Customer experience is more important than ever. Returns are a perfect example: 30% of products bought online are returned, according to the eCommerce consulting group Invesp. If the return process is a hassle, you can bet that those customers will think twice before shopping with you again.
An Order Management System (OMS) is today's critical tool to delivering that consistently excellent customer experience. It optimizes inventory and order fulfillment, reduces errors, and gives management instant, real-time insights. But how do you know which OMS is right for you? There are so many solutions on the market, and the wrong decision can be costly and hard to disentangle.
It's useful to know that every solution on the market takes one of three fundamentally different approaches. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, so how do you know which is right for you? That depends on your current processes, organizational strengths, and business needs.
With this approach, everything is in one place—a single platform handles every part of your business. Because every feature is natively integrated into the suite, configuration is usually relatively simple. These providers generally offer a low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), as they deliver everything in a single complete platform.
It's important to balance that lower TCO against some drawbacks. Some features might be less robust than others—it's difficult for a single provider to be strong in every area. Implementation may be challenging if you’re transitioning away from multiple other systems: different data types and business processes have to be brought together on a single platform, carrying considerable risk of error. These platforms are best for younger businesses who don't yet have multiple complex systems in place.
This is the opposite approach: choose standalone systems to cover each necessary feature area, such as an enterprise ecommerce platform, Point-of-Sale, and CRM. Because each solution is designed for a specialized purpose, they're usually feature rich with little need for customization. It's a more flexible approach, as systems can be swapped out individually when needed.
There are significant drawbacks to consider here as well. Complex integrations are required to sync data across all systems. Any mistakes may cause fulfillment errors, shipping problems, and customer service headaches. This approach works well for organizations with excellent technical resources, or those that need complex, specialized features that may not be available in unified suites.
The hybrid approach relies on a centralized "middleware layer" to bring together multiple standalone systems. This layer, the Order and Inventory Platform (OIP), sits on top of existing systems, centralizing inventory, order, and customer insights. It's the fastest and cheapest route to a consistent customer experience. It's also inherently lower risk than a unified suite: existing systems aren't replaced, but instead operate in the background as the foundation for the OIP.
The hybrid approach does carry some drawbacks. It's an extra expense on top of existing solutions, so you need to be sure it will increase efficiency and deliver a concrete ROI . Integration is less complex than with the standalone approach, but still critically important. It's an excellent option for business who are looking for the increased efficiency of a centralized system without the migration risks.
A hybrid approach is usually the fastest and lowest risk route to a centralized, efficient OMS. But it's not one-size-fits-all. As we've seen, this complex decision will depend on your business model, current software, and budget.
To dig deeper into the pros and cons and critical decision-making factors, download the free whitepaper: The Expert's Guide: Unified Commerce vs. Separate Systems.