Tips for improving order visibility

With 8% forecast for retail sales made on smartphones by 2016*, the growth of online and mobile technologies has forced retailers into a new world – a world where effective omni-channel marketing, service and fulfilment are mission critical. This world has opened up a whole new set of challenges related to fulfilment, logistics and speed-to-delivery. Evan Puzey, Chief Marketing Officer at Kewill looks at how a disjointed and invisible supply chain will deliver an inconsistent customer experience rather than reliably delivering goods.

In the world of omni-channel retail, achieving enterprise visibility across inventory and real-time knowledge on order status, regardless of origin, seems to be a constant struggle. Multiple systems, disjointed processes and lack of insight into outsourced fulfilment partners make realising a transparent order-to-delivery process difficult.

A recent survey**shows 58% of retail respondents having little or no integration of business processes, and 56% having little or no integration of technology, together causing the biggest barriers to their supply chain visibility.

Sadly it is impossible to handle customer inquiries if your team does not have accurate visibility of where a customer's goods are in the fulfilment cycle. Customers don't care that you outsource fulfilment or drop ship their order – they want to know where it is and when they will receive it, with no excuses on your part. They purchased from you and it is your responsibility to meet their expectations on delivery – remember it is usually much cheaper to keep a customer than to have to win new customers or persuade a lost customer to return.

Omni-channel success requires retailers to align business processes and technology across channels to ensure that customers can purchase, fulfil and return orders through any channel – all while preserving end-to-end visibility and a single customer.

Retailers need to ensure that they, and their customers, have as much information on stock availability levels as if it were held in their own warehouses and on their own inventory. By investing and integrating order management/fulfilment systems with suppliers' systems, retailers can ensure all-round visibility of information and have confidence that customer promises are being met and suppliers can develop a better understanding of customer demand, ensuring they are in a better position to deliver.

Quick tips to improving visibility:

  • Focus on integration across the supply chain
  • Implement a single dashboard for customer order status
  • Automate order monitoring across channels
  • Generate alerts on potential fulfilment and delivery issues

Order management, fulfilment and transportation strategies must be aligned for in-store, web, mobile, call centre, and social orders. The retailer that has the product the customer wants in stock and can deliver it via the customer's channel of choice, at the right time and right price, will win the sale. Do this consistently and you'll also gain the competitive advantage you need to win the game.

*Source: Forrester Research 2012
**Source: Aberdeen omni-channel retail survey, 2012

Download Kewill's free eBook to read more about other challenges faced (such as speed of delivery and transport innovation) within omni-channel retailing, along with top tips to help you succeed.

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