Merchants must constantly meet and exceed ever-changing customer expectations. It’s what makes shoppers choose one brand over another. A critical component of delivering on customer expectations is the ability to deliver the perfect customer order: Getting them the right product at the best price, when and where they want.
For merchants, the perfect order means accomplishing this at the optimal cost and efficiency. By achieving the perfect order, merchants will delight customers with the ultimate, omnichannel experience of buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere and return anywhere and operate an efficient and profitable business. Unfortunately, too many retailers don’t possess these capabilities.
Where does the perfect order begin? With a single, centralized order management solution that holds all information from the order management process, including order, sourcing, payments and fulfillment. A centralized solution also spans all channels of sales operations so it doesn’t matter where an order originates. All fulfillment channels have access to all information so the organization can appropriately allocate inventory based on stock levels, demand requirements and timing. For the customer, it’s the seamless experience they’ve come to expect.
How does a centralized order management solution achieve this? This happens first by automating the end-to-end order lifecycle including order capture and validation, order release, shipment confirmation, customer communications and settlements. With a centralized and automated system, you can cost effectively support complex processes such as split shipments, drop shipping, personalized products, continuity programs and digital fulfillment. It also coordinates all your fulfillment locations and providers to keep processes moving smoothly and quickly. If fulfillment exceptions do happen, you can resolve them quickly.
Customers gain the ability to choose from many shopping and delivery options such as buy online pickup in store, buy in-store ship elsewhere and split-store shipments. The same principles apply to supporting cross-channel returns and exchanges. Customers can buy products from one channel and exchange or return via a different one – a must for satisfying customers and building brand loyalty.
Yet the customer experience doesn’t end when the product ships. Customers demand real-time information and support at purchase and while an order is in transit. A centralized order management solution gives customers automatic updates on product deliveries, when it’s ready for store pickup and when a merchant receives a product for return or exchange. The same goes for offline activity. When shoppers engage customer service representatives, they need to be equipped with the same real-time visibility to view and execute omnichannel order management transactions.
Manual processes are the death knell of order management. A cobbling of legacy, channel specific systems and spreadsheets and the manual steps to connect them all create duplicate data riddled with errors. For the merchant, this is a costly system to manage that hinders growth and squeezes the bottom line. Customers suffer from late and/or wrong orders, and the inability to offer convenient, low-cost and fast fulfillment options will drive them to your competition.
The benefits of the perfect order to merchants are many. They include faster inventory turns, reduced fulfillment costs, minimized labor costs, increased customer service productivity and the freeing up of isolated inventory. It also lets store associates and support centers better serve customers across all channels.
Retailers that achieve the perfect order deliver significant business value and ROI in the form of high customer satisfaction, better retention and more repeat purchases. Happy customers, in turn, advocate your brand. All the while, your company can react quickly to changing market demands and innovate to maintain efficient operations and address evolving customer needs. It all starts with deploying a unified order management solution that helps streamline your business and better serves your customers.
Allison Manetakis is Director of Commerce Product Management at the Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit