Order Management – A Lifeline for Retailers in a COVID-19 World

By Raghav Sibal | 30 Sep 2021

The retail industry as we know it has been under a significant transformation for quite some time. Combine this with the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus today’s consumers’ ever-changing expectations on the retail experience, and there is now heavy pressure on retailers to innovate their operations in order to stay ahead.

With increased demands for e-commerce and new demands for curbside pickup, click & collect, and quick delivery, Australian retailers are now faced with the challenge of recalibrating their business strategy to serve today’s omnichannel landscape. Alongside various city and state lockdowns, many brands have had to get creative and accelerate their journey towards digital services over the last year. However, not all of them have successfully managed the transition. 

There is, however, an evolution of business-to-consumer distribution models that are beginning to gather pace in the industry, with a core focus on the importance of ‘living’ the omnichannel customer experience, rather than just talking about it. One such model is Order Management Systems (OMS), which integrate all sales and distribution channels into one place, bringing absolute transparency and making it easier for retailers to manage customer orders. 

Optimising Order Sourcing

The new demands of today have forced retailers — and their OMS vendors — to innovate at an unprecedented pace. From adding drop-shipped items to websites to quickly beefing up sales, launching quick ‘on ramp’ digital solutions, or streamlining operations to maximise strained employee bandwidth, the need for innovation through technology has never been greater. In fact, in the latest Forrester Wave Report, it was revealed that 39 percent of retailers increased their investments in technology immediately after the pandemic began to disrupt supply chain operations.

Without this necessary push towards efficiency-boosting technology, such as OMS, retailers would be left flailing behind the competition. With innovations like OMS, retailers have even been able to review the rules of stock allocation, temporarily giving priority to in-store stock over warehouse stock, thus, freeing up any trapped inventory confined within closed stores. This comes as a great advantage to the many retailers whose physical stores were closed for long periods during lockdowns.

Optimising order sourcing is another great strength of an effective OMS, which allows brands to use the stock available in their entire network, wherever it is located. A smart OMS allows retailers to use the ‘pool’ of physical stores in large urban areas to offer same day, or next day delivery by couriers, whilst also favouring the warehouse stock for less immediate orders. OMS can also be beneficial to retailers whose brands are sold on digital marketplaces such as Amazon, as it enables the ability for them to choose whether or not to include their shop stock in the pool of stock available for sale on digital shopping platforms.

Cost-Effective Omnichannel Offerings

In a recent study, conducted by Manhattan Associates and IHL Group, it was revealed that retailers who optimised their digital customer journey saw their margins improve by three to eight points more than those who didn’t. Additionally, by enhancing the customer journey through the use of technology such as an OMS, retailers are equipped with the knowledge they need to understand what their consumers want, and in turn, they can clearly communicate their promises to consumers – such as delivery dates and returns processes – leading to a positive bump in overall margins. 

According to several independent studies, the conversion rate is said to increase up to 30 percent when a brand communicates a precise delivery date promise on a product page. However, 50 percent of consumers agree that they would in fact abandon a purchase if there was no delivery date indicated at the checkout. This is a good signal of the importance of offering total transparency to the customer regarding their order, as without it, consumers are left uneasy about not only the wait time for delivery but the credibility of the brand itself.  

Turning Returns Into a Positive Customer Experience 

Since the pandemic, the ability to promote a more efficient returns process for e-commerce purchases in-store has become an increasingly important all-round service for brands looking to maintain an adequate retailer-to-consumer relationship. Using an OMS in-store application, customer service teams can directly search for customers’ original orders and records of the returned items. Then, the products that are in return-worthy condition are immediately integrated into the global stock pool, making them available for sale online, even if the item was not originally listed at the point of sale.

As for the benefits to consumers, faster returns and refunds processes, improved order accuracy, and delivery transparency, develop a greater peace of mind for consumers, and ultimately, improve overall brand advocacy and loyalty – which comes as the biggest advantage to retailers in the long-term.

Order Management for Future-Proof Retailing 

With the everchanging nature of the retail landscape and the increasing demands and expectations of consumers, enhancing retail operations with innovative technology such as OMS will serve as a way for retailers to optimise their operations for the future, to withstand even the harshest fulfilment, delivery, and customer services challenges. 

Ranked as the leader in Omnichannel Order Management Systems by Forrester Research this year, Manhattan OMS orchestrates and executes the complete fulfilment life-cycle for customer orders from any channel. With Manhattan’s OMS, every system that interacts with retailers’ customers is interconnected using Manhattan’s Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), providing a single source of operational brilliance for anything related to customer orders. The solution intelligently sources inventory across a retailer’s network of distribution centres, suppliers, and stores, discovering the most profitable route to fulfil the customer promise. With Manhattan OMS, retailers have complete control of customer transactions, visibility and availability of inventory, and the orchestration of orders across the entire enterprise—all in real-time.

For more information on Order Management from Manhattan Associates, go to: https://www.manh.com/en-in/products/order-management 

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