATTERNS

Use the information about buying patterns you get from a smart WMS to effectively plan and forecast. Using the right tools can help you reach up to 95% forecasting accuracy. Combine historical data and calendar data such as holidays and school terms. This will give you additional insight how to plan your resources in the best possible way. In addition, your WMS can provide information about products often bought together, so that they can be placed close together.

5. MAKE THE COMPLEX SIMPLE WITH A SMART WMS

Implementing the right WMS simplifies all the above activities. This will give you faster processes, greater inventory reliability, error reduction and a better returns process. The result is greater internal efficiency, improved traceability and a lot more simplicity for everyone concerned in the logistics process.

Following these five points will go a long way to improving profitability while giving customers an excellent buying experience – key in making them come back for more.

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