There’s some debate on when the concept of omni-channel retail became a “thing.” Was it 2007, the year the iPhone debuted, or as early as 2003 when some major retailers embarked on the earliest paths to customer-centricity? Regardless, omni-channel retail is no longer what it was back then — the space is changing in ways that require innovations in how shopping experiences are delivered. 

It’s hard to overstate how much shopping habits and shopper expectations are evolving. Today consumers use buy online/pickup in store (BOPIS) — an experience that didn’t exist several years ago. This trend makes clear that today, few things matter more to consumers than convenience.

As noted in a recent report by Boston Retail Partners, “Today’s retail model has to venture beyond omni-channel by breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform with a single order management system to deliver a holistic, real-time, personal customer-centric experience.”

 

Why great order management is the key

The non-linear way we shop today can wreak havoc on older order management systems, particularly those that aren’t integrated with a retailers’ ecommerce platform. Why? Because it can involve manual workarounds, form submissions, brittle technology integrations, and more. This, in turn, creates the potential for botched returns, missing orders, delays, and, of course, frustrated customers.

There’s a mind-boggling web of systems that govern orders and inventory — and those systems, thankfully, are getting smarter than ever. Using next-generation order management, omni-channel retail leaders are able to integrate order capture and fulfillment between physical stores and online. The best ones are integrated directly into ecommerce systems.

In addition to BOPIS, here are two other ways that integrated order management enables the next stage of omni-channel retail: 

 

Retailers can turn stores into distribution centres

Retailers are constantly under pressure to hold down shipping costs. At the same time, customers also want their orders as quickly as possible from stores close to them. Order management systems can help solve both, by empowering merchants to activate all inventory in stores and warehouses to be sold online and prioritise shipping across short distances to save on costs.

 

Retailers can turn returners into shoppers

With billions in merchandise returned each year, returns continue to be the bane of retailers’ existence. Still, retailers have to ensure seamless returns whether the item is returned to a store or online using self-service tools. Order management is the single source of truth for all this inventory movement and can help retailers accept returns, initiate exchanges. With tight integration into ecommerce, order management connects shoppers to their order history and allows for easy exchanges and returns.

Order management today is not just about processing orders, it’s about integrating all of the customer-facing systems that impact the purchase and post-purchase experience and making that available and accessible to stakeholders in a single unified platform.

 

Getting to the next phase of omni-channel

So how do you make the most of these new trends? Start by bridging the online and in-store experience so that you have a single view of your customers’ preferences, purchases, and order information. Retailers can use that same information to enable BOPIS or endless aisle solutions that drive revenue. Conversely, store associates can use this information to help provide the best customer experience.

As BRP noted in its report, “the importance of real-time visibility and access to product and customer information across channels has grown significantly over the past few years as consumers’ expectations continue to rise.”

Salesforce Order Management helps you get this done. You can deliver fast and easy shipping, transparent order status, and hassle-free returns at scale, all powered by the world’s #1 CRM. And it’s not just about Salesforce — partners such as Mad MobileNewStore, and PredictSpring work in concert with Salesforce Order Management, helping bridge this gap between digital and physical experiences. Their point of sale and clienteling solutions are built for delivering modern consumer experiences in the store while integrating back to the digital store and order management system. Best of all, these partners all bring something different to the table, so you can choose the solution that makes sense for your business.

This is customer-centric order management. Consumers expect a personalised, channel-agnostic experience in real time. That means retailers have visibility into transaction history regardless of how the consumer shopped. With a unified commerce platform, integrated with world-class order management and store partners, retailers can achieve a truly connected experience across channels.

Learn more about Salesforce Order Management.