For third party fulfillment centers and multi-channel merchants, having an efficient order management system is a must. An OMS functions as the core of your business through which each order must pass. The first requirement of any order management system is to have the ability to enter orders. Although smaller volume merchants and vendors who take orders on the telephone would manually key orders into the system, most companies will be forced to handle orders that come from a very important source…the e-commerce shopping cart. Aside from programing a proprietary OMS system, it is inevitable that two separate pieces of resell software must function in conjunction with each other in order to achieve this important functionality.
The first step in determining how to accomplish a seamless integration is to find out what your e-commerce cart is capable of. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shopping cart solutions available today. Most offer similar functionality. Items and pricing are entered in to the cart, merchant services are configured to allow for credit cards transactions and shipping methods can be customized. But one important area that is often overlooked is the ability of the cart to export and import data while working with another software. Here are a few of the more important issues that one can run into:
Most common shopping carts have the ability to export orders in batch files. But in order to seamlessly integrate with an Order Management Software, all of the important fields must be included. Although each company should review their specific needs, here are the basic necessities:
- first name
- last name
- address 1
- address 2
- zip code
- items ordered
- quantity ordered
- shipping method
Another important factor to consider is which format the export files are created in. For years the standard has been .csv files or spreadsheets, but today .xml is the preferred file format. Most common shopping cart solutions give the user one or more file format options.
Once you have determined that your e-commerce system can export batch files in the correct format and with all of the desired fields, the next step is to figure out how the files will be transmitted. The least automated procedure is to download the export file to your machine and then upload into your OMS. But if the goal is to achieve seamless integration, an automated transmission configuration is essential. The ideal method of order transmission is using API. There are other less desirable options such as FTP.
Once an order has been submitted into your OMS and the order has been packed and shipped, what happens next? The order is sitting in your shopping cart with “open” or “processing” status and you have a tracking number sitting in your order management system. Now the OMS must send back a shipment confirmation notification to the e-commerce cart (also known as the “handshake”). This step should change the order status to “closed” or “shipped”, populate the order with the correct tracking number and close out the credit card transaction. Most importantly, this step should also trigger an email to the end customer with tracking information. This makes the shipment confirmation a very important requirement of any potential e-commerce partner. Without this step, your OMS system must trigger the shipment confirmation email to your end user. The ship confirm process also create a redundant check on verifying that each order was shipped correctly since, without it, you will need to manually close the order in your cart
Some shopping carts allow for an automated inventory feed which updates regularly. This allows the cart to access the counts in your OMS and apply the data to your site. This can help you stop orders from being placed for items that are not in stock. This characteristic is extremely important for merchants that maintain a lot of items that often go into back order.
It is inevitable, with any product that you ship out, that you will receive returns. When someone sends back an order it will be received by your warehouse. The standard procedure is to enter the return back in your OMS. This will allow you to automatically return unused items to inventory and send used or damaged items to the damaged bin. It also should allow you to initiate the refund process. If you have configured your operation so that the credit card transaction takes place in the shopping cart you will need your OMS to transmit any refund requests back to the cart for processing. This task can be accomplished manually but as with any operating procedure, automation is always best. Make sure and check out this functionality before choosing a shopping cart to work with.