Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

Q&A with Brian Kinsella on why order management is pivotal to retailers personalisation strategies

Memorable customer experiences may be completed face-to-face, but they’re built behind the scenes. Brian Kinsella, Vice President, Order Management at Manhattan Associates, explains why order management is proving pivotal to retailers’ personalisation strategies – and how to build a roadmap for meeting the increasingly tailored standards being set by consumers.

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How important has order management become to retail organisations?

Order management is the brain of today’s retail operations. In fact, the term order management is a misnomer – more progressive omnichannel retailers expect their systems to do things far beyond traditional capabilities.

Today, successful order management is a key competency, and a vital part of retailers gaining global visibility of available units to sell. Not only that, but it sets the parameters of their stock – for example, which units are not eligible for same day delivery, but are for click and collect.

The layer of software we group under order management is becoming the enterprise hub for selling and fulfilment.

Meeting customer needs is a hot topic – how are leading retailers using their systems to create greater levels of personalisation?

An effective order management solution doesn’t just tell retailers about the inventory, orders and transactions taking place; it can reveal insights into customers, such as their purchase, spend and return history. This has the power to take shopper interactions way beyond shipping and delivery to a service based on their value to the business. Creating this kind of relationship relies on implementing an agile system.

Where do the majority of retailers lie on the spectrum of delivering these customer experiences?

Every merchant is at a different stage in the journey. Until now, many of them have been focussed on delivering scalable customer facing ecommerce platforms, which is no small feat. They’ve got themselves into a position where they can now withstand and successfully capitalise on flash promotions and events such as Cyber Monday.

Now they have to start configuring their business infrastructure for today’s hybrid, part bricks-and-mortar, part digital industry. Many of them want to be introducing omnichannel services to enhance the customer experience – cross-channel returns, shipping from store, tailoring store experiences through digital technology – but at the moment this is a roadmap, not a reality, for most organisations.

How can merchants turn their omnichannel roadmap into a reality?

First of all, there needs to be buy-in across the business. Most IT solutions are now championed at CEO level and involve many different areas of the company; merchandising, planning, finance, store operations and so forth.

In Manhattan’s 25 years’ experience implementing technologies, we’ve seen first-hand the importance of retailers recognising and acknowledging that the deployment of a new solution is more than a project – it’s a change in the way their business operates.

It’s also very important to sequence implementations based on business priorities and return on investment. Most organisations understand which omnichannel processes are important to them right now, so start with those first. Trying to do everything at once is an unachievable goal.

What’s your biggest advice to retailers setting out along this path today?

Start building competency internally. Outsourcing might seem like a great strategy, but you need the skills in-house to operate systems, analyse the data they produce and make decisions based on the resulting insights. If you need a solution to run your business, you need to know how to extract value from it.

Also, don’t wait for others to move first. The entire retail industry is moving incredibly fast, there are too many people already servicing customers better than you to not consider operational transformation a critical issue.

Finally, when you do invest in a solution, put the best infrastructure in place for future growth. With the right flexibility you can respond to challenges very quickly.

There’s no way you can predict where supply and demand will come from in three years’ time. The DNA of your solution should be an inherent understanding that there are going to be more channels to deal with in future, and your system will need to adapt to these.