By Anthony Hockaday, Director of Omnichannel Services, Radial
It’s a new world in retail as pandemic-inspired trends like curbside pickup have gone mainstream and are now tables stakes for retailers as shoppers expect a seamless, omnichannel experience across digital and brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers have also returned to pre-pandemic expectations for eCommerce order delivery within two to three days and want convenience as they move across channels.
At the same time, retailers are still grappling with disrupted supply chains and higher transportation costs as inflation continues to present challenges. Retailers are considering multiple fulfillment options and many have embraced store fulfillment as a sensible strategy to keep inventory closer to customers and decrease shipping costs.
Store fulfillment utilizes stores as localized fulfillment centers with inventory available for buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pickup curbside (BOPAC)—as well as ship-to-store, ship-from-store, and associate delivery. In addition to keeping product closer to customers, localized inventory decreases fulfillment times and enables customers to obtain their products the same day in many instances.
However, adding store fulfillment to other fulfillment options, such as direct-to-consumer home delivery, only increases the complexity. Channels tend to be siloed and many retailers are using multiple, legacy order fulfillment technology solutions to handle each channel.
True Omnichannel is Seamless
Omnichannel is inclusive of all shopping and communication channels with the goal of delivering a seamless customer experience where consumers feel as if they are just interacting with the brand, not the channel. Being able to shop in-store while looking up products and deals on a retailer’s app, reaching out to customer service through a chat session, and then ordering the product and having it shipped to their home is an example of a seamless, omnichannel experience. It requires integration of all key systems and unified branding so that at no point does the customer feel a disconnect between departments or channels.
Before the pandemic, many retailers were still struggling to implement a true omnichannel experience. The pandemic made it imperative, and companies are now working out the bugs and tightening up the gaps in their omnichannel strategies.
The anchor pin for a true omnichannel retail experience is an order management system that creates total inventory visibility and utilizes intelligent order orchestration across the channel ecosystem.
An omnichannel order management system integrates with eCommerce platforms and other key systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms, to give fulfillment staff and store associates the insights they need to ensure shopping is as easy, seamless, and convenient as possible.
What is an Omnichannel Order Management System?
An omnichannel order management system enables retailers to streamline and integrate their orders across all channels with real-time inventory visibility and a single view of the order fulfillment process.
Omnichannel order management is not the same as multichannel order management. Omnichannel involves integrating all possible channels, revolves around the customer, and uses a single order management system to holistically manage orders across all touchpoints and channels. Multichannel approaches each channel separately so that they are siloed rather than unified, and it’s generally centered around the product or service rather than customer.
Omnichannel order management solutions may be purpose-built to handle all eCommerce business needs, but not every solution is equal. Today’s eCommerce retailers need a solution that is purpose-built for retail and that leverages modern cloud technology to integrate with every system, vendor, and business intelligence point in the order management process.
This is particularly true when store fulfillment is an integral part of the customer experience. An order management system that serves store fulfillment purposes should use intelligent order orchestration based on the criteria retailers define, such as:
- Proximity to shipping destination
- Inventory levels at stores, including factoring in safety stock, weeks of supply, etc.
- Minimizing split orders
- Eligibility of expedited or special handling
- Maximum orders per day per location to not overwhelm stores
- Automatically rerouting declined orders to the next best store
- Selectively enabling and disabling participating stores based on geographies, store performance, and market events
- Retail location types
These also apply to other order fulfillment options. A modern order management system will be channel agnostic, meaning that it will apply the same level and depth of capabilities regardless of channel.
Best Practices for an Omnichannel Order Management System
As we’ve seen, retail businesses striving to assemble the pieces of an omnichannel strategy soon find that, with so many different systems and channels involved in the process, orchestrating order management can be a huge challenge. A cloud-based order management system can integrate the entire process, including online and point of sale orders, inventory visibility, intelligent order routing, picking and packing, order fulfillment, transportation management, and reverse logistics (returns)—and provide business intelligence for continual improvement as well. All of these are necessary to deliver customer-centric order fulfillment that improves profitability and customer loyalty.
So, what are some best practices that an omnichannel order management system provides for an eCommerce business to deliver the best customer experience? Here are five that you should look for:
1. Improving inventory utilization. The system should provide real-time visibility for global inventory management and allocation, in-transit visibility, available-to-promise, safety stock, and estimated delivery date across channels—all from a single platform. With complete visibility into inventory levels, retailers can optimize every order fulfillment strategy with the assurance that customer needs will be met in the most efficient, cost-effective ways.
2. Decreasing shipping costs. The best order management systems also track the entire omnichannel fulfillment process every step of the way to optimize the most convenient and profitable fulfillment locations, carriers, and routes—whether that’s for BOPIS or home delivery. It makes shipping more cost-effective while meeting customers’ expectations.
3. Using intelligent order orchestration. As orders come in, the order management system should use intelligent order orchestration to determine which fulfillment option is ideal depending on speed, location closest to the customer, and available carrier options. This happens automatically with AI and machine learning to ensure that orders are fulfilled in the most economical and fastest way.
4. Streamlining workflows. The more retailers can automate the omnichannel order management process, the less likely errors will be made—which results in greater customer satisfaction. The system creates a single point of view and uses automation to reduce redundancy, eliminate manual data entry, and avoid mistakes caused by having multiple systems that don’t share data.
5. Leveraging advanced data analytics. Omnichannel retail generates and utilizes enormous amounts of data. A system with advanced business intelligence features provides useful data on customer orders, stock levels, order status and history, fulfillment stages, shipping, returns, and more. Better data leads to better decision-making at every step of the order management lifecycle.
Choosing a modern, cloud-based, omnichannel order management system that implements these best practices is imperative. In fact, without it, it’s very difficult to provide the type of convenient shopping experiences today’s customers desire—let alone expect them to be loyal to your business.
Learn about Radial Order Management to simplify complex order fulfillment scenarios with our powerful sourcing engine and customizable workflows, increase shipping speed and profitability, and make returns easy and hassle-free.