A thread is what holds a patchwork quilt together. Without thread, the pieces can’t coalesce into an heirloom. In an omnichannel order management world, that thread is unified commerce.
For distributors, unified commerce connects all the pieces of an omnichannel network into an integrated whole. For customers, this cohesive experience is now a requirement. Without it, the multi-dimensional touchpoints of an omnichannel sales network may look and feel similar to the end-user, but the data behind the customer interaction doesn’t always sync.
- Do your sales representatives have access to accurate inventory data across all channels?
- Are your sales reps and customers frustrated by stockouts after the sale is complete?
- Can your customers easily transition between sales channels?
Unified commerce is what you’ve been missing.
What is Omnichannel Order Management?
Omnichannel order management is a post-COVID reality for distribution companies. Today, B2B buyers leverage 10 or more channels, double what they used in 2016, according to McKinsey.
Omnichannel order management integrates distributors’ sales channels, such as sales reps, ecommerce platforms, brick-and-mortar stores, marketplaces, mobile apps and more for efficient order processing, fulfillment and customer service.
In omnichannel order management, distributors seek to provide a consistent and cohesive customer experience, regardless of the channel where the order is placed. Customers can browse products, make purchases and interact with the distributor through their preferred channels. By design with omnichannel order management, no channel exists in a silo; for example, if a customer calls in, a customer service rep can see what a customer has purchased through another channel, such as ecommerce, in the branch or with a sales rep. At least, that’s the goal.
The Challenges with Omnichannel Order Management
On the surface, the omnichannel experience should feel seamless for a customer, offering an experience that appears effortless. For distributors, this kind of omnichannel environment keeps the prospect engaged until they’re ready to buy.
But behind the curtain, distributors face multiple challenges with omnichannel order management, including:
- Achieving a centralized view of real-time inventory data across systems and locations, especially when integrating disparate software platforms. For distributors, siloed information becomes a problem when organizations need to make critical, data-driven decisions but don’t have all the data. The result is costly: too much inventory ordered and wasted, increase in costs, delays and more.
- Coordinating order processing, picking, packing and shipping across channels, which requires efficient workflow management and integration with various fulfillment partners.
- Handling receiving, inspecting and restocking returned items while ensuring accurate inventory updates and timely refunds across multiple channels.
Unified commerce is the next evolution of distribution sales. It solves these backend issues while improving the customer and employee experience.
Unified Commerce vs. Omnichannel vs. Multichannel
Unified commerce takes the backend data from each channel and brings it together for a more seamless customer and employee experience. Unified commerce is a step up from the omnichannel, smoothing kinks from disparate sales and inventory platforms by integrating these backend tools. Legacy software solutions often use manual processes or workarounds to fit these multi-shaped pegs into round holes.
Unified commerce starts with a centralized “point of truth” for everything related to inventory, order management, fulfillment, accounting and reporting. This centralized approach is the foundation for unified commerce and provides a real-time experience benefiting your customers and sales teams at every customer touchpoint.
Think of distribution sales channels as incremental ladder rungs toward unified commerce. Each step upward toward the top looks like this:
- Single channel is a solo thread connecting distributors with their customers such as a sales rep, call center, ecommerce website or a print catalog.
- Multichannel is the second rung on the distribution sales channel ladder, and the most common model. Multichannel stretches the customer experience across customer touchpoints, including sales reps, online, a catalog and a brick-and-mortar locations. Yet each channel is a silo, with purchasing, inventory and pricing data not usually visible from other locations or channels. Shopping in each channel may look and feel slightly different to the customer. It can work, but it’s a disjointed way to try to build a distributor’s brand and can be frustrating to today’s customers.
- Omnichannel is the third evolution of the B2B buying experience. Omnichannel focuses on creating a consistent look and feel at the front end of the business where the customer interacts with the distributor – no matter which channel that customer is using. Customers shopping on a distributor’s website will experience the same “mouth feel” as buying from a customer service rep. The brick-and-mortar storefront experience is similar to mobile. Branding, messaging and the overall purchase process feel the same. The challenge comes with ensuring the back-end systems are synched.
- Unified commerce melds backend distributor systems into a single real-time data source. This central approach to all the data reconciles duplicated, incomplete or otherwise conflicting information from multiple channels. This way, if two customer service reps are taking orders of the same product at the same time, inventory status will appear in real time; that means the CSR will be able to provide accurate inventory status if stock is low. This real-time synchronization can make a night-and-day difference in customer satisfaction.
The cost of not moving to a unified commerce platform is high. Operational silos frustrate sales teams and customers in equal measure. Unified commerce brings everything together.
Why Distributors Need Unified Commerce
Here’s an illustration of the power of unified commerce:
- A customer needs a specialty item to complete a job. They go to your website to search for it.
- They then call your rep to place the order.
- The customer can track real-time delivery status by logging in to a customer portal.
- Order fulfillment is in progress, but suddenly the quantity needed has changed.
- In real-time, the order is modified, and inventory immediately updated.
- The account rep has access to this information in the event that the customer calls them instead of using their self-service option.
This scenario is different from the typical omnichannel experience today. A distributor does not typically have the ability to view master data across a supply chain in real-time. The backend may require multiple steps, including manual data entry, to ensure the order is completed. If the order is delayed, the CSR may struggle to update the customer, toggling between multiple platforms to determine what went wrong and identify a solution.
Unified commerce takes cross-channel sales order management for a platform like SAP and elevates it to a better, faster experience.
The Benefits of Unified Commerce
Better customer experience: The winner with unified commerce is the customer. You’re saving the customer time and energy by allowing that customer to seamlessly move channel to channel to get their business done. That results in greater customer loyalty and increased wallet share. DataXStream’s OMS+ unified commerce platform routinely offers a 25% documented increase in customer satisfaction metrics.
Reduced employee training time: A unified commerce solution for cross-channel sales order management such as OMS+ by DataXStream reduces complexity. Because of that, it’s easier to get new employees up to speed so they could more efficiently and effectively serve customers. The onboarding process for one distributor that uses the DataXStream solution went from three months to three days.
Improved business efficiencies: Rather than toggling through multiple screens and systems to get a customer the information they need, unified commerce enables more efficient service thanks to an easy-to-use interface. That’s less time the customer must spend waiting to complete a transaction or get a quote. It also frees the distributor’s team to serve more customers. DataXStream OMS+ increases sales on average by 15%. The platform also has been documented to provide a 40% increase in order-input speed and accuracy.
Better view of master data: Implementing unified commerce also provides a better and more transparent view of data across the organization. For example, rather than looking at inventory by branch, distributors can see across all stocking locations, which can prevent overstocking. That also means they can better plan and benefit from supplier perks, such as volume pricing.
Implementing DataXStream OMS+ product drives on average a 15% increase in sales for our customers. Yes, these results are typical.
Unified Commerce and Cross-Channel Order Management for SAP
DataXstream is a cross-channel order management solution premium certified for SAP. Our solution can streamline backend sales and fulfillment operations to elevate your business to a unified commerce approach.
Find out how we help you improve business performance, increase sales and engage your workforce. Contact our team today to discuss your options.