The moment retailers and brands expand into new geographic markets or add new brands to their portfolio, joining the dots with inventory and fulfilment becomes a mission-critical challenge.

As well as accommodating region-specific delivery and carrier requirements, they also have to satisfy a diversity of local customer service needs and expectations. All of which entails juggling a variety of fulfilment and delivery requirements; small parcels versus bulky items, buy online, pick up in store. As well as handling value-add options, like assembly and personalisation, which set their brand apart.

Connecting inventory and fulfilment in synergistic ways

To get the most out of stock and reduce the cost to serve, SKU assortments and categories will need to be hyper-localised and managed on a per territory basis. Plus, stock needs to be available and accessible to support optimised fulfilment and delivery.

The moment new products or brands or geographies are added into the mix, achieving economies of scale without compromising competitive differentiation becomes incrementally tougher to achieve.

To surmount all these challenges, retailers and brands need to be able to unify and intelligently connect their inventory and fulfilment processes so they can deliver consistent customer experiences everywhere, and in every channel, without breaking the bank.

Fortunately, today’s leading distributed order management systems have been specifically designed with seamless cross-border and cross-brand commerce in mind.

Flexible hierarchies – enable unique go-to-market models

Not all distributed order management systems are created equal. The key here is selecting one that offers flexible hierarchies, so that individual ‘entities’ for each brand and/or geography can be created. After which, it’s simply a case of defining the specific fulfilment nodes (DCs, stores, 3PLS, partner pick up locations or drop ship vendors) and business rules that will underpin fulfilment for every entity.

There are lots of advantages to this approach. Having established common business processes and rules across brands and regions, it’s now possible to expand into new markets faster than ever before. By utilising reusable templates, featuring the base fulfilment logic that can be modified to meet local or brand specific requirements, new brands or regions can be brought on board in a matter of weeks.

But what’s truly exciting is that each business entity now has visibility of all locations and inventory held by others within the organisation. All of which makes it possible to unleash highly innovative and integrated fulfilment models that extend how inventory is used and most importantly never miss a sale because items are out of stock in one location.

Take advantage of agile new capabilities

Armed with real-time and universal visibility and accessibility to all inventory and distribution locations, retailers and brands are now able to explore some truly creative approaches to serving customers faster, better.

For example, initiatives like cross-brand click-and-collect or returns are easy to execute because multi-brand organisations can now break through traditional operational silos to offer order fulfilment from any store. Delivering unprecedented convenience for customers, regardless of which brand they transact with. It also becomes possible to institute cross-regional fulfilment strategies, sourcing items for orders placed in one country from a cross-border store or distribution centre.

Finally, brands and retailers can even initiate cross-brand merchandising and test out how well popular products or accessories from one brand perform in the online store front of another.

Breaking down the silos

All too often, today’s multi-brand and multi-national organisations struggle to leverage their combined resources because of constraints created by siloed systems. A distributed order management system eradicates these barriers and makes it possible to adopt a unified approach to managing orders and stock across the entire ecosystem, whilst still allowing for local and brand specific customisation.

Armed with these truly integrated operational capabilities, today’s brands and retailers can innovate at will, unlock new opportunities, and orchestrate their inventory to capture new sales and uplift the customer experience.

Graham Jackson is CEO of Fluent Commerce.