Improve Order Fulfillment and Inventory Management With Order Flow Analysis

Order Management

With the dawn of omni channel retailing, customers have more options than ever before when deciding where and how to shop. They can buy from online, in physical stores, via their smartphones and even through more conventional methods such as direct mail order or by calling a contact center.

From the retailer’s perspective, the introduction of so many channels has made order fulfillment and inventory management significantly more difficult. Not only do they have to process the orders from all these different channels in a prompt fashion, they must do so without compromising service either. This can place additional strain on supply chains and distribution centers, as they must be able to quickly pick, process and ship orders, all while maintaining inventory levels. Retail order flow can be huge challenge.

As retailers look to improve their ability to get orders to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, they may want to consider an order flow analysis. As Envista noted, the end goal is to meet or exceed customer expectations by being transparent with the order fulfillment process. An order flow analysis can help merchants identify potential gaps and develop solutions that will enable them to get orders to their customers more efficiently while maintaining inventory.

So, how can merchants improve retail order flow? One of the biggest steps merchants can take is making the rules engine a big priority. Once an order has been made, the rules engine and retail order flow will execute the process and determine how the order is fulfilled based on the predetermined rules. The rules engine can be programmed to evaluate everything, ranging from when to pick stock from one channel versus another to which customers should get priority in terms of how quickly orders are filled.

Here are a few considerations that retailers may look at when developing their omni channel order fulfillment rule sets: 

1. Geography

Nowadays, retailers can reach customers regardless of where they reside, thanks in part due to the Internet. Merchants may have customers in North America, Asia and everywhere in between.

In that regard, it’s crucial that the retail order flow keeps geography in consideration. If merchants are practicing a dynamic, single-channel source of inventory, they may be able to send the purchase from the closest location to the customer. Sometimes, that may mean shipping it from the brick-and-mortar store down the street. If there is no nearby location, they may consider utilizing a local distribution center that sells the item.

For many customers, one of the biggest drawback of shopping online is waiting for a delivery. By making geography a top consideration of order fulfillment rule sets, merchants can expedite the shipping process significantly.

2. Inventory availability

Merchants are often able to move and shift inventory as its seen fit. To that end, they can work this into their retail order flow to maximize their existing inventory. For example, if a customer puts an order in for a specific item that’s overstocked in one location but under stocked elsewhere, merchants may want to consider pulling the item from their overstocked store or warehouse to ensure an even supply of merchandise.

3. Customer priority

If merchants have loyalty clubs or other customer priorities, they should consider that in their retail order flow rule sets as well. For example, a preferred customer should get priority order processing and delivery.

When it comes to retail order flow, rules are important considerations and should be crafted based on the capabilities of merchants and their eCommerce operations.

Last month we published what three steps you can do to improve order fulfillment as well as profit and margins. Read it now.