The Convergence Question
By Bill Spaide
Need a seamless interface from e-commerce through order management to physical fulfillment? Here's how to get it.
Online retail sales continue their year-over-year surge. Web consumers' expectations for the range of services and ease of online shopping also are increasing. As a result, Web and fulfillment technology solutions available to direct commerce marketers have undergone several changes during the last few years.
What's been happening, why, and how can you take advantage of these noted trends to improve your multichannel sales and customer service efforts? In this article, I'll look at how converged software solutions are impacting multichannel operations.
From Disparate to Converged Solutions
Once there were only fragmented technology solutions with separate Web store and order management system (OMS) applications that were, at best, loosely integrated with daily batch interfaces. Or worse, they weren't integrated at all: Web orders had to be manually re-entered into a back-end OMS.
But in recent months, those involved in the software and services marketplace that supports the direct commerce industry have been busily evolving the sophistication of their technology and range of functionality. Specifically, they've begun to converge the Web, retail and fulfillment technology offerings available to you.
Today, you can find tightly integrated e-commerce, OMS and distribution-related solutions. For the most part, these solutions are the result of Web developers, software suppliers and third-party fulfillment organizations partnering to provide a bundled, best-in-breed, Web-to-warehouse, outsourced offering. Previously, your only option was to establish separate relationships with each of the suppliers, a process that often required you to manage the implementation, integration and ongoing operations of multiple service organizations that provide essential support. The new bundled arrangement affords you a fundamentally simpler and more seamless approach to managing e-commerce operations.
At the same time, responding to multichannel marketers' demands, several direct commerce software suppliers have established relationships with leading retail technology companies. As a result, they've been able to extend their application offerings beyond the direct channel and into multichannel solutions that support traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.