Over the past three years we’ve noticed a massive change in the nature of our work. Previously, most of our projects were one-time data migrations for a new back office system or for traditional feeds to HR and Finance. Nowadays however, we are seeing a change in our clients’ needs. They typically come to us to help integrate their day-to-day operational data from their Ecommerce systems with their back-office systems.
At the heart of each project is the Order Management System (OMS) which is fast becoming the system epicenter for 21st century retailers. OMS deals with all the issues surrounding fulfilling customer orders – from logistics to inventory, from planning to sales, from product information management to pricing, from supplier purchase order management to invoice management. The changes are often subtle, sometimes profound. But in the end your success in Unified Commerce will depend on the strength of your integration of your back-office systems with OMS.
Integration with Order Management Systems can have serious implications on a retailer’s operations. That’s why we’ve developed an elegant integration solution that our clients can trust to be delivered on time and within budget. However, we still face certain challenges. One of our main frustrations as a data integration team is that we often don’t get the chance to be involved in the crucial design phase of an integration project. By being involved while design and requirements are under discussion we can address the challenges outlined below early on and share with our clients the lessons we’ve learned to help avoid project complications and delays:
Challenge 1: Real time vs batch.
Infrequent batch feeds won’t cut it. Ecommerce (OMS) generates customer orders 24/7 whether from the call center, stores, web stores, or mobile. Digital retailing demands a dynamic interchange between the back office and customer orders.
Lesson 1: When our clients specify a once a day exchange, they are missing an enormous opportunity to up their game.
Challenge 2: Managing Inventory.
Inventory for digital commerce can come from anywhere. The temptation has been to move inventory into a virtual store number and update availability with every customer order, cancellation and return. But this is not what is happening as retailers process digital orders. Inventory can come from anywhere; warehouse, reserve location, an actual brick & mortar store, etc. Where should this inventory come from and who should get credit for the sale? When some of these items are returned, where should they hit?
Lesson 2: OMS integration requires a careful examination of traditional inventory tracking.
Challenge 3: An Ecomm sale is not a POS sale.
Retailers are inclined to force the Ecomm sale into POS, and have it look like a regular store sale. But it is not. Ecomm sales have different characteristics that must be considered and tracked. Tenders, coupons/promos, appeasements, ship to addresses, pickup at store, ecomm returns at store, etc., are all very different than traditional POS transactions and need to be considered. Most of our projects involve reformatting digital commerce transactions so they look like POS and therefore flow seamlessly to all the back-office systems. As such, a lot of the above characteristics are missed.
Lesson 3: Do not treat Ecomm sales as just another POS sale, or you will be missing some of the key characteristics your customers are looking for.
We’ll deal more with these points in our next blog post when we introduce our UNIFIED COMMERCE Infographic.