Online shopping trends are nothing short of new to most of us. In fact, every holiday season, we are used to seeing graphs similar to the one below from CNBC, depicting how the percentage of online shopping is increasing each year.
What you don’t see in this graph however, is the incredible amount of work being done behind the scenes by two systems; an Order Management System (OMS) and an E-Commerce platform. It is the seamless integration between these two systems that is crucial for the success of online shopping.
Many companies who are purchasing or upgrading their OMS, are also upgrading their E-Commerce site and vice versa. This isn’t by chance. The systems depend so heavily on each other that, in most cases, it makes more sense to implement them together in order to ensure a seamless integration.
In this article, I want to break down a simple example to show how important this integration is. I will also touch upon a common struggle with integrating the two platforms.
Let’s start with the simple example of an online shopping experience. Your customer logs onto your company’s website and finds the perfect shirt for this season. It’s a hot item, so next to the item’s picture they will see a message that says “Only a few left.” They add the item to their cart immediately and proceed to check out. After placing the order, they receive an order confirmation email with their order details. The next day, they log back into the website to check if their order has shipped yet. Later that day, they receive another email from your company saying their item has shipped and is on its way.
This example may seem elementary, but each step depends heavily on the integration of the OMS and E-Commerce systems. Let me show you step by step what I mean.
- “Your customer logs onto your company’s website and finds the perfect shirt for this season.” This perfect shirt needs to be set up correctly in both the OMS and E-Commerce systems as an item[PA1] . Any disconnect will lead to issues with placing the order. Not only does the item need to be present, but all of the information must be correct; size, style, color, etc.
- “It’s a hot item, so next to the item’s picture they will see a message that says “Only a few left.”” The OMS is showing only a few units left in that particular size and sends a message to the E-Commerce site indicating the item is low in stock. Without this indicator, your customer has no visibility to the low stock of this shirt. Without that visibility, they may not place their order immediately and the item could be gone tomorrow.
- “They add the item to their cart immediately and proceed to check out.” Since this was a low stock item, the E-Commerce website makes a real-time call to the OMS to make sure the item is still available. This prevents having to cancel an order after being placed due to a shortage of inventory.
- “After placing the order, they receive an order confirmation email with their order details. The next day, they log back into the website to check if their order has shipped yet. Later that day, they receive another email from your company saying their item has shipped and is on its way.” Each time your customer is logging into the website to check on their order, the E-Commerce website makes another real-time call to the OMS to pull the details of the order. This provides comprehensive accuracy on their order status throughout the entire order life cycle. Each notification they receive reflects a change in the status of their order in the OMS.
If there is a disconnect between the OMS and E-Commerce systems at any point in the above example, there is a direct impact to your customer.
One of the more common struggles I have seen in integrating both platforms revolves around inventory. Too often, the website doesn’t have an accurate view of the OMS inventory or there is a delay in processing any inventory updates. This disconnect can lead to order lines being cancelled due to a lack of inventory once the order reaches the Order Management System.
One way we can try to manage this is by correctly configuring the low stock levels that the customer has visibility to. As we’ve seen, incorrect or no “low stock” indicators at all equal unhappy customers. Adding an indicator gives your customer an idea of the availability of this particular item. Furthermore, if we raise this low stock indicator level from 1 unit to a number like 5 units, it gives us some extra bandwidth. I have seen some companies use this as a method of safety stock and remove the item’s availability from the website if it falls below a certain level.
Next time you are shopping online, I encourage you to think through each step you are taking in the process. Are your Order Management System and E-Commerce platforms providing a convenient ordering process? Can you spot more ways to create a seamless flow between the two systems?
Contributor: Kevin Quigley