Rebecca Gibson |
How customers shop has changed significantly over the past few decades. Gone are the days when people had to visit a physical store and hope that the retailer would have their desired product in stock – or order it and wait for several weeks before receiving their item. Today, they can use a wide range of physical and digital channels to browse and purchase items. And when they order something, they expect to receive it almost immediately.
“New technologies like cloud, mobile, machine learning and augmented reality have been transforming the shopping experience over the past few years, blurring the lines between digital and physical retail,” says Steve Berkovitz, chief platform officer at Tecsys. “Modern customers expect to be able to switch between these different channels during their shopping journey depending on which is most convenient. This has forced retailers to find new ways to manage inventory, order fulfilment and multiple other processes so that they can deliver a cohesive and consistent shopping experience across all channels.”
According to Berkovitz, the easiest way for retailers to achieve this is to adopt an omnichannel retail solution with a distributed order management system (DOM) at its core. DOMs enable retailers to accept customer orders from any channel and consolidate them into a single platform, before automatically routing them to the optimal fulfilment location.
“DOMs will analyse each individual order according to a retailer’s predefined order routing rules and the available inventory levels in every location across the supply chain to determine where it should be fulfilled,” says Berkovitz. “For example, if a customer has selected same-day shipping and they live two kilometres from a store that has their desired product in stock, the order will be fulfilled there, rather than at a warehouse 200 miles away. This allows retailers to fulfil orders from multiple inventory sources to expedite delivery to the customer, while avoiding stock depletion and stockouts.”
By implementing a DOM, retailers can meet customer demands for expedited shipping times and cut order fulfilment costs.
“Retailers were concerned that fulfilling orders from different channels and offering shorter shipping times would be too expensive, but they’re finding that it’s bringing long-term costs down,” says Berkovitz. “This is because the product doesn’t sit in the retailer’s store or warehouse for as long. Plus, DOMs consolidate multi-item orders so they can all be fulfilled from one single location, rather in multiple shipments.”
Building an omnichannel environment with a DOM should be a top priority for every retailer, says Berkovitz.
“Historically, retailers could plan everything two or three years ahead and serve almost everyone via the same channel, but now that market trends and customer expectations evolve so quickly, they need to be more flexible and agile than ever before,” he explains. “By adopting DOM platforms with tools like data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can accurately predict product demand and market trends and then optimise everything from demand planning to order fulfilment and customer engagement. Their chosen solution should also empower them to rapidly scale their operations according to changes in product demand throughout the year.”
Berkovitz advises that retailers implement these solutions sooner rather than later if they want to remain competitive.
“The modern retail world is evolving so quickly that retailers can’t wait for two years to find that perfect piece of software like they did in the past,” he explains. “They must act now and choose a solution that will take them most of the way towards achieving their core business goals within the shortest possible timeframe. That way they can use these new capabilities to instantly improve the customer experience, but still continue to refine the solution in the background until they’ve fully achieved their business goals. All they need to do is ensure that they’re implementing their chosen solution for the right reason – which should be to improve the customer experience – and the operational and cost benefits will soon follow.”
Partnering with an expert software provider like Tecsys can also help. “We have solutions for digitising and optimising everything from demand planning, to order fulfilment, delivery management, analytics and much more,” says Berkovitz. “We aim to provide retailers with an end-to-end solution that gives them complete control over their operations and empowers them to deliver a shopping experience that excites their customers, while driving business growth.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.