In ecommerce, few things top the excitement of receiving a package on your doorstep. For consumers, successful delivery marks an anticipated finish line. For businesses, order fulfillment means profitability and continuity. And making these experiences possible is order management.
Order management is an intricate process that ends with a moment of truth — the moment a merchant fulfills their brand promise to its customers. Once the customer checks out or clicks ‘buy’, order management takes the wheel to get the product shipped and delivered.
Consider the journey that your favourite pair of jeans must take to make it to your doorstep or onto the hanger in a nearby store. A sophisticated series of interconnected steps and pieces must all work together to bring you that “gotcha!” moment — when you finally have your denim in hand. The ordering and fulfillment process for a pair of jeans — and for millions of other products — can make or break a brand’s relationship with a customer.
Defining order management
Order management systems (OMS) encompass everything that happens after clicking the buy button. This includes all downstream operational processes, people, systems, and partnerships required to fulfill an order. An OMS is a platform for managing orders, customer records, fulfillment, inventory visibility, payments and invoicing, and customer care. But the foundation of the modern OMS goes even deeper.
Customers expect the entire process to work seamlessly, from the moment they check out to when they receive their order. They also expect complete transparency around order status. Consumers and B2B buyers want to know if there’s a problem in transit, and they want both transparency on location and hassle-free returns.
Beyond the buy button
Once upon a time, order management systems were relegated to back offices, typically within the logistics division of a company. But that doesn’t work in a customer-centric economy, because order management is so central to the overall customer experience. Everything brands have implemented in the customer relationship management (CRM) lifecycle — awareness, marketing, site experience, consideration, acquisition, conversion, and more — leads to this one moment. In fact, order management is the most important moment of the value exchange. If brands fail to deliver on their end of the exchange (money for goods and services rendered), does anything that came before really matter? Order management systems must deliver on that brand promise.
So, what happens after a customer hits the buy button? Once a buyer checks out, their order becomes part of an elaborate dance. Storefronts may interact with umpteen different systems to complete an order. The most common are tax, payment, fraud, inventory management, accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and shipping. Here’s the step-by-step process:
1. To avoid sell-throughs and overstocks, merchants must gain a precise view of inventory counts
This view helps inform shipping origin, as products can be shipped from multiple locations, or split across multiple warehouses, showrooms, distribution centres, stores, or even third parties.
2. Once inventory is confirmed, they must check for order routing
Are the products or shipments standard? Or, is there a customisation process that may route to a specific warehouse? For special orders, a team may need instructions to construct a personalised product by hand.
3. Then it’s onto shipping integrations
Fast and flexible shipping options are critical to earn loyalty and trust. In fact, 57% of shoppers said that same-day delivery will make them more loyal to a specific brand. B2B buyers’ expectations are also rising. They now expect the same options as consumers. In 2020, there was a 44% global increase in online B2B orders.
4. And finally, delivery
Once the items have been picked, packed, and prepped for shipping, payment is captured and the goods are on their way to the customer. Order management is the brains behind each step in the fulfillment journey for both B2C and B2B customers. Think of it as the conductor of an intricate set of business logic and workflows that take an order from cart to customer.
Superior order management transforms the customer experience
Next-generation order management systems are customer-centric and integral to the front office. Order and fulfillment are at the heart of an exceptional shopping experience. Why? Because these moments in the shopping journey can either annoy or amaze customers. They help determine whether a customer completes a transaction and becomes a loyal customer, or gravitates towards the competition. Let’s put some of these desirable moments under the microscope.
The desire for flexible shipping/delivery options
Customers demand flexibility in shipping and delivery — from one-hour in metro areas and weekend delivery to in-store pickup and next-day delivery. They expect these options to be displayed clearly on the product page.
The desire for accurate product availability information, including location
Don’t disappoint and frustrate your customers with an out-of-stock notification after they’ve added an item to their cart. For business buyers, time is money — and any minute spent shopping for out-of-stock merchandise is wasted. If a product is out of stock or running low, state so on the product page to give customers the most accurate view of inventory.
The desire for self-service order status and returns
Customers want the ability to check order status and receive updates on their terms, including text and email updates. They should also be able to change shipping details. Returns, too, should be self-service, allowing printable return labels and the choice of how and where to return an item.
The desire for empowered service agents and sales reps
Service agents and sales reps are on the front lines of the customer experience. Consumers crave informed assistance with their purchasing in every way possible, which requires complete visibility into both orders and customer activity. Technology should help them to place orders on behalf of customers and make shipping/delivery changes to existing orders.
Integrated order management systems drive operational excellence by orchestrating the entire supply chain. Everything that a brand does in the customer lifecycle leads to this value exchange moment with the consumer.
The time for an order management system is now
An OMS isn’t just about processing orders — it integrates customer-facing systems that impact the entirety of the post-purchase experience, including ERP, CRM, sales, service, and commerce, to name a few. An OMS makes everything available and accessible to all stakeholders in a unified platform. At Salesforce, we call this customer-centric order management.
We drive this sea change with Salesforce Order Management, a flexible OMS built to support omni-channel journeys at global scale. It works with Salesforce CRM for a complete data record, it’s pre-connected to Commerce Cloud, and it natively supports Service Cloud and Sales Cloud for a single customer view of both order and transaction history. It’s also part of an ecosystem that supports thousands of pre-built connectors, all leading to faster time to value and more importantly, happier customers.
It’s time to reinvent the commerce experience
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