Posted by Matt Rhodus, Retail Vertical Marketing Expert for NetSuite

In today's omnichannel world, customers expect the same level of service whether they buy something online or in the store. They want helpful product information, near-real-time product availability, and the ability to check on the status of an order or return. Unfortunately, many retailers fall short of customer expectations because their disconnected back-end processes for inventory and order management prevent them from seeing where inventory exists across a diverse back-office network.

For years, many retailers left their legacy order management processes intact as “something for the warehouse to worry about.” Instead, they invested in customer-facing initiatives such as dynamic ecommerce storefronts, smart in-store merchandising, social media and CRM for personalized marketing. As those elements become virtual commodities, it’s the back-office order and inventory management that’s emerging as a make-or-break factor for omnichannel success.

Below are four ways retailers can leverage order management to deliver a true omnichannel experience to customers.

Put all inventory in a sellable position. It’s not uncommon for a retailer to have multiple warehouses, with some committed to ecommerce inventory and others for physical store stock. The retailer may also rely on third-party distribution centers and drop-shipments from manufacturers. In-store inventory is another resource, but it typically remains locked in the store, unavailable to other channels, including other stores.

Omnichannel order management provides retailers visibility into all of these inventory locations and orchestrates any-to-any fulfillment. With a consolidated view of all products, a retailer can easily fulfill the order from any location.

Sharpen your marketing with rich customer insights. Order management and CRM have traditionally been standalone systems. An integrated solution, however, enables customer transactions and interactions logged in both systems to be combined and mined for deeper insight into customer behaviors. With this richer pool of data, retailers can create more effective personalized marketing campaigns.

Make fulfillment fast and efficient. Legacy order management often uses batch processing, which hurts fulfillment efficiency. With omnichannel order management, retailers shave hours and days from delivery times by routing orders in real time to the warehouse nearest to the customer, thus providing rapid delivery at reduced costs.

Empower customers with self-service. Order management integrated with your ecommerce site and shipping partners provides customers with online order details, payment methods, returns and shipping status. By extending order management to call centers and point of sale systems, agents and store associates also have up-to-date information to satisfy customer inquiries.

Bottom line: retailers that can abandon yesterday’s channel-specific strategies and merge their applications together with order management at the center will be well positioned for success as omnichannel demands continue to rise.