Retail businesses are always looking for ways to save money and boost sales, but these can be rare finds. Even rarer are practices like omnichannel order management, which both cuts your costs and improves the customer experience enough to increase your first and follow-up conversion chances. But how could order management do that?
Let’s dive into the changes that omnichannel order management brings and why it’s crucial. This blog will look at:
- What is order management?
- What’s the omnichannel aspect?
- How does it help a store?
- Eight benefits for customers and sales
- And why technology is the place to start
What is order management?
Before jumping into the “omnichannel” aspect, let’s define our core term quickly. Order management is the control and support of every step in the journey an order takes from being created to being filled and delivered to the customer’s door (or in-store). It covers capturing an order on a given sales channel, tracking that order’s details, having your team pick and pack it, and then final delivery.
Order management has moved from primarily on the phone and on paper to complex software. Order management systems (OMS) can now track your inventory, match available inventory to orders, and help your team accurately ship products to customers.
The goal of your team and the OMS is to get orders to people accurately and on time, while minimizing or eliminating the risk that you run out of stock for the orders that will come next. It’s part of your broader order logistics efforts.
That’s an essential part of eCommerce. Red Stag Fulfillment believes that on-time processing and accurate orders are such a core part of your offering that we provide our partners with guarantees for these elements.
Okay, so what’s omnichannel order management?
Omnichannel order management takes this all a step further. By using a robust OMS, you’re bringing together orders from every sales channel into one list. This makes it easier for you to fill orders and track inventory. The software and scanners count everything for you, instead of needing a team to track each channel and then continually communicate back to inventory teams to have an accurate count.
For small and growing eCommerce businesses, manually doing this work can take too many people away from picking and packing orders, slowing your efforts down. As you grow, it actually gets harder to do this manually. That’s because you’re typically working across multiple locations with more inventory and SKUs.
Instead of needing large teams at every location, who then communicate back to centralized buyers, an OMS can bring all orders together into a single stream and check inventory levels against that unified list.
Just think about the time it takes you to log in and read a single story (or watch a single video) on your top three favorite social channels. Now, imagine taking that much time at multiple points every day to review orders and check inventory levels. That can quickly become a few hours, slowing down your processes. Then, you’d need to count inventory and update your lists at the end of the day. From there, you’ll have to analyze sales and inventory once more to see if you need to place a reorder.
The tasks could become a job that takes a full workday every day as you grow. Modern inventory management software, however, can automate this for you. That means you get the omnichannel order management look without having to live in spreadsheets.
Why does this matter to your store?
Omnichannel order management speeds up your store’s ability to track and use its inventory. This has a variety of benefits, including cost savings and better utilization of your products. You’re also working from the latest data so that you can make the best possible decisions.
Thankfully, this approach also improves the shopping experience for your customers. It gives shoppers a little more control and better service without interrupting your efforts or creating a lot more work. Let’s look a little closer at some core benefits.
Customer benefits from omnichannel order management
One of the first benefits your customers will receive, but perhaps not notice, is your newfound ability always to offer a personalized shopper experience. With an omnichannel order management approach, you can leverage customer accounts and information to offer a variety of experiences to match profiles and preferences.
If you know someone who loves picking up an order in-store, they can see available products first. Online-only shoppers can get accurate shipping estimates and avoid seeing inventory that requires a trip to the store. Unified data also tends to make retargeting and other advertising and sales techniques easier by removing channel-based barriers.
Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) is a trend that’s accelerated significantly during the COVID-19 response. Also called click-and-collect, these orders allow someone to buy from your website or app and then pick up at their nearest location. This leverages in-store and online inventories, giving you more options to make a sale. It requires omnichannel order management tools, but can be done effectively because many now integrate with point-of-sale tech.
BOPIS makes a splash because customers want this convenience. They can shop when it best fits their schedule and then pick up the goods also on their own time. The easiest times to shop and bring goods home for today’s customers are often different times. And people seem to love it, with BOPIS expected to account for 9.9% of all eCommerce sales in 2021, or about $83.5 billion.
Comfort and the pandemic
The other side of the BOPIS coin is buying everything online and avoiding crowds. Not only has this side of eCommerce grown because of product availability, but also ongoing health concerns. Some of your audience may not be comfortable going into a physical location. Instead, turn on omnichannel order management to make online sales even easier. While no one is sure what 2022 eCommerce sales will look like, more sales options seem to be the best approach to generating long-term customer loyalty.
Easy shipping and returns
Around the holiday season, we can’t help but think about returns. Turns out, though, this is another area where omnichannel order management can be a big help. These practices often will streamline your returns process in a few ways. The staff gets a single set of rules to follow, making returns easier to process.
Customers get more ways to return goods, and you can even accept returns at your warehouse from any channel. Your support team can start the returns process for customers regardless of where they made the purchase, speeding up elements like creating return shipping labels. You’re giving them less hassle and frustration, making them more likely to buy from you again because people love smooth returns.
ECommerce benefits from omnichannel order management
Improved inventory use
Omnichannel order management efforts create a single view of your inventory and sales channels. Bringing these together makes it easier to understand what you have in stock and then use it more effectively. Not only does reordering goods get easier, but you can make use of lead times. Knowing inventory and having multiple locations to fulfill from may allow you to order less frequently but upgrade to larger freight levels, saving on both shipping and storage costs.
An omnichannel order management strategy — whether in-house or through us here at Red Stag — can offer opportunities to reduce your shipping costs. This happens in a few ways.
First, you can match orders to the closest inventory location and warehouse based on customer location. You don’t have to split orders based on channel. This means that you’re choosing the location with the shortest last-mile difference, saving on a per-order basis. Suppose you’re running both traditional retail and online stores. In that case, a unified order management system can even turn store locations into mini-warehouses, potentially getting you even closer to the online shopper’s location.
Also, you’re in a better position to leverage your entire volume for carrier discounts. Red Stag can do this for our clients, allowing us to secure significant savings for carriers, especially on heavy, bulky, and large items.
Lowering training requirements
Combining channels generally leads to fewer systems and practices for staff to learn. That means your warehouse, sales, and other teams spend more time mastering what’s necessary. The consolidation of tools can speed up training and onboarding, while potentially reducing differences between your channels.
Look for an omnichannel order management platform to automatically deliver and explain required differences. These variations can include giving packers different requirements at their station, so they’re focused on following instructions instead of trying to memorize and recall channel-specific requirements for orders.
Omnichannel order management combines data from every sales channel into a single location. Pursuing this with robust order management tools makes it easier to analyze your most recent information. Bring it all together so you can look for patterns across your entire operation. You may also weed out inefficiencies and redundancies that are driving down your bottom line.
How should you start?
Implementing omnichannel order management starts with your inventory and order tools. You’ll need to integrate these first and foremost. If existing tools don’t work together, it might be time to start looking for something new.
For our partners, Red Stag Fulfillment supports order management and integration. Our in-house tools bring your business into a single view so that you can see how we’re using your inventory. Integrating with shopping carts, marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and eCommerce platforms like Shopify makes it easy for us to support your omni-channel fulfillment efforts.
If you’re unsure how to walk down this integration pathway, we’ve got the perfect first step. Use the button below to download our free eBook on eCommerce integrations. That’ll give you the knowledge you need to start linking your order and inventory tools with each other and your website. That way, you can track and combine orders from mobile shoppers, Amazon buyers, and even people who walk into your store make your operations smoother and more profitable.