NRF Trends Report, Part 2: For the better part of the past two years we have been expecting this day to come. The day when the sheer volume of omni-channel orders has finally eclipsed retailers’ capacity to survive the hastily-designed processes and solutions they implemented in order to merely “become” omni-channel. Nowhere was this inflection point more obvious than at Retail’s BIG Show, as conversations throughout the EXPO Hall recounted the woes of too many orders less than perfect, too many experiences turned sour, and too much money spent in desperate attempts to hold these flimsy omni-channel processes together.
At Aptos, we saw the momentum building throughout 2016: everybody was talking to us about our Enterprise Order Management (EOM) capabilities, and 85 percent of new Aptos customers selected Aptos EOM to orchestrate complex omni-channel journeys.
And if NRF is any indication, the momentum is not waning – not even a little bit. Analysts, media, partners, prospects and clients alike all came to us to talk about the challenges, the struggles and the (often enormous) opportunities inherent in their order management processes and strategies.
NRF Trends Report: The Missing Link
In addition to the need to develop scalable, repeatable and reliable processes that support their enterprise order management capabilities, many retailers told us that they are also looking to be more responsive to constantly shifting – and expanding – shopper expectations.
The first wave of order management technology was fueled by solutions that focused exclusively on orchestrated networks to optimize inventory efficiency. Minimizing costs and maximizing speed were the dominant themes of the past half-decade.
Quick Google searches of many OMS vendors – even still today – will reveal marketing language that typically draws a bright red line around many of the solutions’ objectives:
- “A cross-channel order orchestration platform for today’s dynamic supply networks”
- “Orchestrate the flow of orders from anywhere in your supply network”
What’s missing from statements like these?
Go ahead…look again. Have you figured out what’s missing? The customer; that is what’s missing.
Customer-First Order Management: The Future of EOM?
I believe, as so do many of the retailers we talk to, that solving for the customer challenge is the key to unlocking the strategic opportunity inherent in order management. For more on my point of view on this topic, watch me work my “video magic” in the short film below, shot on location from our booth at NRF:
As I discussed briefly in the video, the data clearly indicates a significant opportunity to differentiate on experience. A 2016 survey from Retail Systems Research clearly identifies the opportunity:
Fewer than half of all retailers…
- Take, edit or view orders across multiple channels
- Provide internal inventory visibility across all sales channels
- Show online shoppers in-store inventory availability
- Track customer satisfaction with store fulfillment
- Track fulfillment from different location than demand
Imagine that. Here we are, in 2017, almost a decade into omni-channel everything, and half of retailers struggle with basic operational processes that support the customer experience. Sure, inventory efficiency and process optimization are critical to long-term ROI, and you can’t ignore the rising costs of order handling and routing, but those concepts quickly become irrelevant if retailers can’t deliver the options shoppers want at a price they want to pay.
The Future World Order
And so, yes, I do believe that designing customer–first EOM processes that anticipate, adapt and align to shifting customer expectations and ensure seamless experiences is the only way to consistently fulfill constantly shifting customer expectations.
But no, I do not believe that customer-first EOM technology is the future of retail order management. I believe it’s the present. And if the conversations from over 400 meetings at NRF are any evidence, I think I may be right.
Missed part one of our NRF Trends report series? Click over to see how in-store personalization was the talk of the town. On Wednesday, check out Part 3 in or NRF Trend Report series: extracting deeper value from your NRF experience.