Ernie Schell

Ernie Schell
What Omnichannel Retailers Need to Know When Choosing an OMS

An order management system is a critical resource for omnichannel retailers who sell merchandise that they ship from either their own warehouse or via a third-party service bureau or logistics provider. To take full advantage of all their benefits, however, you need to make a strategic decision about which OMS is right for your organization. Here are some tips to help with that process. 

A Systems Overview

In part 1 of this two-part series from our August issue, we classified e-commerce systems into four essential groups: bundled suites, enterprise leaders, niche players and experienced multichannel partners.

A Systems Overview

Until recently, selecting the optimum e-commerce platform for a multichannel business was a race to keep up with evolving technologies. The applications morphed at such blinding speed that the needs and requirements you defined when selecting your system easily could be obsolete by the time that system was up and running. Today's technology isn't evolving any slower — if anything, the pace of e-commerce change continues to accelerate. But the main differentiators among systems these days are less in the features and functions they support than the services they offer, flexibility, scalability, technical support, and the vendors' approach to charging for licenses or services. In short, your biggest challenge in selecting a platform may be determining which provider will be your best business partner going forward.

Technology Focus Part 1 To Host or Not To Host?

By Ernie Schell What is "software?" The easy answer is a computer program designed to execute one or more specified functions. But in 2006, the reality is that there is no easy answer. Over the past five years, there's been a revolution in the so-called "software as a service" (SaaS) arena. This is something of a throwback to the 1970s and before, when a centralized mainframe served selected views of software programs to a user's "dumb terminal." The terminals were "dumb" because they did no computing. You entered data into the interface and the mainframe did the

The Drill Down

How your operations and marketing efforts can benefit from statistical analysis and modeling. Forgive me if I generalize for a minute. There are two approaches to marketing analysis: the arithmetic and the statistical. The Arithmetic Approach Sometimes called “descriptive analytics,” this is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, depending on a spreadsheet and the sweat of your brow. Extracting a season’s sales from your transaction system to your spreadsheet, you can determine the following: - percent response, by dividing your number of orders by your mail quantity per segment; - average order value, by dividing your gross sales by your number of orders per segment; -

When You Need More Than Clickstream Data

“Data, data everywhere” could be the cry of the merchant who selects a Web Analytics solution without understanding the commitment it requires from technical, marketing, merchandising and other staff. The same lament might come from selecting a solution that’s not optimized for e-commerce or for a user’s special needs related to Web site optimization. In the long run, it’s better to have realistic expectations of what you want to use a Web Analytics solution for. Like many companies, Gardener’s Supply tried several Web Analytics solutions before settling on its current application: Omniture. But the merchant’s experience taught it to be realistic about how

How to Determine if You Need a Warehouse Management System

When catalog order management systems were first developed in the 1970s, they were designed to manage all aspects of catalog operations: from order entry, customer service and customer database management to response analysis, inventory management, purchasing, fulfillment, and returns. Thirty years later, they still are, which is why so many direct merchants can run their businesses on these applications without a need to add specialized solutions for things like warehouse management. Some companies, however, find their catalog management systems don’t provide the flexibility or sophistication they need to address their inventory or fulfillment challenges. For them, a warehouse management system (WMS) is a necessary

Tools for Merchandise Forecasting

Merchandise forecasting systems exist in a world unto themselves. And yet they’re basic tools that any mid-to-large-sized cataloger needs to compete successfully. Still, few catalog executives choose to make the investment in such solutions. In most cases, this reluctance is caused by two factors. On the one hand, no one in the company may “own” the issue of making strategic inventory decisions. Merchants may make product selections, buyers decide whom to purchase from, marketers determine price points, and inventory managers must find a place to store the items or arrange for drop shipment. Yet no one takes full responsibility for determining exactly how

13 Pitfalls to Avoid When Acquiring an Order Management System

Selecting and implementing a new order management system can be a daunting process. After all, this is a mission-critical suite of applications that can make or break your business. There are dozens of potential solutions and never enough time — or so it seems — to attend to all the details. There’s also the issue of technophobia. And sorting out the real from the hype in your technology options is unquestionably a tough challenge, even if you’re trying to keep up with the changes in this fast-paced field. Often the best way to achieve a successful outcome is to learn from the

Your Options in Order Management Systems

Catalogers use a remarkable variety of systems to manage their businesses. Accounting software packages such as QuickBooks do the job at many smaller catalogers, while larger companies have done well with a package like Great Plains, often using the services of a value-added reseller to customize the system to meet their specific needs. Some order-management packages function as companions to an accounting system. For instance, OrdersPlus works with the BestWorks accounting suite from Best Software. The Everest system from iCode also falls into that category (several iCode systems are derived from an accounting/manufacturing foundation). Other catalogers have adapted enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems,

Technology: How to Assess Catalog Systems

Selecting enterprise software such as large-scale systems for order management, customer database management, warehouse management and fulfillment is a lot like getting married. Impulse relationships, or hasty choices made on the rebound, may be successful, but the odds are significantly against it. Even those marriages based on true love, appreciation of real personalities and full knowledge of one another’s strengths and weaknesses require ongoing maintenance to succeed. While a good marriage is based on love, a fulfilling relationship requires that you like your partner, too. Similarly, you may love your computer system, but if you don’t actually like the vendor who produces it,

Integrate Your E-commerce Solutions

Long after the Internet bubble burst, e-commerce is alive and well for direct marketers and is the fastest-growing direct commerce sales channel. Catalog companies have three options for managing the dynamic online marketing environment. An Independent Adjunct At one extreme, a catalog’s e-commerce operation can stand alone as a totally independent adjunct to the traditional enterprise. Although it may share some of the same merchandise, it also may feature items that are not in the catalog. When it does offer catalog items, they may be only a subset of the full catalog line. In this extreme scenario, no effort is needed to

How to Select a Payment Processor

If you’re shopping for a direct commerce payment processor, you’ll have a bit of homework to do. Following are some tools that can help get the job done quickly and efficiently. What to Look for When selecting a payment-processing partner, determine the data-transmission protocols and transmission gateways it accepts and with which it works. For high-volume batch transmissions, bisynchronous communications are preferable to asynchronous; that is, you can transmit your authorization requests and deposit data, then get approvals and deposit confirmations back from the processor—all in a single phone call. Asynchronous batch transmissions work like a CB or walkie-talkie: One party transmits, then

Selecting the Right Fulfillment Software (766 words)

Six Steps to Selecting the Right Fulfillment Software By Ernie Schell More than three dozen software applications are on the market for managing order entry and fulfillment for catalog companies. With that kind of variety, choosing the catalog management system that is best for your company can be confusing unless you approach the challenge with a structured plan. Try these six steps: 1. Establish systems objectives and priorities. There are lots of reasons for acquiring a new system: managing increased capacity, improving customer service, introducing new business methods (such as continuity shipments), lowering processing costs, improving inventory efficiency, reducing paperwork, supporting better e-commerce