What Is Order Management & Why Is It Key To Your Brand?

In the world of ecommerce, few things top the excitement of receiving a package on your doorstep. For customers, successful delivery marks an anticipated finish line. For businesses, order fulfillment means profitability and continuity. What is order management? It’s everything that makes this experience possible.

Order management is the brains behind each step in the ordering and fulfillment journey. Think of an order management system as the conductor of a complex set of business logic and workflows that takes an order from cart to customer. 

It’s a process that can make or break your relationship with your customers, whether they’re consumers or business buyers. With the right order management system, you can build customer loyalty, improve your revenue streams, and discover more ways to save money.

Master order management

Learn how to streamline your systems beyond the Buy button so you can connect with customers and build brand loyalty.

What is order management?

An order management system controls everything that happens after checkout, including downstream operational processes, people, systems, and partnerships that help fulfill an order. It’s a platform for managing orders, customer records, fulfillment, inventory visibility, payments and invoicing, and customer care. But order management systems serve a purpose far greater than simply making sure packages get dropped off at the right spots.

Consumers and B2B buyers expect the entire ordering process to work seamlessly, from checkout to delivery. They also want complete transparency about the status of their order, including its current location, its expected arrival time, and details on any problems in transit. If the product doesn’t meet their needs, they want hassle-free returns. The right order management system makes it easy to meet these expectations.

What happens after checkout?

Order management systems used to be relegated to the back office, typically within the logistics division of a company. But that doesn’t work in a customer-centric economy where order management is so central to the overall customer experience.

All the work that brands put in throughout 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 value exchange. If companies fail to deliver on their end of the value exchange (money for goods and services rendered), does anything else that came before really matter? Order management systems must deliver on that brand promise. 

After a customer clicks the Buy button, an intricate dance begins to carry out the order. Storefronts may interact with as many as 39 different systems to complete this part of the customer journey. The most common types of systems are tax, payment, fraud, inventory management, accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and shipping. Here are some of the key steps that should be included in any effective order management process:

1. Get an accurate view of inventory counts

When it comes to inventory management, a clear view helps you optimize product and save money. You’ll be able to avoid costly mistakes like out-of-stocks, overstocks, mis-picks, and mis-shipments. This also increases the chances you can keep shelves stocked and deliver goods quickly and correctly.

2. Check for order routing

Can customers expect standard shipping, or will their order be routed to a warehouse for customization? For special orders, a team may need instructions to build a personalized product by hand. The right order management system will help you efficiently and cost-effectively route orders and manage the flow of goods across your entire supply chain.

3. Make sure your shipping process is integrated

Fast and flexible shipping options are critical to earn customer loyalty and trust. In fact, 57% of consumers said that same-day delivery will make them more loyal to a specific brand. And B2B buyers now expect the same options: 2020 saw a 44% global increase in online B2B orders. When your shipping and order management systems are integrated, order data is quickly and easily shared — which means faster delivery for customers and lower operational costs for your business.

4. Deliver the product

Once the items have been picked, packed, and prepped for shipping, payment is captured, and the goods are finally on their way to the customer. This final step of the process is known as last-mile delivery. With a flexible, integrated order management system, your last-mile fulfillment is quick, reliable, and transparent. You can even use this step to trigger new marketing efforts. For example, when a customer receives the new sofa they ordered, you can send them a personalized email suggesting matching end tables or chairs.

Transform the customer experience with great order management

Order and fulfillment are at the heart of an exceptional shopping experience. Next-generation order management systems are customer-centric and integral to the front office. Why? Because the moments that these systems orchestrate can either annoy or amaze customers. They help determine whether a customer completes a transaction and becomes a loyal customer, or clicks over to the competition. Here’s where to focus your efforts — and make a few cost-effective tweaks — to provide a stellar order management experience.

Offer flexible shipping/delivery options

Customers demand flexibility in shipping and delivery – from one-hour and weekend delivery to in-store pickup and next-day delivery. Be upfront about your ability to meet these expectations. Clearly display the options you provide on each product page so customers know what you offer before they check out.

Provide 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 unavailable merchandise is wasted. If a product is out of stock or running low, indicate this on the product page so customers are aware.

Offer self-service order status and returns

Customers should be able to check order status and receive updates via text or email. They should also be able to change shipping details, if needed. Returns, too, should be self-serve, allowing customers to print return labels and choose how and where to return items. This gives them more control over their experience, and helps you lower costs associated with customer service and support. Every self-service option you offer means fewer support calls and more revenue.

Empower service agents and sales reps

Service agents and sales reps are on the front lines of the customer experience. They need to help customers with their orders and make the entire interaction feel seamless. This requires the right tools to reduce call handling time, increase efficiency, and give reps complete visibility into orders. Technology should help them place orders on behalf of customers and make shipping and delivery changes to existing orders, when necessary.

Get started with an order management system

Order management isn’t just about processing orders. It integrates customer-facing systems that affect the post-purchase experience including ERP, CRM, sales, service, and commerce. Order management systems make everything available and accessible to all stakeholders in a unified platform.

With a flexible, integrated order management system built to support omni-channel journeys at global scale, you’ll have all the tools you need to become more successful and keep customers coming back for more. Customers expect a smooth post-purchase experience, and these strategies will help you deliver.

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