How modern order management has become central to customer experience

By Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce

Technology-led innovation is bringing change to all areas of retail, from the increasing sophistication of online brands, to the fundamental shifts being seen across the High Street shopping environment. What many of these trends happening across retail have in common is their emphasis on better, more engaging customer experiences.

As a result, retailers are increasingly focusing on efficient order management and effectively using data to deliver a service at a hyper personalised level, while at the same time contending with higher expectations around sustainable delivery and procurement practices.

Successful retailers in this decade won’t rely on discounting, they’ll focus on their customers’ convenience. Order management software today can provide retailers with a real-time view of inventory so they can ensure products are delivered to customers in the quickest and most cost-effective way.

Everyone has had poor experiences, particularly with online retail. An order set for Christmas or a birthday that isn’t delivered on time, or worse, is belatedly found to be out of stock, is a fast-track to an outraged customer and high potential for poor word-of-mouth and review.

Today, retailers need to tailor a personal experience by showing a customer what is available, where and when; and offer more convenient ways to shop, collect and return orders.  This flexibility is particularly important at the moment as retailers around the world have had to close their physical stores to customers in response to the serious, ongoing healthcare emergency.  However, rather than transporting stock back to the warehouse, order management software can enable online orders to be fulfilled from these physical stores – meaning they still add value to the business, and can deliver orders more quickly to customers.  What’s happening here is that retailers are able to unlock the power of their store network and turn them into mini distribution centres to reduce time, costs and environmental impacts in the last mile delivery. Good order management is a core part of these business priorities and software plays an important role in improving the customer experience, reducing costs for retailers and increasing customer loyalty.

In order to be successful, retailers must invest in order management systems that orchestrate orders for fulfillment, route products from the most optimal inventory location, and provide real-time inventory visibility for both staff and the customer, process returns, and provide controls and feedback for management.

It represents a huge opportunity, but failure to capitalise on this kind of tech-led innovation has contributed to discussions about the High Street retail apocalypse over the past few years, as we have seen many retailers struggling to keep up with new consumer expectations, increased global competition and escalating expenses.

Increased visibility and understanding of customer behaviour will also provide data that will power better decision making for retailers. We will be better able to predict supply and demand, with the potential for auto-replenishing supplies directly to customer’s homes.

It also reduces overbuying of inventory, overselling, cancelled orders and the need for more discounting to move stock. This data will also be used to better predict future behaviour habits, shaping products down to details like colour and style, to create bespoke offerings.

Today’s consumers have very different expectations of the buying experience compared to just a generation ago, and the ability of retailers to manage orders with accuracy and speed is now central to the relationship. Those retailers that successfully mesh digital and physical presences are likely to thrive, with stores acting as mini distribution centres and places to return and collect items. Even previously online only players are increasingly opening pop-up or even permanent stores to leverage the power of the store network. As the shopping landscape continues to change, the winners will be those who continue to meet customer needs.

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