The eCommerce market has been suffered a big pressure – How to deliver anything, anytime and anywhere. That is why Omnichannel Distribution model has come out as an effective solution for any retailers. However, do retailers really understand the core value of Omnichannel Distribution?

Omnichannel Distribution:
New Breakthrough in Logistic Management

omnichannel distribution

We are familiar with methodology Distribution Center and Warehouse. Basically, Distribution Center are the places where allocate products from the manufacturer to business’s warehouse. Then, in the warehouse, business employees would manage and transfer these stocks to their stores – where customers would come and buy products.

However, everything had become more sophisticated with the booming-out of eCommerce, in particular, the growth of multi-channel.

In addition to shop in physical stores, customers began to shop online by clicking – picking items on the webstore and waiting for store staffs bringing products to their house. The line between distribution and the store had blurred as stores are being asked to perform new processes traditionally reserved for the distribution center.

However, everything has not stopped there. The emerging demands of retail cross-channel fulfillment have driven the growing number of consumer expectations, volatile demand and cost pressures on logistics and transportation.

Consumers want plenty of choices including when, where and how their orders will be fulfilled. They do not just shop online or offline separately, but they expand their demand to shop online, pick up in physical stores, or purchase in physical stores and require to ship to another place.

The integration between physical stores and online stores, known as Omnichannel, has become stronger and stronger. This leads to growing number of channels and results in the complexity in logistic point of view. “Omni-channel Distribution” has become the ultimate solution to simplify logistics process in a big business.

However, there are still some debations about its effectiveness.

Is it a real ultimate key to the logistic complexity? Let’s discover the myth.

What is Omnichannel Distribution?

Omni-channel Distribution is one-touch integration between operations and physical product flows across all channels to provide a seamless shopping experience.

In other words, Omni-channel distribution is a system that enables customers to complete a purchase and receives orders from any channel they choose.

Moreover, it encompasses not only the delivery of goods to stores and customers, but also backward distribution concepts since customers can return products.

what is omni channel distribution

Thus, there are two types of distribution:

  • Forward distribution system: characterized by its sources (dispatching locations), destinations (points of reception) and associated links. When building it, you should take consider about different types of sources and destinations in the physical structure, as well as possible delivery processes and modes
  • Backward distribution system: the mixture of the physical flow of return products, and the locations where products returned. It covers shipment between customers and stores.

Besides, we can also divide the distribution into 6 basic types based on the process of customers:

  • Buy online, Pick-up in store: when a customer creates an order online, and pick their order in your store (to check if the items they bought are really compatible with them or not)
  • Buy online, Drop-shipping: when a customer creates, purchase an order on your website, then require ship to a place
  • In-store Purchase, Home Delivery: when a customer purchase items in your physical stores, and ask you to pick it to their required place (mostly their home address)
  • Ship from Store: when you transfer products from the physical stores to another place
  • Drop-shipping: when you transfer products from the warehouse to another place (a store, a home address, etc.)
  • Buy online, return in store: when your customer purchase a product online, but then, they do not like it and decide to get to your physical store to return the product (and maybe get another product in your physical stores)
  • Same day/on-demand delivery: when your customer purchase items online, and want to get the items immediately or in a scheduled date.

You can see the image below to understand how the Omnichannel Distribution Model works:

omni channel distribution modelGet the full image here


Omnichannel Software

A Retail Management System streamlines separate sales channels to provide seamless shopping experiences anytime, anywhere.


Why Omnichannel Distribution is important?

1. Consumers LOVE Omni-channel

Why they love it? Here are the reasons among millions of reasons:

  • Easy to customize delivery choice
  • Have more chances to check item before purchase  
  • Feel safe and happy to purchase items
  • Access the store’s products conveniently

… and many more reasons

customers love Omnichannel

Customers expect to be able to research, shop, and buy across various channels, from your physical stores to your online stores, to Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, etc. They will bounce back and forth between different channels to ensure they’re getting the best price and purchase as they want. 

Therefore, to meet the demand of Omni-channel shopping, you need a compatible delivery system with all channels – Omni-channel Distribution System.

2. Quick and Correct Delivery

One of the biggest issues that explains why your customer stops shopping in your store is SHIPMENT.

There are two kinds of customers. One is who can wait for you even in two days. Others are the ones who cannot wait for you in more than 1 hour. Worse, due to the nowadays-busy world, most of your customers are the second type – who don’t have any waiting skills.

Omni-channel Distribution helps you do that!

quick and correct delivery

In Omnichannel, all your locations and channels will be integrated into one. Thus, no matter where your customers are, you still can ship products for them in the shortest distance and shortest time.

Save your money and save your customer time. How great is that!

Let’s take a small basic example to clarify this concept:

Linda is a customer of a sport store named Mage Sport, which was 2 hour-driving far from her house. She orders to buy a bicycle, a hamlet, and a sport jacket. She really needs it right now so she notes you that “I want a quick shipping in 1 hour”. 

Her orders and notes would be shown in all your “Omni channels”, which means not only does the shop receive the order but also the warehouse also knows about it. Luckily, the warehouse is quite near Linda’s house – only 15 minutes driving.

After the system receives her order, it automatically counts the distance and chose the shipment location will be the warehouse. Thus, the hamlet, the bicycle, and the jacket are delivered from the warehouse to Linda’s house in just 20 minutes after she ordered it.

Due to that, Mage Sport not only saves money on shipping but also satisfies its customer on the shopping journey.

3. Profits increase significantly

The main advantage of expanding your business to new channels is the opportunity to grow your sales. New customers and new channels can lead to more opportunities for revenue.

Everyone knows a basic formula:

Profit formula

So, if you use Omnichannel Distribution, what will happen with all these factors?

Revenue will increase:

According to blog MonkeyData, “Omni-channel shoppers actually spend 4 % moreon average, during in-store shopping trips and 10 % more online than customers who only used a single channel. The average omnichannel customer also spent more in the future: 17 percent more, on average, with the retailer over the next six months, and they even purchased 15 % more items, as compared to those who used just one channel.

The cost will decrease:

With an integrated system, the store owner can have a big picture of their business – how it works and what is good for the business. They will save time and money on hiring a report man and gathering all channels data separately.

Better yet, Omnichannel Distribution also helps delivery and transferring products in the shortest distance with the shortest amount of time.

That is why your profit increases significantly.

The Biggest Challenges
when using Omnichannel Distribution

However, every rose has its thorn.

Despite of all these benefits that you will gain from using Omnichannel Distribution, there are also “terrible” challenges that most of the omnichannel business will face:  

1. Inventory Visibility

It means simultaneously providing customers with information on the availability and delivery times of products in all channels. Customers then have an opportunity to choose the channel, online or offline, they would prefer purchasing the products they want.

Inventory is the distribution center. Knowing the status of inventory is very crucial to the Omnichannel business.

inventory visibility

The first people who directly take notice of inventory visibility are RETAILERS. They want to know exactly how many quantities are there in the warehouse and they are in which status. This can be challenging for a retailer, especially in shopping seasons.

The key to solving this problem is to implement an efficient Inventory Management system – which gives the retailer a whole vision about crucial stock information, such as Qty. in the warehouse, Qty. in shipping, Qty. available, Qty. sold, etc… It will be better if all these data will be shown on one page.

The second people who want to know about inventory visibility are CUSTOMERS. It means the Omnichannel system should provide customers with information on the availability and delivery times of products in all channels. Consumers then have the chance to choose the channel that they would prefer to choose the number of items they want.

The best solution is to show them the Qty. your location has. So that, your customers can make the best decision for the shopping experience. They will love you more if you always have the item available for their demand.

2. Delivery speed

That must have been ridiculous when delivery speed, at the same time, is both the advantage and disadvantage of Omni-channel Distribution

Developing and optimizing modes of delivery to the customer is the most important topic for fulfilling distribution requirements, according to the retail experts. The importance of increasing delivery speed is based on the fact that most customers want to receive a delivery the day after placing the order, or two days later at most.

This means processing varying order volumes between the distance channel and the stores, as well as adapting accurate delivery time is very crucial.

The key to this problem is to give them various shipping methods and find a system that can help you calculate the shortest way to deliver products to your customers.

How to implement Omnichannel Distribution wisely?

As you can see the core value of Omnichannel Distribution is Inventory Management.

So, if you want to run the Omnichannel Distribution, you need a good process of Inventory Management.

One of the key distribution strategies practiced by top Omni-channel retailers is using technology to run the “smart sharing” of inventory across channels. Sophisticated inventory and warehouse management systems are required to ensure visibility and seamlessness.

inventory management

So, how to build the best Inventory Management System for your Omnichannel Distribution:

1. Overview supply chain

First and foremost, an inventory management system that spans the entire supply chain gives managers a leg up in achieving real-time visibility—and in some cases, might actually save the sales. Rather than having a customer walk away because she/he can’t find an item, today’s sales associate may be equipped with a handheld mobile device to help her find it in any of the other stores.

Some stores have even set up kiosks for customers themselves to check inventory, purchase the items, and have it shipped directly to their homes.

2. Order Management System

Another critical component to implement omnichannel’s “buy from anywhere, ship from everywhere” concept is a distributed order management system. It allows you to find all the rule sets and criteria of how you want to cost-effectively support that next-day shipment and has the visibility of inventory at all the different stores.

Besides, we should understand that the Order Management is not just the regular pick/pack/ship logic anymore. There are more permutations: zone batch picking, multi-order picking, pick and pass, priority processing, multi-carton processing, etc.

Within the Inventory Management, the requirements may be simpler, but just as critical. Consideration must be given to the picking and waving logic that can handle retail order profiles (larger orders) and the smaller e-commerce orders.  

order management

End up

The shopping demand of our customers grows rapidly day by day. Ones cannot ensure that all of these concepts will have been implemented effectively in the far future or not.

However, we should have core knowledge that is mentioned above. So, that along with our flexible sense of business will help us run a robust logistic operation, no matter how the industry is buzzing with changes.

If you have any question about Omnichannel Distribution, feel free to comment!

Related Posts:
Omnichannel Customer Experience: A Definitive Guide (2018)
» Omnichannel Order Fulfillment: The Key to Growth
» How to Implement an Omnichannel Retail Strategy
» Top 25 Omnichannel Retailers and What to learn from them


Kate N. is now working as a Retail Solution Specialist at Magestore. She has 3+ years of experience in brand management, marketing, and customer's insights. Kate loves to travel to experience new cultures and discover what is happening with retail all around the world.

1 Comment

  1. george Devin Reply

    Omnichannel distribution is a multichannel approach taken by companies to give customers a way to purchase and receive orders from several sales channels with one-touch seamless integration.

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