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Agile OMS

How to Create a High-Performance, Future-Proof OMS to Meet Service Promises

A retail transaction is a contract. The buyer agrees to provide money on the expectation the seller will furnish them with goods. But in the current omnichannel retail environment, it’s not always a simple money-for-product exchange. Today’s retail contract relies on the retailer’s ability to make and fulfill service expectations. This social contract is built on the retailer’s ability to meet certain service promises, including fulfillment options and delivery dates.

An accurate and fast delivery promise is a conversion driver, but when retailers fall short on service promises, customers may feel the price they paid wasn’t worth the experience. An order management system (OMS) allows retailers to set appropriate expectations — and deliver on their promises.

The omnichannel customer experience

Today, customers can find what they’re looking for almost anywhere and usually at a comparable price point. Their decision of where to initiate a purchase comes down to how much value they perceive to be associated with their transaction:

  • How quickly will they receive their desired product(s)?
  • Do they have the option to choose their ideal fulfillment channel(s)?
  • Will they have transparency regarding product inventory or order status?

Each of these expectations (and others) translates into a service promise. Offering these value-add services where another retailer doesn’t will win customer support — but only if the promise is kept and the expectation is met.

In an omnichannel environment, managing this promise is becoming increasingly complex. It hinges on a large set of variables like fulfillment capacity, real-time inventory, and millions of possible node/destination/service-level combinations. These promises also must scale across the entire shopping journey (from search to checkout) and across every channel.

To create this consistency and scale — and the positive customer experience accompanying it — retailers are increasingly dependent on their OMS. Unfortunately, many legacy OMS platforms aren’t robust enough to create omnichannel synergies leading to value-add perception for the customer. As a result, inconsistencies cost retailers money due to broken service promises.

Omnichannel order management

Striking a balance between offering value and preserving service promises hinges upon building a backbone of support through an OMS equipped for omnichannel. This entails more than just integrated order routing and decentralized inventory management. It involves everything from creating transparency in fulfillment status to checks and balances for exception handling to ensure the promise is executed flawlessly.

With an OMS able to support omnichannel operations, retailers can create and maintain service promises across channels at scale and monitor them to completion. A good OMS prioritizes and proactively manages the numerous variables involved in omnichannel operations, enabling retailers to oversee the many critical tasks and resulting in a flawless order experience for customers. For example, these might include:

  • Seeing distributed inventory in real time often with unique availability to promise calculations based on the fulfillment method.
  • Knowing the current fulfillment capacity for a given channel/node/carrier.
  • A real-time feedback loop on promise execution to ensure promise accuracy.

Where legacy OMS platforms fall short in these capabilities (and others) is in their monolithic architecture. Old OMS systems weren’t built for a many-to-many order-to-fulfillment model, which makes them rigid and difficult to enhance because of the considerable testing requirements to ensure they’re non-disruptive across the entire connected application.

In short, retailers face a problem: They can update to a high-performance OMS or run the risk of breaking key service promises — and losing customer trust.

OMS adaptivity

To manage an omnichannel retail strategy efficiently, an OMS needs specific features to manage the complexities of a modern retail environment individually. Put simply, retailers must trade in their monolithic OMS for a microservices-architected OMS to safeguard an increasing number of service promises.

Breaking omnichannel operations into purpose-built services allows retailers to isolate the mechanisms linked to their service promises — and manage them accordingly. This enables retailers to respond quickly to changes in consumer behavior or market trends without compromising customer experience. Additionally, a product-oriented OMS lets retailers focus on exception-based management to quickly identify and resolve issues with the potential to result in broken service promises or a lackluster customer experience.

A future-proof OMS must give retailers the same optionality and flexibility they in turn give to customers. The core order orchestration should stand on its own, while supplementary order management functions — designed as individual services and loosely coupled — facilitate a seamless experience. Remember, it’s not about the product; it’s about the journey.

The future is now

Consistently setting and meeting customer expectations is invaluable in the current retail environment. Attracting customers with lower fulfillment costs or quicker fulfillment timelines is great, but meeting these expectations turns first-time conversions into regular revenue. To do this consistently, retailers need the adaptability of an OMS powered by manageable microservices.

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