Quite simply, the order management process is how an online retailer gets the product from their warehouse to the customer. It encompasses order placement, payment processing, picking, packing, and shipping.
The best online retailers understand that a detailed, automated, and organized order management cycle allows for faster shipping of products, fewer errors, and a greater likelihood that customers will buy again.
Attention to detail in the order management process is more important for online retailers because there are more steps to getting the right product to the customer.
The order management cycle in eCommerce is slightly different than that of brick-and-mortar stores. Because everything is done online, automating the processes can make order management easier. Having all your information — from payment reconciliation to inventory and order status — in one place makes it simple to tell when you need to refill your inventory or complete your accounting processes.
Selling through multiple channels, for example, on Amazon and eBay, means that you'll need a common tracking system to ensure you have enough product to fulfill every sale. The order management cycle should automatically send a notification to all ordering channels, simultaneously updating product availability.
Without this, you run the risk of overselling — and online shoppers like to see the inventory level of eCommerce retailers. Automating the order updating process for multichannel sales reduces the likelihood of errors.
Your customers can place orders anytime, anywhere, so making sure that your order management system is fully automated can avoid delays in fulfillment and ensure payment is received. Keeping your payment and tracking in the same system helps with auditing and verification.
The customer places the order through your website and receives a confirmation that it's been received. Your order management system should have a form for customers to fill out. If it's correctly completed, the order and payment can be automatically entered into your system. Some companies also offer phone ordering, for customers unwilling to enter their details online.
You may wish to invest in an SMS service to give your customers text updates on their shipment date, the order tracking number, and the estimated time of arrival, plus the shipping method (UPS, FedEx, DHL etc) that you use, so they can watch for the package.
How do you communicate when you have a special order? These may include special requests or orders flagged as service recoveries — orders that need careful attention. Or, an order might be a return for replacement and you'll want to double-check that the replacement item is in good working order.
If you have a VIP program or loyalty incentives, such as a bonus gift, once a customer meets a spending milestone, you may wish to have a certain code to flag the order so that you don't miss including the thank you gift. Other reasons may include orders that are gift wrapped, for example. Using special codes to highlight repeat customers or exceptionally large orders can help create a great customer experience and build loyalty.
Once their payment method has gone through, your customer should receive an automatic email containing an order received notification with the estimated arrival date. Invest in secure payment processing, and make sure that the security certificate is visibly displayed on your check out page so that your customers' data is secure. Keeping your payment and tracking information in one system ensures that you don't fulfill an unpaid order.
Offering more payment options than simply Visa or MasterCard will increase sales for your eCommerce store. Many of your customers may shop from their phones, so optimizing a secure payment processing system for mobile is essential.
Plus, many people feel more comfortable using services such as PayPal or Venmo for security or choose to pay with their Google Wallet or Apple Pay account. Incorporating multiple payment options into your store makes it easier for people to buy from you.
Once you've reconciled the payment for each order, the item should be automatically subtracted from your available inventory. If you're selling across multiple channels, it's especially important to have real-time order updates, to avoid overselling.
Automating the entire order process in one platform makes this easier, as you won't fulfill an order without payment, and your available stock will be displayed with greater accuracy.
Tracking multiple sales and updating fulfilled orders ensures that you avoid errors, as well. Fulfilling the orders using QuickBooks Commerce's order management software allows you to see which orders are partially filled, which have been invoiced, which ones are packed, which are fulfilled, and which are paid. You also have the option to see which orders are partly through each of the processes.
Assigning a SKU to each item helps you track your inventory. If you're selling more than one brand of, say, grey t-shirts or purple socks, the SKU from each brand may be the only way to tell the products apart. Picking errors are more likely if you don't have scannable barcodes to properly identify products or if you haven't differentiated each item in your order management software and inventory system.
The packing stage is the final verification that the order is completed and correct. Making multi-step verification of the SKU and barcode, from the picking to the packing process, reduces errors, and is a vital part of a good order management cycle.
Having the barcode on the outside of the box allows you to update in your software which items have shipped, so you can track the item on its way to the customer. With shipping oversight, it's easier to determine that your packages are going out on time.
The order management cycle isn't complete until you've followed up with your customer. When your tracking system determines that the order has been delivered, send out an email to check on the correctness and satisfaction with the order. This extra step demonstrates your commitment to quality customer experience and helps guide your customers back into the sales funnel. It also gives your customers good methods of contact should there be anything wrong with the order.
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