What is a multichannel order management system (and do you need one)?

If you’re trying to grow your ecommerce business, then a multichannel order management system is all that stands between you — and total chaos. 

This isn’t an exaggeration. Without some kind of automated system to manage your orders across multiple sales channels, it’s going to be you and a spreadsheet. And we can basically guarantee you that you will eventually: 

  • Sell the same product to two different customers 
  • Lose track of your inventory
  • Run out of stock 
  • Feel really stressed out, even though your business is going well 

If you have a growing ecommerce business, you’re going to need a multichannel order management system. In the rest of the article, we’ll tell a bit more about how to choose the right option for your business. 

What is a multichannel order management system? 

A multichannel order management system is a platform that lets you bring all your order information, from everywhere you sell your products, into the same unified workspace. 

If you’re in ecommerce, you’ll likely need to use multiple sales channels. It’s not enough to have your own webshop. You’ll also need to be on Amazon, or Etsy, or eBay, or wherever your market tends to hang out. 

This isn’t just about making it easier for your customers to buy. It’s also about borrowing the market reach and credibility of established platforms. Chances are, unless you already have a multimillion-dollar marketing budget, most of your potential customers haven’t heard of you. They don’t trust you, and they won’t want to buy from your site without that trust. 

But they’ve most certainly heard of Amazon. Suddenly, handing over their hard-earned dollars to you doesn’t seem so risky. So, even if your business is currently tiny, you’ll still want to sell your products through at least two sales channels—your own webshop and another popular marketplace. 

And that’s where the problems start. While you can probably manage your orders with an Excel sheet if you’re only selling a handful of SKUs through a single webshop, as soon as you add more channels you’re asking for trouble. 

It’s obvious, right? Let’s say you’re selling, say, action figures and cool comic book memorabilia, like our friends at JAF Comics

You have a brick-and-mortar store, and you want to start selling online too. So you put together your webshop, and you list your products on Amazon. And it’s great, because everyone loves your action figures (I mean, who doesn’t want an original Donatello still in his packaging?) 

But it’s also… not so great, because you’re doing all the paperwork manually using a Google sheet. So, if someone buys something in the store, then your team has to remember to update your webshop so you don’t sell the same SKU twice. And then also update Amazon. And Etsy. And things get busier and busier, so now you’re hiring staff just to update your spreadsheets. 

Clearly, this isn’t the best use of anyone’s time. 

This is where a multichannel order management system (OMS) comes in. It lets you: 

  • Unify all your orders into a single interface, so you can see them all in the same place
  • Get real-time updates and sync your inventory across all your channels, so you never accidentally oversell or run out 
  • Centralize your customer information, regardless of where they bought from you 
  • Make returns easier, by tracking them all in the same place 
  • Handle shipping and fulfillment automatically, to make sure you deliver on time every time 

In fact, JAF told us they managed to 10x their business growth by switching from a spreadsheet to an automated multichannel order management system. That’s a whole lot of Ninja Turtles. 


What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? 

If you start looking into multichannel order management, you might run into the term omnichannel too. Basically, the difference is that “multichannel” just means selling on multiple channels (like a webshop and via Amazon, for instance). 

“Omnichannel” is an approach to sales taken by some large online retailers, where you treat all sales channels as one and let the customer move seamlessly from one to the other (for instance, they can buy something online, but return it in person.) 

Bringing your order management into a single unified platform is a bit “omnichannely” because you’re creating a more centralized experience for yourselves, but you’re not really going full omnichannel unless you’re creating a completely seamless experience for the customer. For instance, someone who buys your product via Amazon will need to return it via Amazon – they can’t just pop into your store to return it. 

Basically, omnichannel probably isn’t something you need to worry about until you’re a massive global conglomerate. But multichannel management is something you need to figure out as soon as you’re selling products on more than one channel. 

When is it time to get a multichannel OMS? 

Obviously, multichannel order management software isn’t free, and you might be hesitant to add yet another cost to your ecommerce business. So, how can you tell if it’s time to fork out for a platform that will let you manage all your orders in the same place? 

If you say yes to two or more of the following statements, it might be a good moment to start shopping for an OMS: 

  • You’re selling your products on more than one channel.
  • You’re selling multiple products a day.
  • You’re managing your inventory in a spreadsheet, and you struggle to keep it up to date.
  • You’re using up your valuable time and energy on manual data entry. 
  • Or worse, you’re paying someone to update your spreadsheets. (Not a good use of budget.) 
  • Your sales are typically complex — people buy more than one product at a time, or you sell customized or specific orders.
  • You’ve accidentally sold the same SKU twice. 
  • You feel like your customer service isn’t holding up as you grow. 
  • You’re actually worried about your business growth because you don’t feel like you can keep up. 

What to look for in a multichannel order management system

Ready to start shopping? Here are a few features you’ll definitely need: 

Integrated reporting

If you want to understand how your business is really doing, you need a single source of revenue truth. 

You don’t want to have to pull out a sales report from Amazon, and another from your webshop, and another from your store, and try and copy-paste them together. That’s a great way to waste a ton of time, introduce manual errors into your reports, and fall behind on your reporting.  

So look for tools that let you integrate the reports from all your sales channels into the same platform.

Integration with a shipping management platform

Speaking of saving time, it probably also makes sense to use a platform that ties into a shipping management system too. That way, you can process and ship your orders more quickly and efficiently. 

As soon as a customer places an order, regardless of where they bought it, you can print a label and ship the package via the most affordable carrier. 

Order management automations 

The goal of order management platforms is to cut down on tedious, manual tasks—so look for automations like: 

  • Automatically allocating orders to the batches that need to go out first 
  • Assigning preferred carriers to your orders automatically
  • Custom order assignment rules, so that orders are automatically assigned to the right warehouse 
  • Attaching tags to orders so they’re easy to identify in your system without any manual data entry


As with any software purchase, it can get a bit alphabet-soup here. What’s the difference between an order management software, an inventory management software, and a channel management software? 


Order management software is about managing orders—so it does things like tracking orders across your different sales channels, organizing customer information and order history, and automating the process of picking and packing the orders. 

Learn more about your options in our guide to order management software here. 

Inventory management software is about monitoring inventory—so it will let you track your stock levels across channels and prevent overstocking and stockouts. 

Read more in our guide to multichannel inventory management software

Channel management software is about managing channels—so it lets you track the performance of your different sales channels, list your products on multiple channels, and optimize your pricing across channels. 

The good news is that you don’t need one of each. Platforms like Linnworks come with features from all three systems, so you can manage your inventory, process your orders, list on multiple channels and report on all your sales channels from the same place. 

Do you need an OMS or an ERP? 

Oh good: more software jargon. If you’re looking to move from the “you and a spreadsheet” system to a more professional set-up, you might be choosing between an order management system and an enterprise resource planning tool (like SAP or Oracle, for instance). 

As a small business, you probably don’t need a full ERP solution. An ERP is a tool for managing your business’ finance, HR, supply chain, CRM, reporting and project management in the same place. They’re typically more comprehensive (and expensive!) than you’ll need as an SMB. 

An order management system just handles the order-processing functions, and they’re a practical addition to your tech stack, even as a small business. 

Top tips for setting up your multichannel OMS the right way 

Here are a few quick tips for getting the most out of a multichannel OMS: 

  1. Clean up your act 

If your spreadsheets are in chaos, now’s the time to update them. Otherwise, you’ll be starting off in your new OMS with messy data. 

For starters, look for duplicate customer records. Check that your data is standardized—you’ve used the same formats for phone numbers and addresses, for instance. 

Just take comfort in the fact that it’s the last time you’ll be manually updating your order data. 

  1. Double up  

Don’t ditch the spreadsheets until your new OMS is fully operational. In the meantime, keep your spreadsheets going while you slowly roll out your OMS, train your team on the new system, and make sure you’ve ironed out any issues.

You can start by setting up only a handful of products via your OMS, or just using it to handle orders via one platform, until you’ve got the hang of things.  

  1. Create training resources 

Any new tool comes with a bit of friction, and your team may well need some help getting started. Start by using the tool yourself, and make a note of any questions or sticking points that come up. Then, either write out some basic steps, or use a tool like Loom to record a short video of how to use the platform. These resources will be far more useful than a massive user guide. 

  1. Integrate and automate 

Take full advantage of the features of your new platform. That means looking for as many opportunities as possible to integrate your OMS with your existing tools—your ecommerce platform, your sales channels, your CRM, your accounting software, your shipping processes, your inventory management system if you have one. 

Also aim to spot opportunities to automate. If you or your team find yourselves performing the same manual task more than once or twice, look to see if there’s a way you can handle it automatically. For instance: 

  • Set up alerts whenever stock is running low 
  • Automatically route orders to the best fulfillment center based on location, stock levels, or shipping speed
  • Send order confirmation emails immediately after a purchase is made 
  • Automatically select the most cost-effective shipping carrier based on order details and delivery location.
  • Automatically generate purchase orders to suppliers when inventory falls below a predefined threshold
  • Automatically notify customers of backorders and expected fulfillment dates

Set yourself up for success with a multichannel OMS

Adopting a multichannel order management system is not just about staying organized. It’s about positioning your business for scalable long-term growth. 

By centralizing your orders, inventory, and customer data, you make your life easier, reduce errors, and free up valuable time to focus on what truly matters—delighting your customers. 

Whether you’re just starting to expand beyond a single sales channel or you’re managing multiple platforms, a robust OMS can transform the way you handle e-commerce. Your future self (and your stress levels) will thank you.

Ready to see Linnworks in action?

  • Unrivaled ecommerce data accuracy
  • 100+ integrations with global sales channels
  • Up and running in 40 days on average
rosanna campbell

Rosanna Campbell


Rosanna is a freelance writer who writes non-boring content for B2B SaaS clients like Dock, Lattice, and monday.com. She lives in Spain with her husband, her son, and a beagle who eats her furniture.