Order Management Can’t afford not to be Omnichannel

As has been in apparent in the last several years, customers expect to be able to shop anywhere, any time and get their items in a quick manner with flexible options for shipping. With services like Amazon Prime making two-day shipping the norm, and retailers like Walmart offering same-day in-store pickup, mid-market and enterprise customers are struggling to compete with the power these shopping behemoths have. Forbes reports that Amazon sales grew by 23 percent in 2014, thanks to that year marking major changes in the merchant’s order management and fulfillment capabilities. 

What do you look for in a true omnichannel order management system that will put the vital operations “finishing touches” on your end-to-end omnichannel strategy? 

Omnichannel Inventory and Order Management Essentials

Expedited picking, packing and shipping is the main goal of any warehouse - inventory gets moved quicker with less overhead, and customer satisfaction increases with on-time and accurate orders in their hands. 

Capterra business software research firm cites that “the average inventory on hand for businesses of all sizes has risen 8.3% in the past 5 years. As a result, businesses keep $1.43 of inventory on hand for every $1 of sales, which means a lot of capital is tied up in inventories.” A system that automates fulfillment sources and generates warehouse-layout efficient pick-pack lists can reduce the amount of time (and costs) warehouse sitting in inventory generates. 

Reducing the cost of inventory and order management can be achieved by integrating an impeccable omnichannel eCommerce, mobile commerce and in-store strategy, but only if the warehouse and fulfillment system is capable of delivering a matched excellence in back-office functions. 

Expanded Fulfillment Capabilities

A Forrester study of over 250 retailers and 1,500+ customers titled “Consumer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap,” explored the revenue-driving benefits companies have realized by enabling expanded fulfillment capabilities like ship-from-store, in-store fulfillment and buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS). Check out the stats from the survey below:

  • 77% of surveyed retailers who cited that enabling ship-from-store had reduced their fulfillment costs.
  • 88% of surveyed retailers who cited that enabling ship-from-store had improved their customer satisfaction KPIs and metrics.
  • 50% of consumers who expect to buy online and pick up in-store.

An efficient omnichannel order management system like SmartStock360 is one source of pooled information from every channel and all information sources, allowing retailers control over their different channels and enabling more productivity. Want to know more about the additional capabilities of SmartStock360? Contact us.
 

Report: Forrester Order Management Outlook through 2021

eCommerce is the new norm for companies that seek to grow revenue, acquire new customers and increase the average lifetime value of current customers. Enterprise commerce systems like order management are critical to supporting the online product catalog, fulfillment, shipping, vendor management and more crucial operational functions. This new Forrester report looks at the outlook for the eCommerce order management industry over the next five years. What should companies evaluate when switching an order management system and what is essential to continue the growth of eCommerce through operations? 


Forrester identified four critical components of digital commerce: commerce management, experience management, order management and product information management. For a well-oiled online commerce machine, all of these pieces must work together seamlessly and have integrated information flow. What this looks like will vary depending on the systems you have in place, but there are certain criteria you should look for in your order management system to make sure the back-end fulfillment piece is in flux with the rest of your commerce systems. 


Information Management


An order management system has a lot of moving pieces and processes a large amount of information including order tracking, invoicing, and account management. Ensuring that your system has organizational and process flow capabilities to manage the flow of information through integrated systems like the eCommerce platform and ERP will automate processes that can take a large amount of time when manually operated. An order management system with rules-based workflows that are customizable is critical to running your business in a way that is most profitable to your model. This information can also be parsed out to identify key trends in buyer behavior and ordering patterns. 


Order Management as Customer Service


According to Forrester, many modern commerce companies are “reducing their acquisition and retention costs by converting full-serve customers into partial or total self-serve customers.” An order management system that lets customers see their order tracking and easily allows your customer service representatives (CSR) to track and manage orders will save on operational overhead of hiring a large amount of CSRs. 


Critical to modern order management is customer experience enriching features and automated information flow. Interested in how SmartStock360 can provide these features? Let’s talk. 
 

Is your Omnichannel Fulfillment Strategy Mature?

Many retailers do not have a mature omnichannel strategy because the market has moved faster than legacy technology. However, omnichannel features such as in-store fulfillment, buy online pickup in-store, real-time inventory visibility, and in-store kiosk orders are no longer pipe dreams only accessible by big box retailers with deep pockets. It is easy to see why these features are becoming the new norm, enabling all inventory for selling will bring a significant lift across all key performance metrics like average order volume, repeat customers and most importantly – revenue.

With so many “must-have” features in today’s customer-dominated retail landscape, what are the strongest considerations for the business as a whole when evaluating a potential order management system? Here are the top three features to look for in an OMS as originally identified by Forrester in the Omnichannel Wave survey of eBusiness professionals in 2016.

§  Store fulfillment: Brands that have both brick-and-mortar and online operations are seeking tools to let their store employees fulfill online orders directly from store inventory at the point-of-service system. Customized processes need to be implemented into legacy POS systems to support store fulfillment in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner, and they are looking to their OMS vendors to offer this to them.

§  Enterprise inventory:  An effective order management system needs to centralize inventory in accurate, near-real time from all channels and disparate systems into a single, accessible view of inventory across the entire business.

§  Customer service: eCommerce has presented unique challenges for customer service associates. Whether an order can be cancelled or modified is often out of their hands – usually unbeknownst to the customer. An order management system with up-to-date, accurate visibility into the order life cycle from fulfillment through shipping is the most efficient way to help your customer team provide the best experience to your shoppers.

 What is a Mature System?

SmartStock360 Order Management solution is an open-source, customizable framework that can give your company these capabilities – on your terms. Combining a flexible framework with forward-facing capabilities and a smooth onboarding process means you can start getting ahead of the competition faster. Because of the agility of the solutions, SmartStock360 has the ability to scale its platform from growing mid-market to enterprise businesses.  

A major ice cream retailer powers the movement of over 300k pints per year using the SmartStock360 inventory and order management system.

  • Omnichannel Features a Mature OMS should have:
  • Shipping integration with carriers and automated order tracking
  • Vendor portals for stock replenishment and payments
  • Real-time inventory counts across the enterprise in a single view
  •  Roles-based account permissions
  • Integration with barcode scanners and POS
  • Automated intelligent pick-pack lists
  • Order routing optimization
  • Drop-ship integration
  • Order splitting and multi-address capabilities
  • Integration with major eCommerce platforms
  • Automatic low-stock alerts
  • In-store pickup, fulfillment

Getting there

Re-platforming a system as critical as the order management and inventory management system does not have to result in major disruptions for your internal teams or drops in service levels provided to your customers. According to Forrester’s Building a Business Case for Omnichannel in Retail, the most common reasons for failure when implementing a new system or combining legacy systems are:

  • A lack of internal support and communication
  • Too little stakeholder and C-level buy-in and confidence
  • Inadequately defined requirements
  • A failure to understand customer expectations
  • Inaccurate project cost estimates and timelines
  • Incorrect understanding of the potential impact enterprise-wise

“Don't re-invent, or worse yet, invent your own wheel.”

Enabling omnichannel across the enterprise requires substantial in time, resources, and technology. Before beginning the project, it’s important to quantify, communicate, and realize the far-reaching aspects of on-boarding a new system. Building your business case and roadmap to define “who, what, where and when” with defined timelines and milestones for each business unit across is crucial to implementing your system on-time and on-budget.

­­­Working with a trusted partner is imperative to a smooth project implementation. If you are one of 50%+ of eBusiness professionals that are beginning to evaluate your omnichannel strategy, or are already in the process of searching for a new OMS – let's chat. 

Fulfillment to Asia: A revenue-driver

For the last several years, Asian companies have been fulfilling to the American market. But with more Asian buyers turning to eCommerce, domestic companies are looking to fulfill to Asia. Is it right for your company? Many top analysts and experts think that you should. According to recent Forrester research, eCommerce in the Asian marketplace “will nearly double from $733 billion in 2015 to $1.4 trillion in 2020.”

The upward trend in the Asian retail market is expected to continue, despite a plateau in the economies overall. With the middle and upper class becoming larger in countries like China and India – there is more demand for online commerce. Entering a global market is not without its obstacles, however. Having a strong shipping component of your order management system that is capable of handling the unique nature of the Asian eCommerce landscape is essential to success in entering the largely untapped potential of selling globally in Asia. What are the other considerations?

Shipping and Fulfilling to International Markets

Markets like Japan and South Korea have been major players in eCommerce spending for several years now – and the competition is getting fierce. With many of the products being sold manufactured in neighboring nations, shipping is quicker than international. When going after these markets, it’s important to give enticing shipping offers, these buyers tend to be less apt to pay for international shipping surcharges when they can get the item elsewhere without one.

A logistics management system that can automatically pick the lowest cost shipping option can save margin and manual hours configuring these yourself for international shippers. 

For more information on getting your site global-ready and entering into new markets – contact us for a complimentary demo of SmartStock360. 

Integrating Logistics Management and your eCommerce Platform

A true omnichannel strategy include integration and automated flow of information throughout the endite end-to-end order process, including the order and inventory management system. If you are a current online merchant, you already know the benefits of having a future-facing, open-source platform to manage your online eCommerce operations on, but does your OMS play nicely with your eCommerce system? If not, you could be experiencing hidden inefficiencies like inaccurate inventory counts, delayed orders and stockouts: all top reasons for customer dissatisfaction. 

Why Omnichannel?

An omnichannel order management solution has to be able to integrate other enterprise wide systems for a fully seamless flow of business processes and information. Ecommerce, point of sale, shipping, financial systems, inventory management and warehouse management all should act as one. When business units are connected, merchants can fill more orders, decrease order cycle times and eradicate overselling, while getting products to customers quicker. 

Omnichannel Benefits of the SmartStock360 Order Management Platform:

  • Open-Source platform
  • Deliver accurate, on-time orders with efficient WMS processes 
  • Support major eCommerce and POS systems
  • Provide accurate ship dates on orders from every selling channel
  • Reduce order management and inventory holding costs through in-store fulfillment
  • Reduce held inventory through in-store fulfillment
  • Leverage cutting-edge fulfillment capabilities
  • Improve order accuracy and order cycle times through seamless connections with all selling channels

How does SmartStock360 integrate with eCommerce platforms?

SmartStock360 was designed to seamlessly integrate with eCommerce sites running on major eCommerce platforms. Disparate systems and siloed business units are one of the main drivers of inefficiency in the order-to-door cycle, and ensuring the your inventory management system is seamlessly connected to your eCommerce systems brings these two criticals parts of operations management into one.
 
Ensuring that your eCommerce platform fully integrates into your warehouse management system automates the flow of information, resulting in reduced man hours and inefficiencies from manual information processing. 
 Integration Capabilities:

  •  Product Downloading
  • Stock Pushing
  • Order Downloading
  • Fulfillment Pushing

 
Are you an eCommerce Merchant looking to streamline your order management? Let’s chat about what SmartStock360 can do.
 

Choosing an Order Management System for Long-term Success

Finding an order management system system that can automate manual processes and increase efficiencies at every touchpoint will lessen the overall cost of fulfilling eCommerce orders and save man-hours, turning that 18 cents into much less with the right processes in place. But where do you begin estimating the true cost of an inefficient order management system? And how do you find one that will deliver exponential returns on your initial investment for years to come?

The once-stagnant order management process is changing rapidly, so it’s no surprise that the cost of getting items into customers hands is increasing as well. Especially on aging order management systems, things like buy online pickup in-store, in-store fulfillment and click-and-collect may be costly additions to a legacy system, or not possible at all.

What changed?

As brick-and-mortar sales continue to increase, and online commerce becomes even more the norm, these costs of integrating omnichannel into systems not designed for these complex processes will not just be financial. Security issues arise, as well as manual time-draining inefficiencies. These issues that are harder to quantify the enterprise-wide effects of, but are just as devastating to the bottom line.

Here are 4 Key Checklist Items to Achieve Long-term Efficiency in Order Management

1. Adapt, Automate, Optimize

An efficient order fulfillment platform adapts to the specific warehouse set up of the business, and can easily adapt for growth and change in the future. Whether you have a small warehouse, a large warehouse, or several warehouses, finding an OMS with automated efficient pick, pack and ship functionality that  integrates with major shipping providers is crucial.

Your system needs to be agile enough to support layout changes in your current warehouse(s) and new warehouse spaces that may be added. Even orders with customization, personalization or assembly/make to-order requirements should be managed by your OMS seamlessly. Having automated processes in place that are agile enough to change with your business ensures that you will not be in the same position half a decade or more from now: evaluating investing even more in a new order management system to keep up competitively.

2. Empower your Customers

Customers buy the way they want to, and will continue to look for innovative and convenient methods of getting what they need. You can leverage your brick-and-mortar stores as a competitive differentiator in several ways such as:

  • Buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere, return anywhere capabilities

  • Leveraging in-store inventory to fulfill orders across channels

  • Store pickup, ship from store, and ship to store

  • Automate and execute subscription orders

  • Drop-ship/Endless aisle

3. Is your Omni really Omni?

According to the Aberdeen Group research analysts, Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

Capping customer order lifecycle costs means having an integrated channel strategy, fulfilling from one channel should be no more costly than another.

Shoppers now hop between more channels, often making online, mobile and in-store purchases a weekly habit. This means disparate systems and silos become more of a drain on resources when trying to manage these channel-hopping buyers. Omnichannel integration of order management processes handled directly in the OMS system gives the order end-to-end visibility to the customer and across the enterprise, lessening costly customer service calls and increasing repeat buying behavior.

4. Getting Up and Running

A new order management system is a financial investment and a considerable project for your business and IT teams. When IT projects are not installed on-time and within budget, it is a financial and time drain on the entire business. OMS systems typically take 6 to 12 months to implement, and it may take additional months for daily users to fully absorb and gain the functions. Being as prepared as possible for the implementation means first finding a solution, sure, but also finding a trusted partner to become an extension of your team to implement the solution. Your partner will be the go-to for modifications, user training, file conversion and project management. 

How to Choose

The order management system of your future is how you’re going to manage your bottom line, improve people productivity, provide customer service, and gain key insights and analysis into your business. The total buy-in of your team and ownership of assigned responsibilities across business units make for a successful OMS implementation, but integrating all the above capabilities are how your system will achieve long-term financial returns.

To learn more about how SmartStock360 can decrease the costs of the order management life cycle and increase revenue, let's chat. 


 

eCommerce and Inventory Management: Critical Considerations

Stockouts and backorders are a reality that many eCommerce retailers are still figuring out how to grapple with. Online retail can often be in flux dependent on advertising, marketing and seasonality. It is much harder to predict a stock-out online than it is in a brick-and-mortar store. Inventory management is critical to keeping eCommerce operations like a well-oiled machine. 

A common customer service bottleneck is customers that place an order online, receive a confirmation, only to have the order cancelled later because the product was not actually in stock at the warehouse. Inventory that is not real-time can upset the balance between the online store and what is actually viable. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction, loss of trust or confidence, and eventually the loss of the customer. These are a few of the reasons that integrated, real-time inventory management is essential to every eCommerce retail site.

Order Accuracy

As mentioned, it’s absolutely vital that your customers only see products that are actually in stock, and that your warehouse is providing immediate, accurate inventory counts round-the-clock. If they place an order that eventually falls through, there is enough competition in the market that a customer is not likely to return to your site. To avoid this, inventory numbers need to be updated site-wide in real time and low-stock alerts should be sent automatically to the buyers so an additional PO can be placed, or so they can contact your vendors for a re-order.

Supplier Insights

For uninterrupted distribution, suppliers need thorough knowledge of what products they have available, where these items are physically located, and whether or not they should anticipate a seasonal or promotional spike in popularity. Integrated inventory management will allow you to keep track of inventory levels while managing incoming orders from multiple channels, such as phone, in-store or online sales. It will also allow suppliers to track the changing popularity (seasonal or otherwise) of a product, know when they’re over or under-stocked, and adjust re-orders as necessary.

There are other auxiliary effects to this. You’ll have stronger insight into your supply chain, so you’ll know where your products are coming from and where they’re going. More environmentally conscious customers may want to know where the products are manufactured or what materials they’re made from, so inventory management will allow you to provide that information quickly and efficiently. You’ll also be able to track shipments so you’ll always know where your products are at any given time.

Financial Impact

If you know exactly how many products you’ve sold and exactly how many you have left in stock, you’ll have a far more accurate idea of your business’s fiscal position than you would otherwise. These won’t be your final numbers, of course, but updated, accurate accounting information may help you plan your business strategy in the months to come.

Integrated inventory management is not only good for your business, but it’s also good for your customers. It makes their ordering process easier and more accurate, and allows you tighter control and understanding over the internal workings of your warehouse and supply chain. Any eCommerce retail site should be fully equipped with real time inventory management, or else it risks a chain of unfortunate business disasters.

SmartStock360 offers robust inventory management tools to ensure customer satisfaction and smooth operations. Contact us for a free demo.

Managing Shipping for Holiday eCommerce

Marketshare is hard to gain in the increasingly competitive online retail market, especially with retailers offering free one and two day shipping. Mid-market and growing retailers may feel the burden of tight shipping margins. But shipping promotions undoubtedly attract customers. Where is the sweet spot between shipping margin and customer conversion?

What to Consider Before Holiday

Major shippers and retailers all have different cut-off days for delivery by December 25th.  Make sure you note these dates in several crucial places on your website, including the product description page and check-out page.

Considerations surrounding staffing and the warehouse should be made to get the rush of close-to-Christmas orders out the door and on the right carrier. Valuable space in the warehouse is saved when orders are moved through the order-to-door cycle faster and customers are more satisfied when their orders on on-time and correct.

Finding Shipping ROI

Shipping margins were traditionally a function of the operations department, but retailers should consider bringing in insights from the marketing and merchandise team as well.  Analytics firm Kissmetrics reports that almost a third of shoppers will bounce off a site without completing their purchase if presented with an unexpected shipping cost. Site operations are deeply affected by shipping costs and promotions.

After holiday, many retailers find that miscalculations in their shipping costs have eaten into their year-end revenue, What can you do before holiday to ensure that shipping costs stay in check?. An order management platform that is able to explore all viable options from a carrier standpoint automatically can save retailers time, money and customer service headaches.”

The Right Platform for Shipping and Beyond

Inefficient shipping is an obstacle that is nearly impossible to recover from during the holiday rush. Customers celebrating gift-giving holidays have a hard deadline. A lost or delayed order will cause loss of trust from that customer.

A shipping management system that demonstrates excellence in holiday readiness includes:

  • Integration with domestic and international shipping companies for price comparison in one centralized source.

  • Freedom to integrate company business processes to auto-choose the carrier with the lowest shipping cost, or pick the shipping company manually if that is your warehouse process.

  • Visibility into order status and tracking to alleviate burden on customer service representative and customers inquiring about the status of their order.

If you are seeing inefficiencies in your logistics management system that are causing obstacles for your important customers, let’s chat.

5 Holiday Fulfillment Stats to Optimize your Warehouse

Inventory management is essential for the success of your eCommerce and retail operations every day of the year. But during the holiday commerce rush, it is especially important to arm yourself with as much information about year-over-year data, industry data and preparation to ensure a seamless holiday season in the always-hectic warehouse. 

1.     Is this the first holiday at your warehouse?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of operating warehouses has increased 9.3% from 2012 to 2016 – an increase of over 1,500 new warehouses in the U.S. alone. Domestic inventory management cuts down on shipping costs and eliminates potential taxes, tariffs, and fees associated with international shipping, a revenue-driver during holiday. But if this is the first holiday season for your warehouse, your operations team must take the time to make educated decisions on holiday temp hiring and overtime. Too many hires can lead to operational waste, too little can lead to delayed orders and a disorganized warehouse. Use data from previous years across all sales touch points to inform your warehouse strategy for holiday. 

Learn more about smarter inventory management >>

2.     Automation is the future of Efficient eCommerce

In the 2016 Global Logistics Report, research firm Colliers International reports that the rise in eCommerce and online retail has pushed warehouses to adopt more sophisticated facilities that include high-level picking and sortation systems. Facilities are expanding because of these new systems working faster and more efficiently. Efficient pick-and-pack routes are critical for the increased burden on the warehouse during holiday. Any inefficiencies stemming from getting an order out the door can be multiplied by the volume of orders received and create bottlenecks. 

3.     Holiday Post-mortem

The Motorola Future of Warehousing 2018 Study predicts that 66% of retailers will have made a significant investment in Warehouse and Inventory Management technology through 2018. Top areas of impact for the investments are streamlining processing and eliminating manual processes. These “internal agility” initiatives answer the call for responsive warehouses that are able to grow with companies. Your holiday data is a goldmine to inform your strategy for the next year and beyond. Be sure to start your analysis initiatives in January to plan your OMS roadmap for the next holiday season. 

4.     Shipping Cost and Speed: On a Deadline

Aberdeen Group reports in “What Has Changed in Wholesale Distribution: 2015 & Beyond,” that 87% of today’s customers are willing to wait two or more days to receive free shipping. With services like Amazon Prime and many major retailers offering free shipping thresholds, the norm is set to become customers expecting a free shipping promotion every time they shop online. Growing retailers struggle with the margins of providing constant shipping promotions. When the other warehouse operations are running with less overhead, it is possible to discount shipping for ROI and increased sales.

5.     Inventory Management is a Struggle for Growing Businesses

WASP Barcode, a physical barcode scanner producer, said in their State of Small Businessreport 2016 that 21% of growing businesses do not have an inventory management system currently, 24% keep their inventory in Excel of Quickbooks, and 21% use pen and paper. These methods reduce efficiency and hinder further growth. Inefficient tracking not only puts companies at a competitive disadvantage during holiday, it is almost impossible to gather any analytics to inform your strategy for the rest of the year. 

For more information on how SmartStock360 can help you stay ahead of the pack in light of the most recent inventory management research, contact us for a free analysis of your retail business and technology systems. >>

Point-of-Sale Trends for 2018

A recent report by Zion Market Research indicates the POS market was valued at more than $45 billion last year. POS revenue is projected to reach $98.27 billion by 2022, growing 13.5 percent in the next five years. So – while eCommerce and online sales are certainly growing, retailers cannot forget to integrate point-of-sale into their omnichannel strategy or risk losing out on an important revenue and growth opportunity.

Point-of-sale is becoming more prevalent because of the rise of cashless transactions and increase in use of mobile and wireless payments like Square and Apple Pay. Verticals like retail, hospitality, healthcare, warehousing and entertainment are among the top industries driving this trend – according to the report.

So with more and more companies focusing their roadmaps to 2020 on investments in eCommerce and online retail – how can POS transactions be integrated into strategic visions?

Buy Online, Pickup Instore

According to Internet Retailer, 56 percent of consumers say that they have used buy online, pickup instore at a major retailer. Customers like this option because it saves on shipping – and retailers like this option because it gets people in the brick-and-mortar door that they know are inclined to shop online as well – a valuable omnichannel customer. But this functionality is expanding to mid-market and smaller retailers as well, thanks to systems that remove the large ROI barrier to implementing OMS systems with BOPIS capabilities. Initial investment in an OMS system now crosses many business units due to the omnichannel nature of today’s transactions – so finding a system that integrates online with POS systems will provide better growth and return for the future.

Instore Fulfillment

Tying online more closely in store is a top priority of major brands. But smaller brands and mid-market companies that have both online and physical presences can benefit from instore fulfillment. Instore fulfillment means that a customer can order online, and instead of the entire order needing to be kept in a warehouse – the associates will be notified at the POS to pick-pack and ship the online order to the customer if there is no stock on the warehouse. This allows companies to cut down on warehouse space and man hours needed, as well as cut down on overstock – all while providing online shoppers the same variety they would find with all stores at their fingertips.

The reverse side of instore fulfillment is the ability to order out-of-stock sizes or options from the store directly from the warehouse to customers that are shopping in a physical location. When a customer leaves the store without finding what they need – it’s very unlikely that they will enter the online store to buy later. Encouraging customers to order from an associate at the POS or from a kiosk can help convert consumers in these situations.

The importance of tying eCommerce and instore closer together will only get more apparent as both markets experience growth. For a free analysis of your omnichannel and OMS strategy – contact us. >>

Three Pillars of Successful Order Management

The complexities of modern order management are overwhelming many companies that run on outdated systems or have outgrown their current systems. With the pace of eCommerce and brick-and-mortar commerce at a dead sprint, with many changing variables, deeply integrated systems are starting to show their foundational cracks. What are the keys to look for in an agile order management solution, one that will set you up for success long into the future?

Inventory Visibility

Accurate, up-to-the-minute inventory counts are crucial to many parts of the business. Customer service, store associates, warehouse workers and merchandisers all need to know where inventory is and how much is available. This type of visibility is not just about an item, the order management system has to integrate the online retail store, brick-and-mortar stores to communicate with each other in an automated and real-time manner.

Endless Aisles

In-store fulfillment is a topic that has been on the top of multi-channel retailers minds for . Ship from store and buy online, pickup in-store are valuable tools for retailers. A process for picking-and-packing in-store is the last step of the process, first you must implement an OMS capable of handing communication with POS systems. Many systems charge extra for this implementation.

Omnichannel

By now, anyone in the commerce space is on the omnichannel train if they are to survive in the increasingly crowded landscape. But what does omnichannel mean in an OMS? It means that eCommerce, stores, customer data, tracking and all other components must meet in one centralized source in the order management platform. With one fulfillment source for multiple channels, if integration is not working properly, orders can get lost in one silo of the system. 

Is your OMS system efficient? Are you sure? We would love to offer you a free consultation. 

Choosing an OMS Partner: a Checklist

Choosing a partner for order management is not a decision to take lightly. Order management and warehouse management is the lifeblood of customer satisfaction and also affects the daily working environment for your warehouse and operations employees. A poor choice in order management can eat into revenue and cost valuable dollars re-hashing and re-working to get orders out the door without causing customer service nightmares. 

Whether you are evaluating to move from a homegrown system, or looking to switch partners. There are many moving parts to the platform decision. But there's less discussion surrounding the partner choice. What do you look for?

Industry Expertise

Who is there team? What is their motivation? Finding a partner that is an industry expert before they are a business person can help ensure that your OMS partner truly understand the critical business challenges your company is facing. Seeking out information on the company's industry experience through articles, their blog and their website information information is good first touchpoint. But integrating your technical and operations teams early in the conversation with your potential partner can ensure that everyone has the same goals and vision for success. 

An experienced team means a smooth transition and on-boarding process, and a successful, timely project completion.

The Product

So you've accepted a demo. What are the critical things to ask and look for when first evaluating a partner in the scope of their product? First, evaluate how the company has tailored their demo for you. Did they take care to understand your industry and product, and ask questions to discover information about how you work? A team that is willing to flex to your requirements and tailors their solutions to your unique business needs is critical to long-term success. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for these advanced operations. A great technology partner will be willing to become an extension of your business. 

The Focus

It's not a bad thing to offer multiple products across verticals, many large companies do it, and some do it very well. But does your potential OMS partner seem to have their hat in many rings? That could signal shifting priorities and investments in their technology product. Ensuring that your partner is constantly working to improve their product you are evaluating to keep up with changing trends and technologies is an important ROI consideration. With an enterprise platform being a considerable investment for a company to make, knowing that this is not a back-burner sale can give your team, and the C-suite, peace of mind when planning a migration project. 

Want to know more about our philosophy? Let's Chat. 

Choosing an Order Management System for Long-term Success

Finding a system that can automate manual processes and increase efficiencies at every touchpoint will lessen the overall cost of fulfilling eCommerce orders and save man-hours, turning the 18 cents on the dollar that it costs to operate a fulfillment center into much less with the right processes in place. But where do you begin estimating the true cost of an inefficient order management system? And how do you find one that will deliver exponential returns on your initial investment for years to come?

Omnichannel is No Longer Optional

Shoppers now hop between more channels, often making online, mobile and in-store purchases a weekly habit. This means disparate systems and silos become more of a drain on resources when trying to manage these channel-hopping buyers. Omnichannel integration of order management processes handled directly in the OMS system gives the order end-to-end visibility to the customer and across the enterprise, lessening costly customer service calls and increasing repeat buying behavior.

The Partner Fit

A new order management system is a financial investment and a considerable project for your business and IT teams. When IT projects are not installed on-time and within budget, it is a financial and time drain on the entire business. OMS systems typically take 6 to 12 months to implement, and it may take additional months for daily users to fully absorb and gain the functions.

Build a Roadmap

Being as prepared as possible for the implementation means first finding a solution, sure, but also finding a trusted partner to become an extension of your team to implement the solution.

The order management system of your future is how you’re going to manage your bottom line, improve people productivity, provide customer service, and gain key insights and analysis into your business. The total buy-in of your team and ownership of assigned responsibilities across business units make for a successful OMS implementation, but integrating all the above capabilities are how your system will achieve long-term financial returns.

Ready to talk OMS? Let us show you the capabilities of the SmartStock360 Logistics Management Suite. 

Fall Preparation for Holiday Fulfillment

With planning well underway, or on the verge of completion for holiday commerce, back-office operations are often overlooked until the last minute. However, taking a “fix it when it breaks” approach to holiday can cause delays, lost revenue and unhappy customers. Preparation in fall is essential for an operationally sound holiday that will help your company reach revenue goals. 

Holiday Fulfillment Checklist

Fulfillment centers and warehouses are inundated with rush orders, heavy load days, large volumes at receiving, and managing manual labor during the peak holiday selling month. Quarter 4 can make a break a company’s revenue, as we all know, but it can also make a break a reputation. 

What needs to be in place now to achieve success this holiday season? Here’s a checklist of essentials for your order and inventory management system. 

Shipping Efficiencies

Inefficient shipping methods not only eat into your bottom line, during holiday it can cause a bottleneck that is nearly impossible to recover from. Customers celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other gift-giving holidays have a hard deadline, with a lot of sentimental value attached. A lost or delayed order will cause not only loss of revenue, but loss of trust from that customer.
 
A shipping management system that epitomizes holiday readiness should include:
 

  • Integration with Top Shippers: Auto-integration with the top 60 shipping companies including DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS and more.
  • Shipping Price Comparison: See shipping costs comparisons per-order for each supported shipper.
  • Intelligent Decision-Making: Automatically choose the lowest shipping cost, or pick the shipping company manually. 

 
Fulfillment Optimization
 
Abilities like in-store fulfillment and BOPIS used to be reserved for big box retailers with a large staff and deep pockets, but a platform like SmartStock360 can integrate with your physical to make this strategy work for your business, with no exorbitant additional costs for implementation of this capability. 
 
Essential Holiday Fulfillment Statistics:

  • Amazon hired 20% more seasonal staff for their holiday season 2016.
  • Online sales accounted for 8.1% of all holiday shopping.
  • 8 in 10 internet users think buy online, pickup in store is appealing, reports eMarketer.
  • Only 21% of US retail IT executives said they had up-to-date technology in place for in-store pickup or return of web goods, reports eMarketer. 

Check back to our blog for additional posts from our holiday readiness series. If your OMS is lagging, or you aren’t confident it can provide you a revenue-driving holiday season… Now is the time to upgrade to a future-facing OMS that is customized for your unique company processes and workflows. 

Want a personalized demo of our fulfillment platform? Let’s chat!

Eliminating Common Inefficiencies in Order Management

EKN consumer analysts report that it costs retailers, on average, eighteen cents of every dollar an eCommerce order generates to fulfill the order from online purchase to customer doorstep. 

With almost 20 percent of every sale going to pick, pack, sort, ship and fulfill inventory, the returns elsewhere must be visible. How can your order management system pick up this lost revenue and provide a positive operational ROI?

Automation

An efficient order fulfillment platform adapts to the specific warehouse set up of the business, and can easily adapt for growth and change in the future. Whether you have a small warehouse, a large warehouse, or several warehouses, finding an OMS with automated efficient pick, pack and ship functionality that integrates with major shipping providers is crucial. Features your warehouse should have:

Shipping Integration that automatically chooses the lowest cost shipping method
Intelligent automated decision making on warehouse routing
Automatically generated pick-pack-pull lists that take into account the set-up of your warehouse

Fulfillment

Customers buy the way they want to, and will continue to look for innovative and convenient methods of getting what they need. Sitting on inventory is a revenue drain to your company, and modernizing fulfillment for the way today’s customers shop can help you sell more of this inventory before it goes to discount and closeout status. You can leverage your brick-and-mortar stores as a competitive differentiator in several ways such as:

  • Buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere, return anywhere capabilities 
  • Leveraging in-store inventory to fulfill orders across channels 
  • Store pickup, ship from store, and ship to store 
  • Automate and execute subscription orders 
  • Drop-ship/Endless aisle

Batching and Picking

The manual time wasted for associates to find, pick and send off orders in the most efficient way possible is hard to quantify. Operational overhead is one of the biggest revenue drains in the warehouse, though much is necessary to run the business, there are spots for immediate improvements. Implementing rules-based order processing that accounts for the location of each item in the warehouse can help direct your picking-and-packing associates to the more direct, and efficient route possible. This not only saves time finding an order, it gets it out the door faster and ensures that SLAs are met for business orders, and customers get their order on time. Happy customers mean more repeat buying. 

Want to know more about how your order and inventory management system can recoup operational costs and reduce overhead? Contact us for a free demo of the SmartStock360 Platform.


 

Warehouse Inventory Costs: A Hidden Revenue Drain

Holding onto inventory costs your company money in several ways. First, it is taking up valuable warehouse space that could be dedicated to items that are selling well. Second, the longer an item sits, the more it will have to be discounts to move the stock out of the warehouse. Third, seasonality often affects items and the product will need to be closed out at the end of the quarter. 

Maintaining and planning for the right amount of inventory is a delicate balance to achieve between analysis and avoiding out-of-stock for items customers want. How can your OMS system help you achieve this balance?

Accurate, Real-time Inventory

Planning for and stocking the optimal amount of inventory ensures no interruption in sales, stockouts, closeouts and ultimately provides the customer with a better experience, and you a better bottom line. When multiple warehouses, physical store locations and real-time online sales connect, many inventory management systems fail to deliver accurate inventory counts. 

Not knowing where your inventory is and how much is on hand can lead to loss of revenue and customer service issues. See the SmartStock360 inventory management features.

An OMS that can deliver up-to-the-minute inventory counts from all locations, online and physical, in one centralized source with this information available to customers and across the enterprise is critical to maintaining proper inventory levels. 

Be Alert

With large product catalogs and warehouses filled to the brim with merchandise, its impossible to track manually which items may be getting low and ready for reorder, and which items are not selling at all. Your OMS should have forecasting and planning measures built in such as:

  • Interoperability with all inventory sources such as multiple warehouses, inventory designation and channels
  • Automatic and immediate inventory updates upon shipping, receiving and invoicing activities
  • Automatic low-stock level alerts with notification of chosen admins
  • Stock replenishment and inventory forecasting reports

Are you running on an OMS that doesn’t help you move your inventory? Let us show you an inventory and order management suite that helps eliminate manual processes and make more intelligent decisions on planning, forecasting. Stocking the optimized, and minimized, amount of inventory can save your company major money. 

Integrated Order Management: A Better ROI

As has been in apparent in the last several years, customers expect to be able to shop anywhere, any time and get their items in a quick manner with flexible options for shipping. With services like Amazon Prime making two-day shipping the norm, and retailers like Walmart offering same-day in-store pickup, mid-market and enterprise customers are struggling to compete with the power these shopping behemoths have. Forbes reports that Amazon sales grew by 23 percent in 2014, thanks to that year marking major changes in the merchant’s order management and fulfillment capabilities. 

What do you look for in a true omnichannel order management system that will put the vital operations “finishing touches” on your end-to-end omnichannel strategy? 

Omnichannel Inventory and Order Management Essentials

Expedited picking, packing and shipping is the main goal of any warehouse - inventory gets moved quicker with less overhead, and customer satisfaction increases with on-time and accurate orders in their hands. 

Capterra business software research firm cites that “the average inventory on hand for businesses of all sizes has risen 8.3% in the past 5 years. As a result, businesses keep $1.43 of inventory on hand for every $1 of sales, which means a lot of capital is tied up in inventories.” A system that automates fulfillment sources and generates warehouse-layout efficient pick-pack lists can reduce the amount of time (and costs) warehouse sitting in inventory generates. 

Reducing the cost of inventory and order management can be achieved by integrating an impeccable omnichannel eCommerce, mobile commerce and in-store strategy, but only if the warehouse and fulfillment system is capable of delivering a matched excellence in back-office functions. 

Expanded Fulfillment Capabilities

A Forrester study of over 250 retailers and 1,500+ customers titled “Consumer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap,” explored the revenue-driving benefits companies have realized by enabling expanded fulfillment capabilities like ship-from-store, in-store fulfillment and buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS). Check out the stats from the survey below:

  • 77% of surveyed retailers who cited that enabling ship-from-store had reduced their fulfillment costs.
  • 88% of surveyed retailers who cited that enabling ship-from-store had improved their customer satisfaction KPIs and metrics.
  • 50% of consumers who expect to buy online and pick up in-store.

An efficient omnichannel order management system like SmartStock360 is one source of pooled information from every channel and all information sources, allowing retailers control over their different channels and enabling more productivity. Want to know more about the additional capabilities of SmartStock360? Contact us.
 

Omnichannel Integration between your WMS and Magento

A true omnichannel strategy include integration and automated flow of information throughout the entire end-to-end order process, including the order and inventory management system. If you are a current Magento merchant, you already know the benefits of having a future-facing, open-source platform to manage your online eCommerce operations on, but does your OMS play nicely with this system? If not, you could be experiencing hidden inefficiencies like inaccurate inventory counts, delayed orders and stockouts: all top reasons for customer dissatisfaction. 

Why Omnichannel?

An omnichannel order management solution has to be able to integrate other enterprise wide systems for a fully seamless flow of business processes and information. Ecommerce, point of sale, shipping, financial systems, inventory management and warehouse management should all speak to each other. When business units are connected, merchants can fill more orders, decrease order cycle times and eradicate overselling, while getting products to customers quicker. 

Omnichannel Benefits of the SmartStock360 Order Management Platform:

  • Open-Source platform
  • Deliver accurate, on-time orders with efficient WMS processes 
  • Support major eCommerce and POS systems
  • Provide accurate ship dates on orders from every selling channel
  • Reduce order management and inventory holding costs through in-store fulfillment
  • Reduce held inventory through in-store fulfillment
  • Leverage cutting-edge fulfillment capabilities
  • Improve order accuracy and order cycle times through seamless connections with all selling channels

How does SmartStock360 integrate with Magento?

SmartStock360 was designed to seamlessly integrate with eCommerce sites running on Magento, both Enterprise and Community edition. Disparate systems and siloed business units are one of the main drivers of inefficiency in the order-to-door cycle, and ensuring the your inventory management system is seamlessly connected to your eCommerce systems brings these two criticals parts of operations management into one.
 
Ensuring that your eCommerce platform fully integrates into your warehouse management system automates the flow of information, resulting in reduced man hours and inefficiencies from manual information processing. 
 

SmartStock360 and Magento-specific Integration Capabilities:

  • Product Downloading
  • Stock Pushing
  • Order Downloading
  • Fulfillment Pushing

 
Are you a Magento Merchant looking to streamline your order management? Let’s chat about what SmartStock360 can do.
 

Trends in Manufacturing: 3D Printing

3D printing, previously reserved for the science labs or universities, is going mainstream. The 3D printing industry is expected to rise from a forecasted $7 billion in 2016 to $21 billion by 2020. The 3D printing industry includes 3D-printing systems, supplies and services and materials. Additionally, there is the lucrative  secondary market for tooling, molding and castings, according to UPS research.

We are seeing the affects of this technology have a wide reach, with the FDA approving hundreds of 3D printed medical materials each quarter, a number that is expected to expand. From toys, to the supply chain, to auto pieces and even housing… 3D printing will undoubtedly change the way warehouses, manufacturers and the supply chain operates. What are the experts saying about this trend?

The 3D printing industry is still young “45 percent of manufacturers would use 3D printing more if they had a better understanding of the benefits”, according to a 2015 study by Stratasys.

What changes could we see in the way orders are filled with 3D printing?

On-demand Production

Undoubtedly, this technology could change the way warehouses fulfill. Instead of a months-long cycle of changing over machinery to produce parts, parts could be produced as needed from blueprints almost instantly. This could help companies that work in manufacturing across industries like medical, auto, manufacturing and tooling expand rapidly once the technology is perfected. With any rapid expansion comes potential bottlenecks. Ensuring that the order and fulfillment management platform the warehouse runs on can scaled up for growth, and is agile enough to integrate new technologies into its workflow is crucial. 

Growth and Innovation in Key Industries 

The ability to fulfill small-batch and one-off specialty orders is bound to be a disruption in the B2B market. Instead of minimum quantities and long runs, items can be produced to scale to needs. This has the ability to let many smaller and mid-market players in the parts-making industry become venerable forces in a landscape that was generally dominated by big-dollar corporations. It can be likened to the way eCommerce disrupted brick-and-mortar and big box stores. No matter how large or small your company is today, 3D printing is a trend worth looking ahead to as a strategy for growth in the future. With more adoptees each year, it will become a crowded marketplace in due time. 

So, you implemented a 3D printer - now what? 

Batching many small orders can involve complex business processes and large pick-and-pack lists of disparate items. Having a system in place that can increase the efficiency of pick-and-pack by auto-generating the most efficient list around the warehouse can cut down on the manual house of implementing this new strategy. 

With a growth in orders, a growth in shipping occurs concurrently. Instead of shipping being a boon on the bottom line, an inventory management system that can automatically choose the lowest shipping rate and apply it to every order can turn this traditional warehouse headache into a chance to satisfy your customers. 

Thinking about 3D printing? Want to know if you current warehouse operations can support a heavier workload and growth? Let’s Chat. 
 

Holiday Readiness: Managing Shipping Costs

Achieving revenue goals and minimized inventory with little leftover for closeouts means a successful holiday season across all points-of-sale was had. This is the ultimate goal of any retailer during holiday. Hitting forecasts from customers buying online, in-stores, catalog, on the phone and every other platform, while operating a perfect omnichannel operation… That’s nirvana for executives in the selling industry. 

That is, until shipping costs begin to creep into revenue and create losses where there should be neutrality or gains. With Amazon making two-day shipping a common reality for consumers, retailers are wondering how to compete with this new norm, while protecting their bottom line. Tight shipping deadlines and peak order times can spell disaster for overhead and productivity and shipping is not a cost that is able to be forecasted accurately traditionally. Everything from weather delays to rising costs of private shippers can impact the year-over-year costs of getting items to the customer. So, what can you do?

What’s the 411?

According to analytics blog Kissmetrics, The Statistic: 28% of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs. This number quickly begins to eat into revenue when the exit rate of potential customers increases. 

But what about you? As the retailer, finding the balance between charging enough for shipping to protect your bottom line, not overloading the warehouse with rush orders, and ensuring customers finish their order can feel like throwing darts at a tiny dartboard, trying to hit the bullseye. 

What can you do?

Inefficient shipping methods eat into your bottom line, it's one of the biggest drivers of lost revenue for companies that ship goods. A shipping management system that automatically price compares shipping costs for each order eliminates lost revenue from overpaying on shipping costs, and doesn’t incur excess overhead from paying a warehouse manager to manually calculate the best time vs. cost shipping method. 

If your current warehouse management system does not incorporate methods to customize shipping parameters like weight, dimensions and specialty packaging of every order and syncs source and destination information of the shipment, you could be losing real dollars. During holiday time, with packages flying out the door and orders flying in… This could become a detriment to business.

Want to know more about how to save on shipping costs and use shipping as an efficiency? Let’s chat about the features SmartStock360 has built-in. 


 

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