As online shopping continues to grow in popularity as the most convenient way to shop, given lingering COVID-19 fears and higher than ever gas prices, e-commerce vendors are looking for ways to optimize their processes to save time and money, increase sales, and build brand loyalty as they grow. Let’s review what the order management process is and its key steps. For each step, we’ll provide recommendations and tips for how to better optimize the steps in the process to improve customer outcomes and reduce costs of shipping, inventory holding, and errors caused by a poorly designed and executed order management process.
Order Management Systems
As your e-commerce business grows, it is essential to automate your order management processes to optimize your customer’s experience from the time an order is placed until the order is delivered and beyond. Getting the process right, consistently, requires using an order management system. Order management systems (OMS) are software solutions for managing order processes to automate steps, streamline workflows, and optimize inventory management, to make your fulfillment processes work smoothly and accurately. OMS tools help you save money, by reducing human error to improve your accuracy rating and enhance your customer experience rankings. The order management process begins when a customer places an order for your product.
Order Management Process
Step 1: Customer Places Order
When your customer clicks the “Submit Order” button, the first thing that happens is that the system you have in place to accept secure payments processes the payment. Your payment system should be secure, reliable, easy to navigate and accept popular forms of payment, at the very least.
- “Buy Now Pay Later” and “Pay in Installments” options are popular with younger consumers, who are trying to steer clear of credit cards and acquiring excessive debt.
Step 2: Receiving Order In Warehouse
Your OMS sends your customer’s order and delivery info with special packaging or handling instructions to your warehouse. If you have more than one warehouse location, the order is sent to the one closest to the order’s destination to save money on shipping and speed up delivery times.
- It’s a good idea to use an OMS that supports barcode scanning as this helps track your orders and cuts down on human error significantly.
- Your OMS tool should merge multi-channel orders, as most businesses implement an omnichannel sales approach across mobile, desktop, brick and mortar, and social media. With customers ordering through your various outlets, manually managing these orders or using spreadsheets is not recommended as this could lead to missed orders or other errors. Instead, your OMS can automate this process, consolidating all of your sales in one place to give you real-time info about your inventory.
- 3PL service providers often offer distributed warehousing, where your orders are sent to various warehouses located near your order destinations, to save on delivery times and shipping costs.
Step 3: Picking Order
Immediately after receiving an order, a team of pickers moves through the warehouse to collect the items and deliver them to a packing station. Warehouse management systems are important in this step to determine how to most efficiently arrange your warehouse so that items can be most effectively located. It helps to invest in bins and containers that keep your inventory sorted and easy to find. Although this step can’t be fully automated, some picking equipment that helps pickers locate items easier can expedite this process, such as using LED display screens to beam order requests or as a visual map to items. Investing in picking equipment can be costly for growing e-commerce companies but 3PL service providers may be able to justify this cost when the expense is spread out over all of its partners.
- Using a 3PL service provider for your order fulfillment operations, allows you to use several methods for picking products, including zone, batch, and wave picking that help expedite your orders to a packing station.
Step 4: Packing Order
Packing your product involves several steps, beginning with selecting the best materials to protect your items during the shipping process. You may also want to include branded packaging for your orders, specific placement of inserts, and other promotional items you want to include in your package. Choosing the right shape box, envelope, or bag that fits your items is important to keep shipping costs in line. Your OMS tool should be set up to automatically print out shipping labels to save time.
- It’s important to note that carriers use the size of your packages to calculate a dimensional weight (DIM). Shipping rates are then calculated based on the higher value of either true weight or DIM weight. Packing your orders in appropriate-sized boxes, without excess space in the box can keep your shipping costs down.
- The unboxing process is an important element of the customer experience. Some businesses pack orders to enhance the unboxing experience, such as subscription orders that ship regularly and include different items in each shipment.
- You can leverage the skills and experience of packaging professionals when you partner with a 3PL service company, as well as receive major discounts on packaging supplies.
Step 5: Shipping Order
With your package ready to go, shipping your order involves choosing a carrier and delivery options. Some e-commerce companies negotiate with a dedicated carrier for lower rates. When your order ships, you mark it as shipped, send out an order status to your customer, and include tracking information that can be set up to send automatically through your OMS tool.
- 3PL service providers employ shipping logistic pros that are always looking for ways to save your company money on shipping costs, offering deep carrier discounts, handling orders that require special packaging and labeling, accommodating special shipping or carrier needs, as well as managing an array of different delivery options and providing a range of freight handling needs at customized pricing.
Step 6: Delivering Order
If you’ve optimized all of your order management system’s processes, with no delays in the delivery process, your customer can track their order every step of the way until it is delivered. Sending out a “delivered” text or email helps build relationships with your customers and keep them informed about the status of their orders.
Step 7: Follow Up
Checking in with your customer after your order is delivered to thank them for their business is not only a good idea, it builds loyalty and return business. Sending out a customer satisfaction survey can help you gain insights into what works and what can be improved to better serve your customers. Requesting reviews of your products and service can be a plus on your product pages.
- Customers expect an easy return and exchange procedure for their orders and will abandon their carts if they don’t like your return and exchange policy.
- A good 3PL will have exchange and return processes in place that process returns and exchanges in the same time it takes to process initial orders.
Step 8: Analyze And Measure Results
After touching base with your customer, your data-powered OMS software should give you the tools to analyze your entire e-commerce logistics process, looking at KPIs that can help see where your order processing operations could be tweaked to reduce logistics costs and improve your order management processes, as you scale.
Order Management Software
Not all order management software will work well for every business. When looking for order management software for your company, you should choose the software that fits your needs. Elements to consider include:
- Pricing – Does the software fit into your budget?
- Reach – Can you access your customers?
- Compatibility – Does the software integrate well with your current software stack?
- User-friendly – Can your staff easily learn and implement the software?
Phase V Fulfillment Is Your E-Commerce Business’s Partner
Instead of investing the money, time, and stress into sourcing, leasing, and outfitting a warehouse with expensive fulfillment equipment and hiring the staff to fulfill your orders accurately and efficiently, meeting 2-day delivery times, you will want to consider doing what many growing e-commerce businesses are doing to move into their next level of success. Partnering with a 3PL service provider, such as Phase V Fulfillment, will streamline your order management systems.
When you partner with Phase V, you gain access to advanced order management technology to get the big picture of all of your sales from all of your channels in one place, in real-time. This means you can manage your inventory properly, not ordering so much that you have money tied up in products that you may never sell or too little that you run short of stock, which sends your customer to one of your competitor’s sites to buy the item where they can get it sooner rather than later. Our data-focused inventory management tools make forecasting demand easy for upcoming cycles. We will even send you notifications when you need to restock inventory items to keep your orders moving smoothly.
Phase V’s secure state-of-the-art warehouses are located in Fort Myers, FL and Phoenix, AZ. With warehouses located on the east and west coasts, Phase V warehouses are strategically located to better serve both sides of the US, as well as Latin American destinations in addition to Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii. Your inventory is checked for quantity and quality, barcode scanned and assigned unique SKUs to reduce errors and speed up the packing process.
Phase V Fulfillment works with you to customize a fulfillment plan that works for your e-commerce business. Partnering with Phase V allows you to focus on growing your business, while we take care of streamlining and automating your order management operations as you expand.
Contact us today to get the conversation started!