5 Tips to Boost Your Order Management Efficiency

Priyanka Bhadani3/17/2022

What is order management ?

Order management is a process that takes place in all types of organizations. It involves tracking and managing the flow of order transactions through the transaction process. It includes activities such as preparing order forms, checking inventory and pricing, authorizing orders, shipping products to customers, receiving payments, issuing credits or refunds, and resolving customer service issues. The goal of order management is to ensure the effective use of resources by maximizing profitability for the organization.

What is order management?

To describe in layman's language, order is a transactional request made by a customer to a business an eCommerce website, a regular shop, or a vendor. The process that begins for the business when a customer places an order and ends with the order fulfillment is Order Management.

Basically, order management is keeping track of customers' orders and efficiently managing the steps of the order process while fulfilling them. The order management process primarily includes accepting the order, picking, packing, shipping, and tracking them until they are delivered.

It may seem like a simple process, but the involvement of so many steps and people at every level, makes order management a complex process. Once an item is ordered (with the payment terms and conditions duly followed) by a customer, the details of it are shared with the store's inventory. Thereon, the warehouse workers manage the picking, packing, and shipping, and the delivery partners manage the delivery. Another important step in the process includes checking with the customer if the customer order has been fulfilled satisfactorily.

5 Tips to boost your order management efficiency

For a small business and fewer deliveries, order management is still easy. For a large-scale business, there are too many support systems at various levels to ensure efficient order management systems, and take order data into consideration for after sales customer care service.

But it's strenuous when a business is scaling up (irrespective of the size of the enterprise) the number of orders exponentially goes up, and confusion takes over. From delivery of orders at wrong addresses, and shipping delays, to managing customer complaints, everything becomes a part of the order management process.

In an era when eCommerce has been ascending and businesses have multiple and growing channels to expand, there is always a looming pressure of more sales and the need to increase inventory.

To ensure an effective order management process, streamlined delivery and customer service, and mitigate bottlenecks and human errors, it is important to pay attention to a few key areas. We write about five key factors that can help a business in boosting its order management efficiency. Read on-

Train employees

While running a business, some things are completely non-negotiable. Having trained employees with the right skill set and knowledge is one of those non-negotiable pillars in making a business profitable. Isn't profit the end goal of every business? There's no way a business owner can deny that.

With that, we get back to the point of having trained employees. The benefit of training employees and equipping them with the right tools is unmatchable. At the end of the day, it's ultimately going to be the employees overseeing the order management process, ensuring that the inventory stock level is sufficient, and there are no operational glitches in delivery or customer service.

Supply Chain and Inventory management training is one of the most helpful. It educates employees involved in the order management system with the latest trends, the best methods of inventory control, and mitigating any risk of inventory wastage. All of this helps in reducing margin and increasing profit. Successful training also accelerates and optimizes inventory and reduces risk of losses in the supply-chain.

Effective training guarantees that the employees understand the focus and positioning of a company, its practices, procedures and other protocols. It is then easy to implement company policies, and assess the growth of an individual employee and their contribution.

Keep up-to-date with industry changes

Irrespective of what business or domain you work in, the rapid advancement in technology and trends has become a norm. The only way to beat it is to keep up with it. Implement a new inventory control software when needed, or upgrade to the newer version of the existing order management software programs. Learn, upgrade and implement. And make sure to keep imparting the knowledge about each and every new learning to the employees working on-ground, in warehouses, and on-field as delivery staff for a better order fulfillment process.

The key is to understand the behavior of the consumers, which changes at a faster pace than one can imagine. A December 2021 consumer research by McKinsey & Company notes that Omnichannel shopping is ascendant, with about 60 to 70 percent of consumers researching and purchasing both in-store and online across categories.

As per the report, in a covid-stricken world, consumer spending in stores continued to recover with 10 percent year-on-year growth in September (2020) following stable 5 to 6 percent growth in March through August in 2021. Simultaneously, e-commerce sales continued to experience strong growth as well. It rose by about 35 percent year over year, and online penetration remains about 30 percent higher than pre-COVID-19 levels.

Not surprisingly, social media influence is heaviest among younger consumers but influences all age groups, most commonly in categories including jewelry, accessories, fitness/sports, and cosmetics, the report notes.

To not understand the current ecosystem and the rise of omnichannel shopping can be a huge deterrent. The repercussions are many -- missing out on orders, losing to competitors, delayed or inaccurate fulfillment process, among others. All of this may lead to consumers abandoning a business to go to a competitor with up-to-date technology and services.

Leverage automation

Automation and Artificial Intelligence are not entirely new. But recent technological development is pushing the boundaries, especially in a pandemic-stricken world. If data is to be believed, businesses that have leveraged automation and digital capabilities are in a better position. Let's understand this with a viable example.

In 2018, McDonald's Corp spent many weeks testing a new customer-oriented decision technology in its US Market. A product of Dynamic Yield that the company would ultimately acquire in 2019, the technology would help the fast-food giant build on its already robust technology advancements, both for customer experience and business development. With diverse outdoor digital Drive Thru menu displays, Dynamic Yield's technology showed customers options based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic, trending menu items along with additional suggestions based on a customer's current selections.

For McDonald's, the investment in this technology was a way to ensure the role data and technology plays in implementing a more personalized experience for customers and ensure efficient order management system. Perhaps, it was serendipity. In a few months of the deal between McDonald's and Dynamic Yield, the world would be hit by a pandemic with no end in sight. And the food chain would gain over any other businesses because it already had a system in place that would allow it to take contactless orders. It saw increased sales orders when everyone else was struggling.

Adaptability and transitioning to new technology has become more critical for businesses than ever before. Implementing an Order Management Software (OMS) with latest features and technology really helps when you are dealing with surplus orders and deliveries. Leveraging the power of automation allows businesses to increase efficiency, upgrade with the changing market conditions, and have a sustainable system.

Here are five things that automation does-
  1. It resolves the challenges incurred because of human error, especially in functions where record-keeping and communication is critical.
  2. Eliminates the risk involved with paper records.
  3. Customized software applications can automate processes specific to your business and increase efficiency.
  4. Implementing effective HR applications and time-management software ensures streamlined workforce and thus more productivity.
  5. Automation makes your services easier, faster, and more efficient, thus increasing consumer satisfaction.

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Analyze data and optimize processes

No matter what you sell or who you sell to, a better order management process, data-driven analytics and time-to-time optimization of your systems, can reduce loss, improve customer relationships, and accelerate growth. Briefly, here's what you can do-

Data Analysis- To monitor, manage, adapt, and optimize all the orders, inventory, and the order process, it is important to analyze data from time to time. It helps in quickly fulfilling orders and giving timely updates on delivery to the customers, ensuring that they remain loyal to your business for a longer duration. For instance, an Order Management Software or Transportation Management System (TMS) can ensure timely delivery.

The only hiccup is that for any system to work accurately, you need to feed accurate data about the other logistical processes. There are solutions, like Zoho Inventory or QuickBooks, that integrate and consolidate all the information, analyze it, and give insights about inventory, locations, fulfillment, and customers. It can prove really helpful to a business and guide in taking the right actions at the right time.

Optimizing Processes- Leveraging analytics, insights and integrating all the systems that you have employed in your business helps to a great extent. But the downside is that the data may sometimes get fragmented. The best solution is to have a centralized set of databases connected to the rest of the software to optimize a business and increase customer satisfaction.

Another aspect that helps in optimizing the order management process is reducing the lead time. Lead time refers to the amount of time between when a purchase order is placed to replenish products and when the order is received in the warehouse. When there are more suppliers involved in the inventory chain, the lead time increases.

To optimize the order processing system, a business also needs to consider the order-to-cash (O2C) process. Optimizing the order to cash process can yield remarkable benefits including improved relationship with the customer base. Order to cash, in fact, is the entirety of a company's order processing system. Analyzing activity data through the order-to-cash cycle helps in identifying opportunities for improvement or optimisation.

Adapt to your business

Digital commerce is reshaping every step in the supply chain. Consumers today expect seamless buying and after-purchase experiences with multiple fast delivery options. Many businesses are still struggling to keep pace with the growth. Every business thinks about expansion.

But scaling up the order management system is not the only solution. To complete the fulfillment process in real-time and for better customer satisfaction, one needs to understand the importance of adapting to the newer demands of the business.

The order management systems can be adapted and extended to meet the business requirements, but with certain limitations. Management and managers need to learn about the capabilities and limitations of the system to manage inventory so that they can develop it in line with the new business goals.

In recent times, adopting a cloud-based inventory is the easiest way to increase the visibility of inventory across all channels. Cloud systems provide a versatile, secure environment, where all stock levels, across all sales channels, can be integrated and managed under a single interface.

Another key point in order management processing is supply chain agility which is a set of metrics designed to quantify your ability to adapt to change within the marketplace. It often factors in adaptability to positive and negative changes, how long it takes for your company to respond, and understanding values that are risky.

Conclusion To Order Management

The order management cycle is an end-to-end process that begins with a customer's purchase order of a product. It culminates when the order reaches the customer. At times, it may involve returns, too. The process, often controlled by separate entities warehouse management team, delivery partners (sometimes through a third-party), customer satisfaction associates needs all of them to come together to provide a cohesive customer experience.

It's important to employ order management software solutions to optimize the process and accelerate the business growth.