Going for the Gold: Order Management and the Olympics
Published August 01, 2012 Share
Being in the eCommerce and order management business often has you seeing things differently. Like, for instance, the other night while I was watching the London Olympics on television. On the screen was – who else could it be in these Olympic Games – none other than Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. And it just happened to be the first swimming event for the two Americans – the 400 IM (individual medley).
This event is one of the hardest, even for experienced swimmers, because it features 100-meter legs of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle strokes. Four different swimming styles all geared towards one goal – gold. To medal in this event a swimmer must be strong in all four. So in the glow of the TV as Lochte beat his rival and compatriot for the gold medal, the old gears in my head started turning…
In a lot of ways, this singular Olympic event is flexible order management. For example, regardless of whether it’s multiple ways to swim or multiple ways to fulfill an order, you still have to be versatile to complete the race. In the world of online retail, this is what flexible fulfillment is all about: Finding a way to close a sale and get the order to the customer when and where they want it. This can be done in several ways, like parcel shipment, in-store pickup, ship to store for pickup and vendor drop ship to home or to a store for pickup. And all this has to be accomplished with inventory from multiple sources – from stores, from warehouses, or from partners.
This concept of flexible fulfillment is the lifeblood of “Buy Anywhere, Fulfill Anywhere, Return Anywhere” model.
Flexible fulfillment means aligning your available resources to complete a customer’s order. You do this by aligning your online store with your distribution centers and retail locations. A critical piece of this alignment is the ability to track your inventory – regardless of its location – which enables you to use the stock in the location that best fits the needs of you and the customer. For instance, if you’re out of inventory at your distribution center, rather than showing that a product is out of stock online you can capture that sale by fulfilling it from inventory located on a retail location shelf.
Sporting goods retailers Modell’s and Sport Chalet are great examples of multi-channel retailers already taking advantage of the fulfill anywhere concept. But these Shopatron clients aren’t the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. According to a recent Internet Retailer article about flexible order management entitled “Harder Than It Looks,” 61% of retail executives stated that allowing inventory to be used to fulfill orders from multiple channels was “very important.” And although the investment in an order management platform can be substantial, the payoff can be even greater.
For home improvement giant Lowe’s, offering this flexibility in order fulfillment allowed its web sales to grow by 70% in 2011. Because when customers have more choices in how they can buy, receive and return their desired products, they are more likely to complete their purchase. By offering inventory on its store shelves for online purchases, Lowes reported that it has made more than $1 billion worth of new inventory available to its online consumers. And while your company may not be at that scale, this opportunity is not one you should let pass you by – because this alignment process is clearly the next step in the evolution of retail.
So why lose a sale or waste inventory sitting idle on shelf space? Just like Lochte bringing home the gold, your company has to be multi-talented. It has to, in essence, swim multiple strokes to get to the prize at the end of the race. And, to put a fork in this metaphor, before you can even get into the pool, you have to get into the race. Time to start aligning.
And while you do that, I think I have some more Olympics to watch (it never stops!) I think women’s fencing or the men’s table tennis final might be on…