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Omni-channel Retailing for Suppliers: Turning Order Management into a Strategic Business Tool

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Carol Weidner, eZCom Software


Omni-channel retailing calls for seamlessly and efficiently meeting the needs of customers at every stage and every touchpoint in the retail process. As this paradigm becomes increasingly entrenched as the dominant way retailers do business, suppliers must adapt to remain competitive. Efficiency is the name of the game. The key is to find ways to dramatically streamline all order management processes while still remaining agile, compliant and keeping costs down. This is a tall order, but suppliers that succeed will not only maintain their trading partnerships, but can expect closer relationships with their current retail partners, opportunities with new partners, and an overall increase in business.

There are specific steps suppliers can take to set themselves up for omni-channel success. This is the fourth installment of a multi-part series highlighting various aspects of a holistic omni-channel strategy for suppliers. This article focuses on harvesting and leveraging strategic business intelligence from existing systems for increased speed and efficiency.

Fine tune your order management process
Chances are your order management system already incorporates tools and applications that can deliver time and resource saving business intelligence. With some configuration and management, you can streamline your existing system and turn it into a rich source of valuable data.

  1. Get serious about managing inventory. Inventory represents the majority of your capital. Leading analysts report globalization, longer supply chains and expensive raw materials put more and more upward pressure on inventory while the majority of industries are dictating shorter lifecycles. With market forces leaving so little margin for error, serious consideration should be given to adopting inventory management software (e.g. Fishbowl, NetSuite, SAP Business One, etc.). These solutions support tracking and control of inventory, help facilitate efficient drop ship fulfillment – a rising trend in the omni-channel environment – and provide some of the intelligence you need to optimize inventory processes.
  2. Audit your EDI. All EDI applications are not created equal and omni-channel success requires maximum efficiency. Make sure your EDI solution provides automated compliance, batch processing capabilities, key drop ship functionalities such as custom packing slips and integrated shipping, and an easy-to-navigate interface as well as the ability to integrate with other supply chain applications. If your EDI provider does not offer such streamlined capabilities, consider switching to one that does.
  3. Integrate inventory management with EDI and back office. This is one of the most significant streamlining steps you can take; if implemented correctly, an integrated order management system will help you save time, conserve financial and personnel resources through reduction of manual intervention and reconciliation, and reduce chances for error. Integration of EDI, inventory management and accounting can provide for automatic extraction of data, and deliver a single, accurate system of record – thus enabling proactive data-driven decision making and responsiveness.
  4. Set the degree of automation to your preferences. In most cases, a compromise between full automation and a small degree of manual review will provide the best balance between accuracy and speed. Work with a provider that can set your integrated order management system to your preferences: transfer between software applications automatically, transfer automatically with exclusions (e.g. validation errors, non-matched items), or review prior to transfer. Your provider should help advise you as to what option will work best with your specific business needs.
  5. Ensure scalability and flexibility. Work with a best practice provider that builds in seamless accommodation of future software patches and updates, and creates an integrated system that can grow with your success.
  6. Connect and manage your order management data through a centralized interface. This will give you full-view, real time access to all order management data and the ability for agile response.
  7. Configure custom fields where needed. In many cases, your integration specialist should be able to accommodate your unique business needs while still working within best practices and keeping your system easy to update.
  8. Work with an experienced customer service-centric provider. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the success of your order management integration depends on your provider's expertise, professionalism, support, and accessibility. Do your homework before making your choice to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Three-way integration of inventory management, EDI, and back-office: a key tool for successful strategizing in the fast-paced omni-channel environment.

Taking the steps outlined above will convert your order management process into a source for comprehensive, real time, strategic business intelligence – invaluable for agile decision making.

Benefits include:

  • Ability to provide real time inventory visibility to your EDI system and trading partners
  • Increased e-commerce and drop ship capabilities
  • Improved reaction time to order management issues
  • Centralized view and control over greater scope of operations
  • Enhanced relationship with retail trading partners
  • Increased speed and accuracy of the overall order management process
  • Reduced labor costs

And you will be able to:

  • Optimize inventory to achieve turn rate and overall ROI goals
  • Manage overall performance
  • Create a better informed and holistic marketing and sales strategy
  • Manage risk
  • Perform accurate and relevant cost analysis

Carol Weidner, CEO of eZCom Software, is living proof of the adage "If you want something done right, ask a busy person." Soon after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in Mathematics, she opened her own successful business – wholesaling home wares and accessories in the New York/New Jersey area. Carol continued in her entrepreneurial endeavors while she returned to Rutgers full time and completed a second degree in Biology. Following her (second) graduation, Carol learned computer programming and focused on EDI – working for companies serving the retail industry and consulting for major retailers like Toys "R" Us. When an opportunity arose to take over a small many-to-many retail portal in 2000, Carol grabbed the reins. She directed the finance and sales side of the burgeoning company, while working together with a team of colleagues who redesigned one of its key products to serve as a web-based EDI application. The result was the B2B supply chain software provider eZCom Software – and the cloud-based EDI solution, Lingo. Carol can be reached at cweidner@ezcomsoftware.com or 201-731-1800. Learn more about eZCom Software at www.eZComsoftware.com.

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Tags:  Omni-Channel  Systems Integration 

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