Order Management in Retail: The Essential Things You Need to Know 

That moment when a customer places an order on your ecommerce site is so exciting, but it’s also the beginning of a journey for the purchased products. 

After purchase, you need to find, package, and send out the item. And as your retail business grows, it becomes increasingly more complex to manage your orders. 

At the beginning, you might be able to run the entire project out of your home or retail stock room. But once you grow into a larger business, you’ll start working with fulfillment centers and add more people and technology into the process.

What is order management for retailers?

Order management is the process of getting a customer’s order from your possession to their hands. It includes processing and shipping the item(s). 

It’s particularly important to use an efficient order management process so you can easily scale your retail business. Having a largely manual order management process can eventually make it impossible to fulfill more than a certain amount of orders profitably. 

Beyond scalability, a good order management process will ultimately help you:

  • Make fewer mistakes with order fulfillment and get packages out on time.
  • Provide your customers with package tracking visibility, increasing their trust in your brand.
  • Improve your inventory management.

What are the order fulfillment steps?

Your order management process will oversee a number of set steps once the customer clicks the button to confirm their purchase . Each step will require different actions or information from you and your systems. 

1. Order received

On your backend, you need to respond to the customer’s place order by accepting and confirming their order. You’ll want to send them an automatic email with their order details. Those same details also need to be sent over to your fulfillment team so they can get the order ready.

2. Pick the order

Next, someone needs to locate the item(s) that was ordered. For a large retail company, this can mean sending a worker out into a large warehouse to track down the item. For smaller retailers, it may mean sending a sales associate to the stock room of your brick-and-mortar to pull it out.

3. Packaging

Once the item has been located, it needs to be packaged for shipping. Your packaging station needs to be equipped with the right sized boxes and protective packaging materials for your various products. Good packaging ensures that your items arrive on doorsteps in mint condition. 

4. Shipping

To ship the product out, you’ll need to order the shipment with your carrier, then print out the shipping label and attach it to the package. In most cases, you will need to mark the order as shipped in at least one of your software systems.

5. Tracking the order

Order tracking is very important to the customer experience. Customers love tracking their orders and check a tracking page an average of 3.5 times before their package arrives, according to ShopPad’s research on their order tracking app, Tracktor. When you ship out an order, you need to send the customer a shipping confirmation email that includes a tracking link.

For merchants using a tracking software, you also follow the order’s journey across the map in your software. You can watch for delivery exceptions and other things that may require your intervention.

6. Delivery

Then at last, the item is in the customer’s hands!

7. Follow-up

A good order management process shouldn’t stop at delivery. You should follow-up with the customer within a few days to ensure that the order did actually arrive, as well as to ask for feedback or a review.

What is an order management system?

The easiest way to create a scalable, efficient order management process is to use an order management system.

An order management system is a software platform that is able to track your sales, orders, fulfillments, inventory, and the processes that link them together all in one place. This kind of software system allows you to oversee the entire order management process in a single location. 

An order management system will help you automate processes like sending new order details from your ecommerce site to your warehouse. Some order management systems can even automate packaging choices for your workers.

What to look for in an order management system

While what you need in an order management system will differ from retailer to retailer, there are some features that are generally useful to most merchants.

First, you want to choose a system that integrates easily with your ecommerce system. For instance, Vend’s retail management system integrates with both BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Shopify’s platforms. That way, the order management system knows exactly when a sale occurs and what the order details are. Vend is particularly useful as an order management system for retailers. Vend allows retailers to track all their sales and orders across their brick-and-mortar locations and eCommerce site in a single place.

Vend Tip

Open your store to the world by combining Vend’s easy-to-use POS and Inventory management with the best ecommerce platforms on the planet. Manage your online and in-store operations from one place while launching your brand into new markets.

Learn More

Beyond integration with your online platform, your order management solution should also integrate with any other necessary systems like your accounting software.

Next, you’ll want your the system to have complete inventory tracking abilities across your brick-and-mortar locations and warehouses. This is a crucial feature, according to Bergstrom Originals. They use Vend with Shopify and find that the complete inventory tracking, in particular, has saved them from a “nightmare.”

“With Vend, we’re more well-equipped to handle growth and implement new ideas. Laborious retail tasks are simplified and streamlined so our time can be spent on the business aspects that matter and move us forward,” says owner and designer Christina Bergstrom.

She continues, “I can focus on the things that grow my business (like sourcing fabrics, designing clothes, and implementing promotions), rather than on day-to-day inventory and shopkeeping logistics.”

Finally, a good order management system has comprehensive analytics so you can understand what’s happening in your process and work to improve upon it.

Tips to improve your order management process

Besides using an order management system to run your order fulfillment process, there are a few other best practices you can employ to improve your process.

1. Use zone skipping

If you’re big enough to have multiple warehouses, zone skipping helps reduce shipping costs and speed up transit times. Zone skipping refers to the method of sending an item to a customer from the warehouse nearest in location to them, rather than choosing the warehouse that has the most stock of that item. For instance, if a customer in Iowa places an order, you would fulfill it through your Des Moines warehouse rather than your Los Angeles warehouse. 

2. Put a short delay period between purchase and fulfillment

It’s normal for merchants to want to immediately fulfill an ecommerce order the minute they see it. However, delaying fulfillment for one to three hours is a smart way to reduce fraudulent purchases. Illuminate Labs, for instance, placed an automatic one-hour delay between receiving and order and fulfilling it. Since then, they haven’t shipped a single fraudulent order. 

3. Reduce the steps in your process

Wherever possible, remove unnecessary steps with machine automation. Saving even a minute of time on a process can add up quickly when you’re fulfilling hundreds of orders per day. Jared Ebrahimoff, Founder & COO of Lavari Jewelers, also points out that “added procedures increase the chances of making errors.”

Conclusion

Order management is crucial to providing your customers with their orders and for scaling your store. Don’t waste any time setting up an efficient system. Try Vend’s retail management system today and stay on top of all your orders across multiple channels. 

Vend Tip

Open your store to the world by combining Vend’s easy-to-use POS and Inventory management with the best ecommerce platforms on the planet. Manage your online and in-store operations from one place while launching your brand into new markets.

Learn More

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend’s Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.



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