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The past, present, and future of order operations when expanding selling channels

Illustration of an order being sent from a warehouse to a customer’s house.

This is an excerpt from Ryder E-commerce’s latest ebook “Unleashing the power of creative channel expansion for D2C brands” by Pipe17, a solution that enables brands to connect their backend systems for seamless order and inventory management. Check out the full ebook here.

“Go where your customers are.” It’s a common saying. But where exactly are they? These days this could be Amazon, TikTok, Instagram, Walmart, Wayfair, Etsy, or simply just your own DTC site. 

So, while selling on your own site may be the best-case scenario for a brand, there is so much more market share to be had.

Every time you launch a new channel, your brand reach increases – but you also add an increased layer of complexity to your business. So, how do you control your costs (and your headaches) with the added complexity of channel expansion?

Sadly, most of your selling channels will wind up being disconnected data silos. They take in the order, but then what? There is no way to route the orders to fulfillment centers based on geography, tags, SKUs, kits, bundles, or inventory levels. 

Most e-commerce tools excel at their specific function, like receiving orders, pick-pack-ship, or managing financials. But very few were designed with the end-to-end e-commerce journey in mind. Subsequently, they were not built to work seamlessly across your stack. Many tools lack “brains” or logic. 

So, what are the options? 

The spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are the #1 way that merchants usually start solving the problems that channel expansion inflicts on their order operations. They can download orders as a csv file from the selling channel, manipulate/transform them in Excel, and then upload them to their fulfillment center’s WMS. However, this has to be done every day or risk backlogging customer orders and bombarding customer service with “Where’s my order?” inquiries. This is time-consuming, unscalable, and prone to human error, which can be very costly.

The daisy chain

Some merchants are passing every order back to their Shopify or BigCommerce store, and then routing from there to their fulfillment center. This ‘daisy chain approach’ leaves you dependent on numerous point-to-point integrations. Normally, you’re using multiple 3rd party apps (each with its own reliability variable), between your e-commerce platform and each selling channel. These types of integrations are known to cause errors or break completely. It could be days, even weeks before you realize there’s a problem with one of these integrations – resulting in extremely unhappy customers.

The ERP + iPaaS

ERPs are good at collecting data and breaking out financial reports. Some have add-on tools you can buy for advanced order routing, but these are often expensive, with lengthy setup times, and high development costs. You also have to set up and code your iPaaS to fit your business needs. An iPaaS works for building point-to-point connections and bridging the connectivity gap between disparate data sources. However, an iPaaS requires customization. They take months to set up and hundreds of development hours to go live. You will trade speed and flexibility due to cost and time constraints to reconfigure your system every time your operation expands or changes.

Omnichannel Order Hub

To be a true omnichannel operations wizard, you must have all your selling channels, fulfillment centers, and back-office applications unified and working together, in lockstep, to process orders efficiently. 

Unlike an iPaaS, which requires extensive customization to do the same work,  Pipe17 can be implemented in days, sometimes in minutes, with no code or systems integrators required.  Once implemented, Pipe17 acts as your centralized data orchestrator. It automates the transformation, routing, and visualization of your order operations data across your entire commerce stack. By standardizing and normalizing all your commerce data, this removes the need to use unreliable point-to-point integrations or spend hundreds of hours coding and developing custom solutions. 

Just a few years ago, launching a new selling channel would be risky, take months of time and money to go live, and create a slew of operational nightmares that literally keep the team from sleeping.

Now it is easier than ever to go live on any of the biggest marketplaces out there, so long as you’ve got the right operations stack and partners working together to streamline your systems and processes.

Want to learn more? Check out the rest of our ebook on how brands can effectively expand their selling channels and find more opportunities to creatively engage customers:

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