Today, customers are constantly ordering products across multiple channels—their phones, laptops, tablets, and in-person. Despite the challenges that come with managing orders across multiple platforms, retailers are expected to provide lightning-fast service and delivery. To navigate this new landscape, companies are turning to new order management solutions that coordinate the entire fulfillment process, from start to finish. But with all the options available, how do you select the Order Management System (OMS) that will best suit your company’s needs?
Too often, businesses select an OMS thinking it will solve all their business dilemmas, only to find it falls short on key features and capabilities. If you don’t want to find yourself in a similar situation, you have to learn what to look for when selecting an omnichannel OMS. We’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist of 15 critical capabilities and 25 questions that will help you find the perfect solution for your company, before it’s too late.
In our previous blogs, we have discussed why you need a Distributed Order Management System and high-level features of the Order Management System. In this blog, we will discuss the 15 crucial features of an OMS in detail and share key questions that will assist you in the platform and vendor selection process.
1. Real-time inventory visibility across the supply chain
We live in an age of instant gratification: our increasingly digital world has completely transformed customer expectations in the retail industry. When a buyer is searching for a product to purchase, they want it now. Real-time inventory visibility across all the store locations (stores & fulfillment centers) is a critical component of any OMS because it provides shoppers with up-to-date product inventory data. This improves the customer experience, drives sales, and promotes a positive brand image.
APIs (application programming interfaces) are critical features within an OMS that connect multiple customer touchpoints to enhance functionality and improve the buying process. Look for an OMS equipped with APIs: this capability allows your Point of Sale (POS) and Warehouse Management Systems to be connected, enabling real-time inventory visibility.
2. Online order routing based on proximity and inventory availability
Order routing is one of the key ingredients for successful inventory oversight and order fulfillment. Essentially, it refers to the efficient administration and completion of orders based on some set of predetermined rules.
Online order routing based on proximity and inventory availability is critical to meeting customers’ delivery expectations. It helps retailers optimize inventory utilization, resulting in reduced delivery costs and faster delivery times. It bridges the gap between online and physical stores when fulfilling customers’ orders. Luckily, a quality OMS has an order routing engine that does this job for you!
3. In-store and warehouse fulfillment software tools for picking, packing, and shipment
Once an order is routed to the store, associates need in-store software to pick, pack, and ship it accurately and efficiently. Without this software, tracking the location of each item in the store can be a time-consuming process that leaves a lot of room for error.
In-store and warehouse fulfillment software tools offer huge benefits to your company when it comes to the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of your fulfillment process. These software solutions optimize the process from start to finish and increase your profitability.
4. Rate shopping for a shipping label
Uncertainty over shipping rates poses a real issue for sellers: shoppers today are demanding quicker and cheaper deliveries, and retailers must provide customers with a multitude of delivery options.
Rate shopping gives you the power to compare different carriers’ shipping prices, so you can make the optimal choice for order fulfillment every single time. Before generating a shipping label, the OMS obtains the shipping rate of multiple potential shipping methods in a given service level (one-day delivery, two-day delivery, etc.) and selects the cheapest method that meets the service level agreement (SLA). In some scenarios, shipping by air is cheaper than the default ground shipping method: rate shopping saves money and time by identifying the optimal method.
Rate shopping eliminates the guesswork and guarantees cost-effective order fulfillment. In addition to minimizing the upfront cost, it can also reduce the delivery time.
5. Store inventory management
As we discussed above, accurate, real-time inventory visibility is a crucial feature of any OMS. Unfortunately, it’s not possible without in-store inventory management.
Inventory management is often a big challenge for eCommerce retailers. Making mistakes can drive away customers and cost your company money. Luckily, the right OMS should ease this burden. To support the tracking of inventory, a platform should have the tools to:
- Receive inventory in the store so that inventory can be increased
- Fulfill online orders in the store so that inventory can be reduced
- Count inventory periodically and mark variances, if any
6. Coordination of “Buy Online Pick-Up in Store” orders
With the growing popularity of the Buy Online Pick-Up in Store (BOPIS) sales model, it’s important that an OMS is capable of coordinating the multiple touchpoints in the BOPIS framework. Implementation of a BOPIS sales strategy requires inventory APIs, giving real-time inventory availability of the stores. Once an order is placed, the OMS notifies (via mail, push notification, or SMS) store associates and provides them with in-store tools to pick and pack the order. After the order is prepared, the OMS also notifies customers that their orders are ready for pick-up.
Customers expect a consistent shopping experience across all channels. An OMS that can coordinate the various components of a BOPIS order is essential to keep up with this growing model.
7. Endless Aisle
“Endless aisle” refers to a sales and marketing technique in which businesses enable in-store shoppers to virtually browse or order a wide range of products—products that are either out of stock or not normally sold in-store. These products will then either be shipped directly to the customers’ homes, or to the store for pick-up. This strategy can be achieved with an OMS that presents a view of inventory across the entire retail network.
8. Returns management
Returns are more complex than purchases, and often represent a time-consuming, tedious step of the customer process. Without proper returns management in place, a frustrating manual process consumes countless employee hours: a buyer calls customer service to create a return request, customer service looks up the order manually, validates the return policy, creates a return ticket, and generates a return shipping label manually; once returns are received in the warehouse, the customer service team marks RMAs complete and initiates the refund process.
Skip this long-winded procedure and look for an order management solution with returns management software: it’s a cost-effective way to improve the customer experience and save employee hours.
9. Order Splitting
The practice of “order splitting” is common with e-retailers, because it accelerates the fulfillment process. Sometimes, no single warehouse or retail location has all of the necessary items in stock for a given order. In this situation, Order Splitting allows the routing engine to fulfill partial orders from different locations and still meet the customer’s expected delivery date. Instead of having to wait for all the necessary inventory to be available at one location, the order is split. This feature is an important part of ensuring lightning-fast service and delivery to customers. Fortunately, a strong OMS platform will take care of this complex process.
10. Backorders and pre-orders
More and more retailers in the eCommerce space are realizing the advantage of having back orders and pre-orders available on their platforms. A pre-order allows a customer to purchase an item that has not yet been released, while a back order is for an item that is currently out of stock but will be available in the future.
These capabilities are a powerful way to avoid supply chain delays and challenges: allowing customers to pre-order and backorder maximizes your company’s operational efficiency and improves customer satisfaction. Additionally, your business can retrieve data from these orders to gain insights on your customers and drive revenue.
11. Customer Service
No matter what channel your shoppers are utilizing, delivering excellent customer service should be your company’s top priority. The right OMS will help you perfect the customer experience from start to finish, and support your customer service representatives.
With all the tools and features we’ve discussed at their disposal, customer service representatives can assist shoppers painlessly. A centralized OMS gives them a full view of the customer and their order history, so customer service team members can easily help them with any questions about their order or issues that arise. For example, customer service representatives will easily be able to edit order details, cancel orders, or view real-time information about inventory availability.
12. Amazon & marketplace integration
Amazon is the world’s largest marketplace for online shopping. Integration with Amazon and other large marketplaces is a powerful way to grow your business: it helps you reach customers you may not otherwise. Listing products on Amazon can work wonders for your brand visibility and drive sales.
The right OMS will simplify this process and sync up data like inventory and product information, so you can reap the benefits of this powerful integration.
13. ERP integration
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) refers to a system of integrated software tools that standardizes and optimizes business processes across multiple departments in a company. ERP systems exist across many industries, and are often the main source of accurate data for a business.
For retailers, ERPs keep track of key data—orders, inventory, products, customers, etc. That’s why an ERP integration capability is so critical to a valuable OMS. With a centralized system, your team only needs to enter data in once. Integration of these two systems will reduce order errors, improve inventory management, and ultimately save time and money for your company.
14. POS integration
Too often, retailers run their eCommerce sites completely separate from their Point of Sale (POS). Synchronizing these two operations saves time, eliminates manual data entry, prevents errors, and optimizes your end-to-end order fulfillment process.
An OMS that unifies your brick and mortar operations with your eCommerce platform will automatically sync inventory and order data, creating a centralized repository that will make your sales process smoother.
15. WMS integration
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a type of software that tracks and manages day-to-day operations in a warehouse. These systems use automation to track inventory and shipments, ensuring orders are fulfilled at a quick pace and with high accuracy. An OMS that enables integration with your WMS will tremendously enhance your company’s order efficiency and boost customer satisfaction.
Finding an OMS that meets your company’s needs is a challenging process. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve prepared a list of 25 questions that will help you in evaluating your system. These questions serve as a great starting point: they force you to think critically and consider the capabilities your OMS might be missing.
- Is it a cloud-based technology with managed service?
- Does it provide APIs to integrate with other systems?
- Are all the features out of the box or it will need additional programming?
- Are the integrations ready with your Digital Commerce platforms like Shopify, Salesforce Commerce, BigCommerce?
- If integrations with Digital Commerce are not ready, how much time will it take to make the integration?
- Does it have APIs to give real-time inventory visibility or provide end-of-the-day inventory visibility by the batch process?
- Does it provide multi-currency and multi-language settings?
- Does it have an order routing engine?
- What are the routing rules supported by the routing engine?
- Does the system support safety stock settings?
- Does it support multiple fulfillment options like BOPIS, Send Sale, and Ship from Store?
- Does the system support pre-order and back-order management?
- Does the system support return management?
- Does the system in-store software tools for store fulfillment, inventory receiving, inventory counting, capturing send sale orders, and coordinating BOPIS orders?
- What is the time to market? Can it be deployed within 90 days?
- Does it support ship-together and split-order settings?
- What are the upcoming features? What is in the road-map?
- How frequently does it release new features?
- Are upgrades free or paid?
- Is the system scalable? What is the maximum number of orders the system can process in a day?
- Is the system SOC2 compliant?
- Does it have a reference client in my country and my industry?
- What is the pricing model? Rev-sharing or metered?
- What is the upfront cost? Is it fixed, variable, or free?
- How long is the initial contract term? Is it monthly, quarterly, or yearly?
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Selecting an omnichannel OMS can be a daunting task. You can’t afford to find yourself locked into a contract for a platform that lacks these crucial features. Thankfully, HotWax Commerce’s OMS includes all of these features and more - request a consultation with our team to learn more.