Retail order management – The key to unlocking omnichannel
It’s not difficult to recall the recent past, where in the previous decade, brands used to conduct sales using a single channel for eCommerce. They allocated a part of their inventory to online sales by creating a smooth and aesthetic web experience for the user and enjoyed exclusivity in sales without complicating their back-office processes. However, this route was brought to a halt when consumer technology was brought to the forefront of technological development, by giving the ultimate choice for point of sales to the consumer by creating multiple channels of sales. Here, the customers were free to choose an eCommerce platform of their choice across multiple devices such as desktop and mobile app, compare the best deals and choose the best site. Brands missed out on substantial gains by not being present on such platforms, so the advancement of eCommerce brought out power plays between such brands to gain the maximum number of consumers. Sales now were focused on providing an all-round experience which consisted of product price, availability, delivery and being present on a channel of the consumer’s choice.
Thus, the downfall of traditional channels brought the need to be an omnichannel successful brand, where the convenience of customers meant being available on every possible point of sales, offline and online was the primary means of gaining more dominance in the market. This meant reforming their retail experience in streamlining the physical store as well as the online shopping experience.
Meet the Modern Customer
The changes in eCommerce technology brought about changes in customer behaviour and their buying psychology as well, known as “me-commerce”. These are people who:
- No longer consider brick and mortar and online stores discrete shopping destinations
- Expect brands to provide a unified experience across every point of sales
- Are willing to go elsewhere if a retailer does not have available a desired product
- Expect to be able to return or exchange products bought online to brick and mortar stores at their closest location.
- Demand convenience and a range of alternatives regarding where and how they buy products.
- Expect customized, location sensitive and engaging shopping experiences.
- Expect all brands to provide prompt and free home delivery.
- Will weigh their options regarding the same product on different channels depending on the discounts provided.
The aforementioned demands of omnichannel customers added with other factors such as shorter product life cycles, free shipping and stiff competition based on delivery time show how retailers can’t afford to function within channel silos any more if they wish to keep up with the changing times and tech. Now, retailers are required to predict upcoming changes, stay on top of market disruptions and be flexible enough to adapt to customer expectations promptly. Retailers that stick to legacy systems of operations will experience significant struggles and tribulations if they went about trying to serve omnichannel consumers in the old way.
To help such businesses overcome the pains and frustration of transitioning, we have the key to unlocking omnichannel sales, which can be segregated into 3 factors:
- Connecting omnichannel demand and omnichannel supply by being available across all channels with the right quantity of inventory and at the correct time.
- Incorporating distribution management to figure out the quickest and closest route to the supply source while maintaining maximum profitability per order based on the location of the customer.
- Helps in greater fulfillment and delivery of orders by arming all parties (warehouses, retail stores, dropshippers, fulfilment centers, or third party fulfilment channels) involved with purpose-oriented tools for better fluidity.
Helps in routing the orders to the best possible fulfilment source based on the retailer’s criteria such as:
- Profitability per order
- Proximity to the consumer’s location
- Store Dynamics
- Inventory Levels
Integrating Store Fulfillment With eCommerce
An efficient order management system coupled with store fulfillment can use store networks as a tactical ecommerce asset. For instance, the ship-from store facility for customers gives rise to virtual distribution centers across a brand’s network of store locations. It helps stores to fulfill ecommerce orders, reduce going out-of-stock, reduce the delivery time and expenses of delivering such products.
To make the most of being a chain store integrated with omnichannel, the retailer should possess a configurable order routing system that sends the orders to the most appropriate store based on criteria such as:
- Proximity to the shipping location
- Inventory levels at the stores taking into consideration safety stock, MIA levels, weeks of supply, and others.
- Minimizing split orders and shipping completely from a single store.
- Availability of expedited delivery or special handling such as gift wrapping.
- A cap on the maximum units or orders completed per day per location to not overwhelm stores as they also perform physical sales in-store.
- Automatically rerouting declined orders to the next most suitable store.
- The option to enable and disable stores based on the geographic location, store performance and events such as rush season, sales and others.
- Type of retail location.
The triad of factors mentioned above will be the most important ones to keep in mind while traversing through omnichannel from channel silo as they are the main elements of creating a streamlined and efficient system that a retailer can depend on and grow their business with. To put it in simpler words, as the technology changes, customer behavior becomes more demanding given the increased number or options made available to them. By being present across all channels, a brand has the advantage of being accessible and approachable, especially during a pandemic where retail shopping experiences are struggling to revive themselves, thanks to lockdowns and social distancing. Omnichannel is not just a phase, but the present and future if a business wants to stay relevant.
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