Ecommerce and retail order management systems help merchants improve order processing, track inventory, sell in online marketplaces, and much more.
Every online retail business — ecommerce or brick-and-click — will have some form of order management software, typically as part of an ecommerce platform. While these built-in order-process workflows can be effective, as online sales grow in volume and complexity, it may make sense to consider a dedicated order management solution that can integrate with an ecommerce platform and other systems.
What follows are four common reasons for considering an order management solution.
1. Improve Order Processing Workflows
How an order moves from the checkout to the carrier’s truck is an online retailer’s order processing workflow. A typical order processing workflow might work like this.
- Customer places an order.
- Order notification email is sent to inform someone of the order.
- Someone logs in to see the order and print a packing slip.
- The order is packaged.
- The order is weighed.
- A shipping label is created and printed.
- The label is stuck to the box and the box is ready for the carrier.
This typical process cannot be optimized. For example, wouldn’t it be easier to print the shipping label at the same time that the packing slip is printed? Or since not all ecommerce systems can directly print labels, is the person doing the packing logging into more than one system? Perhaps printing a packing slip from the ecommerce platform and then going to Stamps.com or Endicia to print a label?
Many, if not most, order management solutions will allow merchants to store not just a product’s weight, but its dimensions too. These system can also be made aware of the available package and box sizes, and, as a result, suggest which box to use for a particular order. This capability also means that the order management system can print the shipping label and the packing slip at the same time because it has a very accurate estimate of the final shipping weight and dimensions.
This one feature alone can dramatically improve workflow, since the person doing the packing could:
- Print all packing slips and labels, for multiple orders, at once;
- Pick and pull all products for all orders;
- Pack all orders.
2. Track Inventory
If a merchant is only selling products through one channel, like an online store, an ecommerce platform can typically keep track of inventory. But when more than one sales channel is used, inventory management can become difficult.
Imagine, for a moment, a brick-and-click retailer that shares online inventory with its in-store inventory. It is possible that this retailer could sell the last widget of some kind in store, only to sell it again a few minutes later online.
Order management systems frequently include inventory features that would allow a merchant to connect post-sale data. Thus, the order management system could update the retailer’s website when a product was sold in the physical store and vice versa.
Many online sellers like to list products not just on their own websites, but also on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or similar. There are some terrific solutions for integrating a merchant’s systems with these marketplaces, most notably ChannelAdvisor, which is, perhaps, the best enterprise-level solution.
But enterprise-level services may be more than a small business can afford or manage. Here again, an order management solution may be able to help. Good ecommerce order management systems almost always have integrations with Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other marketplaces. Since these order management systems also integrate with ecommerce platforms, they can bridge the gap and help small business sell in many channels.
4. Multiple Shipping Locations
Order management solutions will typically support shipping from multiple locations.
Here is an example. Imagine a brick-and-click business with one website and two store locations: one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. The online store’s inventory is drawn directly from the stores’ inventories.
A good order management solution could look at inventory levels at each store and assign certain orders to one location or the other. Workers at each store could ship the orders assigned to them, without getting confused.
Similarly, if an online seller uses more than one vendor to drop ship orders, a good order management system could divide orders based on shipping rules and automatically notify each vendor about the items it should ship.
Choosing Your Order Management Solution
There are dozens of order management solutions that have most or all of the features that are described above.
When it comes time to select one, look for an order management solution that will integrate easily with your ecommerce system, provide the features described here, and that is priced right for your business.