Porches and stoops are dotted with parcels of all sizes, as more shoppers use ecommerce sites instead of traditional brick & mortar stores. From flowers to medication to home furnishings, nearly everything can be delivered - and consumers like it that way.
But in this all-digital world, the importance of order management has never been so high. A delayed package or inaccurate delivery data could drive a loyal shopper to abandon your brand. This blog explores five new trends in order management, driven by quarantine, that will shape shopping forever. We'll explore how companies can stay on top of these trends to keep deliveries accurate and on-time, keep their customers happy, and position themselves for growth as the economy reopens.
Curbside became a lifeline
Curbside pickup, or click-and-collect, has been popular in categories like grocery and big-box retailing. When in-store shopping became limited, and in some cases, impossible - curbside pickup saved sales for stores. Curbside pickup offers the ease and precision of shopping online with the peace of mind that a shopper will get the items they need on time. It also eases the last mile fulfillment burden for brands that rely on FedEx, USPS, UPS, and other carriers.
Companies should explore curbside pickup in case reopening plans slow down or revert. It has been a proven strategy for preserving sales, leveraging stores as distribution centers, and turning inventory that would normally be exclusively purchased in store.
Explosive ecommerce activity placed more strain on order management systems
With shelter-in-place orders, consumers panic-bought essential items, causing record-breaking purchasing spikes and throttling inventory networks. While consumer goods and cleaning supplies were snapped up early on, home improvement, exercise equipment, and even hair styling products are still in peak demand.
But not all companies have order management practices in place to support the influx of shoppers. The result? Frustrating out-of-stocks, inaccurate inventory counts, and faulty orders - leading to upset customers.
Homegrown systems or customized enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) are often used to carry out order management processes. The problem is that these solutions are often getting delayed feeds of sales activity, and they certainly aren't built to scale. As we prepare for coming peak events - the holidays, sales, even future lockdown orders - brands must invest in order management for positive shopping experiences.
Transparency around delays became critical
Even with order management excellence, COVID-19 impacted both the supply chain and fulfillment processes, causing trickle-down delays. Whether delays were in the manufacturing process or the distribution centers, customers were experiencing longer wait times.
How can you become more transparent? First, deploy self-service functionalities to give shoppers the ability to easily check on their order status online or via an app. For instance, you can also leverage bots to collect upfront order details and provide order status on your website. This frees up agents to handle more complex cases.
It's also critical to let customers know how the situation has (or has not) affected your return policies and other purchasing basics. Add a link to FAQs to your homepage if that's where you're collecting the most up-to-date information.
Returns became more difficult than ever
Before COVID, there was an explosion in returns innovation, including successful partnerships like Amazon and Kohl's, where shoppers could return Amazon purchases in their local Kohl's store. Without an in-store return option, and concerns about visiting a post office or store, shoppers have been sitting on returns.
To manage the difficult returns process, customer service can guide shoppers on returning items. By implementing self-service capabilities, brands can guide shoppers through their next actions when they seek help returning or exchanging. Or better yet, advise shoppers on what products will meet their exact needs.
For some, post-purchase experiences change permanently
For brands and retailers, a silver lining to a digital-first world has been the influx of new online shoppers. With online as a preferred option - or sometimes the only option - to shop, behaviors emerged that will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic.
With speculation of another COVID-19 wave, shoppers will habitually turn to ecommerce for holiday shopping. The order management experience will be critical as tolerance lowers for delays, and gift-giving to far-flung family and friends becomes reliant on shipping and fulfillment.
The first half of 2020 has been the year order management changed forever, and it's still not too late to take lessons learned and invest in a future-proof OMS strategy.
Learn more about order management and other ways you can grow your business during these uncertain times.