I remember when I was young and would wait by the mailbox during the month of November for the Sears Wishbook to arrive. My brother and I would grab it and promptly run inside, racing through the pages to see the gifts to select from. We'd even go as far as earmarking pages in the Wishbook for our Santa letters to guide the big man to the toys were at the top of our lists. The Sears Wishbook was, after all, the source of truth for all holiday gifts.
Fast forward 35 years, and it's incredible to see how much has changed. We have entered the age of digital transformation for commerce, where the old Wishbook has been replaced by online catalogues, augmented reality on social media platforms, and personalized experience-based shopping in many stores today. What hasn't changed, however, is that the customer is still the King (or Queen), and companies are using new technologies to engage and entice the inner child in all of us.
As a partner in a leading consulting company (www.ascenterpsolutions.com) in the commerce industry, I am constantly engaging with our partners, customers, and other industry specialists to stay connected to key trends and changes in technology each year, and I wanted to share some of the things we've seen at Ascent that are making a difference for commerce companies in their holiday strategies.
1. Companies are leaning into holiday shopping with earlier sales. 2019 has been an interesting year to see the growth of shopping holidays like 'Singles Day' and more major brands offering 'Pre-Black Friday Specials'. We've seen industry giants, like Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy sending out daily specials throughout the month of November. In fact, the industry is showing larger percentages of consumers (even up to 40%) starting their holiday shopping even before November, and while it's (admittedly) difficult to see holiday sales starting before Halloween, consumers are willing to spend earlier and earlier to get that best price on those gifts that their loved ones are hoping for.
For years, I struggled with the industry's separation of digital and physical commerce. As a project director for a leading commerce-focused technology company, I remember struggling with the concepts around purchasing online or purchasing in-store, and why the two couldn't work together. In 2007, I remember spearheading an effort to introduce what was then the very first version of our OMS, which incorporated the concept of purchasing product when it wasn't physically available for fulfillment from an alternate location, whether it be a store or a warehouse. Little did I know that the world of omni-channel retailing would explode a few years later, driving new technologies that would balloon and scale immensely in functionality compared to the application that I worked on many years ago. Which bring us to today. The modern Order Management architecture has become the backbone of the omni-channel commerce industry. While many software companies brand this with different names and titles, the goals of omni-channel commerce are the same: to improve and enable customer experience through different channels or touchpoints (both physical and digital), and ensure that they can acquire products and services seamlessly (without friction).
But how can a company support this concept without the right technologies in place? How can they ensure that inventory is available and exposed across all of the different sales channels where their customers shop? How can they track sales regardless of where the customer purchases? How can they ensure that the orders are consolidate, and routed logically to the lowest cost fulfillment centers? The truth is...they can't. While an eCommerce system, a Retail system, a B2B system can all connect directly to an ERP or WMS systems for fulfillment, the logic to prioritize, consolidate, route, and track customer orders across different channels simply doesn't exist in the traditional ERP and WMS platforms. And thus, the OMS does the heavy lifting for all of these elements.
Whether orders are placed from a mobile device, a laptop or macbook, a call center, or within the four walls of a store, the modern order management system (or OMS, sometimes also referred to as a DOM) provides the framework to receive, prioritize, consolidate (or deconstruct) and route the order to the appropriate fulfillment center for rapid delivery to the customer. It can satisfy fulfillment requests for B2B and B2C product, and stands as the primary source for status from time of order placement through delivery of the product. Salespeople and Call Centers rely on Order Management systems to provide updates to customers, and also handle returns. Distribution centers rely on Order Management systems to consolidate orders and initiate picking requests from within their Warehouse. And the end consumer can rely on the Order Management system to expedite the fulfillment process to ensure they're able to pick up or receive the product even up to the day that the order is placed.