September 19, 2018 by Jim Bengier, Chief Customer Officer
A B2B marketplace lets you sell more without having to own the inventory.
The June 2018 release of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce listed five strategic assumptions. Number two was interesting: “By 2020, more than 50% of online sellers will either list their products on marketplaces or sell third-party products on their core commerce sites.”
That’s only two years from now. Do you sell your products on a marketplace like Amazon or Walmart? Many vendors do. However, not nearly as many have a marketplace of third-party products on their own ecommerce sites. But it’s a growing trend, even for B2B commerce.
In fact, Amazon Business revealed in a September 2018 blog post that third party sellers make up more than 50% of their $10 billion in global sales.
In other words, Amazon Business doesn’t own the inventory for over 50% of sales. They just take the order, and route it to the appropriate third-party vendor for drop ship. With a marketplace, you could do this too. A marketplace lets you offer an expanded assortment of products that compliment your core inventory, so you can drive top line growth at a high profit, and without the expense associated with inventory. Imagine not having to own every product you sell. What could you do with that cash?
A lot, no doubt. But the first step on your journey to that enviable position, is to set up a marketplace. Below are the 7 key steps to success:
1. Implement a marketplace platform
There are several off-the-shelf options available, or you may choose to build your own, but you’ll need a way to manage your vendors and their products and where you want them to display on your ecommerce site.
2. Onboard vendors and their product catalog
There are two ways to add a new vendors and products to your marketplace. The first, is to provide a portal where vendors input or upload marketplace item information directly. In this case, the vendor will provide item or category recommendations. The second, is using an on-boarding provider with a network of suppliers to help you onboard new vendors quickly and efficiently so you can start selling new products in a matter of days. The advantage here is that the on-boarding provider can quickly load product information with the correct and complete item data. In fact, some of them can even make vendor and product recommendations based on aggregate sales data from across their supplier network. But even if you can outsource onboarding there are some internal considerations too.
For example, you’ll want to define who will determine which products to offer in your marketplace. Will you have separate team select the assortment to be sold on your marketplace? Or will your category buyers be responsible for selecting complementary products to include in your marketplace? Addressing (and communicating) this decision up front will save a lot of conflicts in the future.
3. Integrate vendor pricing, promotions, and inventory availability updates with your ecommerce platform
Once the catalog is loaded, you’ll need additional product information such as pricing, promotions, and inventory availability, and you’ll need a mechanism for regular updates. This lets you display products from the newly loaded catalogs on your ecommerce site, and always display accurate stock information so you can avoid canceled orders.
4. Determine which fulfillment options best suit your business
Your marketplace may offer several fulfillment options to the customer. The most common is to drop ship the product(s) to the customer’s address from the vendor. However, if the marketplace item is part of a larger order, some marketplace owners prefer their third-party vendors to ship the merchandise to them for order consolidation. That way the customer receives a single package. However, this may also delay delivery, so you’ll need to think about what works best for your customer base.
5. Capture marketplace orders and send them to the vendor
If a customer places an order that includes both owned inventory and marketplace items, you’ll need the ability to split that order and send the marketplace line items to the appropriate vendor, for a seamless customer experience.
6. Track status
Just because items are shipped from a third-party vendor, doesn’t mean customers won’t expect status updates from you. Make sure you define a process to provide marketplace shipment status tracking to customers, both online, and via email and/or text. Remember the customer is making the purchase from your brand.
7. Complete the financial transaction
Once the product has been shipped, the order needs to be reconciled financially. After you receive shipping confirmation from the vendor, you charge the customer. Then you withhold a predetermined percentage of the sale as a commission, and pay the remainder to the vendor.
In summary, a B2B marketplace is a new means to drive top line growth. And with more and more products and services designed to accelerate marketplace deployment, the opportunity to expand business via the marketplace has never been better. If you’d like to learn more about launching a marketplace, please Contact Us.
April 23, 2018 by The Bridge Solutions Group Team
Jenkins is a popular open source Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) solution. A customer was using Jenkins to manage their front-end eCommerce development, but was not using it to manage their IBM Order Management (OMS) development projects, instead they were using Rational Team Concert (RTC) as their code repository.
As a result, they were unable to run multiple Order Management development project simultaneously, because they didn’t have a good way to manage their code base, and deployment to different environments.
Bridge Solutions migrated the customer’s Order Management code base from RTC to Jenkins, and enabled integration between Jenkins and Bitbucket to enable an instance level code management and build mechanism. The project was completed in 2 months, which included testing. This allowed them to have multiple code branches, not just a single branch, so they could support multiple development projects simultaneously.
For more information on CI and CD solutions for Order Management, please Contact Us.
Filed under: Order Management
September 26, 2017 by James Brochu, Chief Operating Officer
A dedicated Order Management platform provides flexible order orchestration
capabilities so you can adjust quickly to market changes.
hile every brand and company has its unique challenges, our experience in the sale and implementation of packaged Order Management applications has revealed a common set of problems faced by customers. These problems add time to implementations, maximize work and rework, and cause pain for customers and companies alike. While we have hundreds of best practices and recommendations for specific applications, we believe that these ten issues can empower teams to focus on what matters – delivering capabilities to your business!
1. Missing or under-supported business cases
Too often, businesses take as imperatives the initiatives that their competition and industry are taking on. This usually leads to large, poorly defined projects where success is measured only by project completion instead of business goals. Defining and maintaining business cases for your implementation drives shorter time to value, higher levels of team empowerment, and happier end users.
2. Not designing your system for growth
Modern Order Management systems are more than capable of handling complex organizations with aggressive growth and Merger & Acquisition (M&A) strategies. Done correctly, Order Management can save time, money, and headaches. Done incorrectly, each enhancement or add-on ends up requiring the same level of effort as an initial implementation. Make sure you consider future ‘brand onboarding’ and ‘business expansion’ during the initial project phases. Play the ‘what-if’ game a lot to ensure you build a system that allows for flexibility in the future.
3. Taking on too many things at once
Order Management touches almost every system in your supply chain. If you try roll out everything at once, your project will take too long and involve more risk. And given how fast the market is changing, your business objectives are likely to change several times before you go live. Instead of trying to swallow the elephant in one bite, consider smaller, more functional releases. Often companies start with the core data (inventory, items, pricing, customers) and take a phased approach to channel onboarding.
4. Not thinking in terms of ‘capabilities’ when designing your roll-out
By breaking your business down to the ‘capability’ level, you can then assess which capabilities you need to onboard a certain brand, channel, or product line. For instance, if one of your brands requires complex delivery scheduling and routing capabilities, and one does not, you might consider onboarding the simpler brand first, and adding the other capabilities and brand afterwards.
5. Training your technical team too late or not at all
Unless you plan to outsource the entire IT initiative including production support and ongoing maintenance, your team needs to take ownership of the solution early. Projects that wait until go-live to transition tend to struggle, because they don’t have enough familiarity with the product to make the best decisions. This causes increased employee distress, longer ramp-up times, and higher defect rates than a collaborative implementation and training approach.
6. Not partnering with a Product Subject Matter Expert (SME)
There is a large amount of tribal knowledge and lessons learned within the community of practiced implementers. Strong IT people are helpful, but too often a strong IT group will work AROUND a packaged application instead of WITH the application’s capabilities. They will write unnecessary custom code to achieve a business objective instead of using the products built-in configuration capabilities. This increases project cost (development, testing, time to implement), and risk.
7. Not getting buy-in from the surrounding ecosystem of applications
Order Management often act as a hub between dozens of applications – in other words, it touches almost every system. Correctly implemented, it often acts as the brain of your supply chain, but it needs the cooperation of other application teams. Brokering strong lines of communication between teams is an imperative in today’s complex supply chain environment.
8. Using Agile methodology for the first phase of the implementation
This may sound backward and controversial, but Agile methodology is usually not a great way to implement a packaged Order Management application – at least initially. Experience has shown that a Waterfall methodology allows you to create a solid base of fundamental capabilities more quickly. Things like application setup, participant modelling, inventory visibility, and catalog setup are all tightly interrelated. Using Agile methodology usually causes rework as nuances of each are uncovered. We do, however, believe that Agile is a great method to follow once this initial base has been laid.
9. Not committing to testing and performance testing sufficiently
Too often, these items are seen as optional afterthoughts. And here’s the thing – 95% of the time, the system will work well enough to get you through. But the risk is high, especially during peak season loads. We’ve seen ecommerce sites experience over a week of downtime due to insufficient testing. So, make sure testing is part of your plan from day one.
10. Not developing sufficient automation and environments for deployment
The leading cause of issues when deploying to new environments is, without a doubt, deployment error. Missing files, forgotten configuration, and a dozen other things can happen. Even a typo can cause pain, lost time, and lost business. This is a simple and repeatable thing to create, however it often gets overlooked because of time, resourcing, or budget. An investment in automation will help you ensure successful go-lives and avoid rollbacks.
July 27, 2017 by The Bridge Solutions Group Team
An Order Management system is like the cockpit of an aircraft. It provides a single view of data from multiple systems, only instead of flight systems it’s fulfillment systems.
Let’s use an airplane analogy. There are many systems on a plane: Flight controls, hydraulics, fuel, oxygen, navigation, communication systems, etc. They’re all critical to the safe delivery of passengers to their destination. But the cockpit is where the pilot can see input from all these systems, and tweak them to ensure an optimal flight experience.
An Order Management system is like the cockpit.
You have many order capture and fulfillment systems in your business: eCommerce, Point of Sale (POS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management System (WMS), etc. An Order Management system lets you see inventory across all locations (including inbound inventory), customer data, and order fulfillment status from all those systems in a single interface. It also lets you define and tweak fulfillment rules to provide an optimal customer experience.
Because it integrates data from multiple systems you get a single, real-time view of your customer orders and fulfillment operations which enables:
It can also provide a mobile interface for store associates so they can locate out of stock items for a customer at another location, and provide better cross-sell and up-sell recommendations.
In short, an Order Management system is an essential component of modern omni-channel fulfillment operations.
May 17, 2017 by Jim Bengier, Chief Customer Officer
“We’re out of stock at the moment, but I can ship it to your home.” – Enabling store associates to recover from out of stocks is one of 5 great ways to recoup your Order Management investment.
he heart of any omni-channel strategy is order management. But, implementing an omni-channel strategy designed to meet the customer’s expectations while making money can be a challenge. The customer continues to demand more for less. According to a recent PwC and JDA Software survey, only 10% of retail CEOs say they are able to make a profit while fulfilling omni-channel demand (you can read more here). Where is the Return on Investment (ROI)?
Here are 5 ways a retailer can achieve a positive ROI with Order Management:
Regardless of the retailer, out of stock inventory is always an issue. An automated capability to locate, reserve, fulfill and restock inventory, not only increases revenue for lost sales, but increases customer loyalty. As retailers add channels the placement of inventory becomes more difficult. Predicting supply and demand across different channels regardless of the planning and allocation tool is a huge challenge. These issues can be mitigated when an associate can find the merchandise, and reserve it, or have it delivered to the customer, regardless of where the transaction originated. The inventory visibility by location is one of the greatest attributes of order management. Fulfilling from an overstocked store reduces markdowns and increases revenue.
Many companies, such as Walmart, take orders online and ship the merchandise to the store for pickup. Having the customer visit the store for pickup results in an additional 25-35% increase in the purchase. This revenue increase, along with a transportation decrease (as the merchandise can be shipped on the usual DC-to-store truck), results in a strong ROI. With an order management solution, it is possible to aggregate store replenishment inventory with online orders. At the DC, the customer pickup order can be clearly marked and identified for staging versus store stock.
In many cases, the customer wants to see or try on their merchandise before completing the transaction. But, they don’t want to make the trip to the store unless the item of interest is available in store. CEOs surveyed said 51% of their companies plans to allow customers to buy online and pick up in-store in 2017, up from 47% last year. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, omni-channel shoppers who engage with retailers through online and offline channels spend 4% more, on average, every time they visit a brick-and-mortar store, and spend 10% more when shopping online. Order management provides the tool to orchestrate the demand in the store for pickup. This capability adds fulfillment flexibility while leveraging store inventory driving up return on assets.
On average retailers have an 8% return rate. Retailers selling shoes, apparel, and electronics have anywhere from 10-17% rate. In the PwC and JDA survey, 75% of respondents said their online operating costs are increasing because of costs related to omni-channel returns. And 77%% said customer returns were eroding profits. Since customers expect free returns, profits can be diminished by 10-20% per year. Order management provides the store with customer history so that the associate knows the customer. A good associate can turn a negative experience into a positive one by offering the customer a complementary item to something they may already own. They also can reduce fraud by having a complete view of the customer’s transaction.
Many retailers are looking to use their stores to compete against Amazon. Their stores have become fulfillment centers or mini distribution centers for online orders. This process is an extension to the BOPIS process as an associate not only picks the merchandise, but they also ship it to the customer. Order management is the tool that provides the capability to pick, process, confirm the order for payment. The store uses order management much like a distribution center would use a warehouse management solution. But, it goes one step further by providing complete access and visibility to the order status. The customer knows what is happening at all times. BOSFS is a transportation savings tool by having the stores closest to the customer fulfill rather than paying shipping from the distribution center.
Using order management for these 5 business models, delivers ROI by having inventory visibility, leverage inventory, fulfill profitably, increase revenue and customer loyalty, and reduce shipping costs.
May 12, 2017 by Nicola Kinsella, Director of Marketing
High inventory carrying costs can be offset by Ship from Store, which lets you leverage inventory across all your locations, but first you need complete inventory visibility.
uccess starts with the right tools to enable your business to grow and thrive. Your eCommerce platform lets you take orders online. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system helps you manage inventory. Your Warehouse Management System (WMS) lets you manage warehouse tasks efficiently. And if you have retail stores, a Point of Sale (POS) system powers your checkout. So what’s missing?
The system that ties them all together. Not just by joining them (like an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)) but an intelligent system that optimizes every order. One that lets you provide a superior customer experience so you can delight your customers and inspire repeat purchases. It’s an order management system. Let ‘s look at 7 signs you might need one…
Warehouses, stores, third party logistics companies. You could have inventory in many places. But most systems aren’t designed to track inventory across locations. Luckily an order management system excels at this task. It’s designed to integrate with all your other systems and provide you with a single view of inventory across all your locations.
If you have physical stores and an online store, this is key. If you let your customers return online purchases in store, you have an opportunity to convert the return into an exchange. Or sell them something else. It’s a great way to offset the cost of returns. But only if the process is easy and convenient.
Are your stores ever out of stock? That’s lost revenue. But what if your store employees could locate that out of stock item elsewhere? It could be in another store or in a warehouse. Chances are, if you can find it, and either reserve it for your customer or ship it to them, chances are you can save the sale.
If you’re struggling with delivery costs or speed, order management can help. As online orders come in, it routes them to the most optimal location. If speed is important it sends the order to the closest location to the customer (and can enable Ship from Store). If delivery cost is a concern, it routes the order via the cheapest method.
If you can reduce the capital tied up in inventory it can be used for other growth initiatives. There are two ways Order Management can help. It can enable Ship from Store, so you can leverage store inventory to fulfill online orders. Or route orders directly to drop ship vendors so you eliminate inventory handling costs as well. You define the business rules, then Order Management automatically sources inventory from the location with the most inventory or slowest moving inventory. This can also help you minimize markdowns. What does that mean?
Say you get an online order for a shirt. The shirt is generally very popular. But in one store sales are low, which typically means you’ll have to mark it down to move the inventory. But an order management system is smart. Instead of routing the online order to your warehouse, it sends the order to the store with excess inventory. Which means less markdowns.
As you expand globally the ability to route orders from cheapest or fastest location, or from the location that provides the fastest route through customs, is essential. An Order Management system houses the business rules that enable this to happen as each order is placed.
If inventory visibility, omnichannel commerce, or global expansion are part of your growth strategy, let’s talk. We’ll share case studies and consumer data to help you build a business case for Order Management.
May 9, 2017 by The Bridge Solutions Group Team
The ability to completely erase customer data across all systems is just one of many GDPR compliance considerations.
ay 25, 2018 is the enforcement date for the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation. Given that penalties could be 10-20 million euros or 2-4% of global revenue (whichever is higher), any company that sells to, or otherwise processes the personal data of EU citizens, needs to ensure compliance.
Fortunately, IBM OMS is structured in a way that provides many compliance options. Depending on how your organization’s Data Protection Officer decides to comply with GDPR (and any other data protection obligations), you may want to consider the following:
Hosting & Deployment
3rd Party Vendors
Time is short. With the deadline less than year away, and the risk of penalties is high, you need to act now so you’ll have enough time to:
With deep expertise in IBM OMS, global deployment management, and complex system integrations, Bridge solutions Group is uniquely positioned to assist you.
Contact Us to learn more.
May 1, 2017 by The Bridge Solutions Group Team
The true power of a distributed order management application comes from the integration of information across multiple channels. While the Sales Order might be the central focus, just as important are inventory visibility, and integration with external services such as tax solutions and credit card processing services.
Below is a list of the 9 most common order management integrations:
There are certainly more Distributed Order Management System integrations, but these are the ones that we see as core. Once you’ve defined your integrations, how do you integrate optimally?
Optimal Integration Considerations
How you integrate depends on many factors, but you may want to consider the following:
If you’re not sure of the best order management integration strategy for your business, we’d be happy to conduct an Order Management Integration Assessment. Simply complete the form below.
January 28, 2017 by Nicola Kinsella, Director of Marketing
Are you confident you can deliver orders on time, every time? No? You’re not alone. Manufacturers, distributors, and 3PLs from around the world share this challenge with you. In fact it’s just one of the 5 common challenges our B2B customers face every day. What are the others? Let’s look at the full list:
1. On-time Delivery
In the B2C world, late deliveries leave customers disgruntled. But often a simple coupon, worth only a few dollars, can save the relationship. When it comes to B2B the stakes are much higher.
Failure to meet your order promise dates can result in chargebacks or, worse, canceled contracts. And because a single customer can be worth a significant percentage of your business, this can be catastrophic.
But on-time delivery is a symptom. Let’s look at some of the causes…
2. Inventory Visibility
When it comes to fulfilling orders, the ability to see all your inventory, across all locations, is key. You also need to see which inventory can be delivered on time based on delivery times and the customer’s location.
Without this visibility, you’ll lose orders, or fail to meet your order promise dates, which leads to chargebacks and penalties. But that’s just part of the story.
The most efficient businesses can see ‘on-hand’ inventory across all locations and ‘inbound in-transit’ inventory as well. This gives you a larger pool of inventory to allocate to each order. Which brings us to the next challenge…
3. Inventory Allocation
Say Customer A places an order to be delivered next week. You allocate ‘on-hand’ inventory to that order. Great!
Now Customer B places an order that needs to be delivered the next day – just one problem – you don’t have enough ‘on-hand’ inventory to fulfill both orders. Now imagine if you could see ‘inbound in-transit’ inventory’…
You could allocate the ‘inbound in-transit’ inventory to Customer A, who doesn’t need delivery until next week, and the ‘on-hand’ inventory to Customer B, thereby fulfilling both orders… and saving the sale.
But if you’re really looking for fulfillment efficiency, you’d have a system that could allocate and reallocate inventory automatically. Not just based on customer orders, but supply chain delays that impact delivery. Why? Because it will help you more accurately address the next challenge…
4. Meet Order Response SLAs
While not every customer has order response SLAs, the big ones do. And just like failure to make on-time deliveries, penalties for violations can be severe.
Canceled orders, or canceled contracts all loom large when dealing with large customers. So how fast do they need responses to their orders?
We have B2B customers who need to respond to orders in 8 seconds or less. That’s fast. And the response needs to indicate whether they can fulfill an order, by when, and at what price. Which leads us to our 5th common challenge…
5. Complex order configuration and pricing
Order complexity takes many forms:
And here’s something you may not have considered…
We have one customer, a distributor, that varies prices based on the time of day an order is placed. This incentivizes customers to order at low volume times of the day, which helps them better manage their work flow. Could you benefit from more flexible pricing models?
B2B businesses face many order management challenges, but there are solutions that can help you increase your operational efficiency. So, if you can relate to any of the challenges above let’s talk!
Filed under: Order Management