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3 Ways Artificial Intelligence Improves Omnichannel Order Fulfillment

By Lori Angalich | Wed, Mar 21, 2018

Omnichannel commerce brings new challenges to order fulfillment. Think of all the channels your customers use to shopyour website, online marketplaces, stores, paging through a catalog, or calling your contact center.

Add in all your inventory locations—including DCs, warehouses, fulfillment partners, and retail locationsand you may run into difficulty fulfilling orders as flawlessly as customers expect. All the order touchpoints such as point-of-sale systems, contact centers, and e-commerce platforms need to sync with your order, inventory, warehouse, shipping, and reporting systems. Otherwise, orders may need to be canceled or delayed, which affects customer loyalty and chips away at profitability.

Flexibility is key when it comes to omnichannel order fulfillment and order management systems that enable it. Static business rules—such as a customer located in California should receive products from the nearest fulfillment center in Arizona— no longer makes sense when inventory is sourced from retail locations as well.  Now, you also need to consider the store inventory, as well as the demand for a product in that geographic area.

That same customer, located in Northern California, orders a popular product online that sells out quickly in the retail store in his area. Instead of shipping from the store in his area that has low inventory (and risking losing an in-store sale as a result of being out of stock), artificial intelligence can determine that it’s better to ship the product from a store in an area that isn’t experiencing the same level of demand.

Sound confusing? It can be. But this is the next generation of order management and fulfillment, which uses artificial intelligence and cognitive capabilities to determine the best source for items and ship them in the most profitable way possible. These capabilities can transform the way orders are fulfilledreducing costs and increasing profitability, while ensuring customers are happy. Here are a few examples of how this works.

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Choosing the Right Order Management System for Great Customer Experiences

By Lori Angalich | Wed, Mar 07, 2018

It’s no secret that customers expect a seamless and personalized experience, whether interacting with a company via a mobile device, computer, in-store, or on the phone with a customer service representative.  As consumers (and B2B customers) ourselves, we have little—if any—patience for inconsistent information and impersonal interactions.   

This not only applies to our shopping and purchasing experiences, but to our post-purchase experience as well:  timeliness and accuracy of order status updates, if our order was delivered or available for pick up as promised, the quality of our interactions with representatives, and the ease of returning items.

Sounds obvious, but if you’re reading this blog post, you understand that meeting these expectations consistently is no small feat. Delivering flawless omnichannel shopping and post-purchase experiences can be exceedingly complex from technology, process, and training perspectives—especially for companies with multiple business models and brands, multiple marketplaces, a large number of items, and numerous store locations, warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment partners. 

An omnichannel order management system (OMS) can play an essential role in meeting these expectations.  Today’s sophisticated order management and fulfillment systems are capable of much more than capturing an order through and sending it to a back-end system for processing.  Some can meet a wide range of customer demands, orchestrate order fulfillment across channels, facilitate an experience that engenders customer loyalty, and assist in maximizing profits for the company as well. In addition, these systems can provide critical business data to better inform decisions surrounding merchandising, returns, inventory, marketing, and other functions. 

Most likely, if you are selling products online, you are already employing some sort of an order management system. It might be part of your ecommerce platform, ERP, or CRM system—or perhaps a home-grown, proprietary solution. However, as you may have recognized, these systems often fall short of meeting customer expectations.

If this is the case—and you want to improve the customer experience by leaps and bounds—consider some of the most critical components of an omnichannel order management system as you evaluate your options.  Here are some questions you should be asking.

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8 Great Reasons to Attend IBM Think 2018

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Feb 15, 2018

Did you know that IBM merged a number of their top conferences—Interconnect, Amplify, World of Watson, Edge, and Connect—into one in 2018?  If you haven’t already heard about it, IBM Think is IBM’s new flagship business and technology conference, taking place March 19–22, 2018 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

It’s a global event where over 40,000 business and technology innovators, leaders, and thinkers will gather in one place to share ideas, discuss topics like Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Supply Chain, Blockchain, Omnichannel Commerce, Data Analytics, Integration, Security, IoT, and more—and enjoy some exceptional networking, entertainment, and fun along the way.  

While there are many reasons to attendincluding a few mentioned in the video belowyou may be most interested in reading the highlights so that you can make plans quickly (the event is just weeks away). So, as someone who has attended quite a few conferences over the years, I’ll share in this post what I believe are some of the best reasons to attend. These are in no particular order.

 

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10 Great Reasons to Attend IBM Amplify 2017

By Lori Angalich | Wed, Mar 01, 2017

IBM Amplify 2017 is one of the year's most anticipated events for eCommerce, marketing and supply chain professionals who want to leverage the latest technologies to improve customer experiences, engagement, acquisition, and loyalty.  

This year's event is bound to be best yet. It will be held in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand from Monday, March 20 through Wednesday, March 22. Once again, Lightwell will be an IBM Amplify sponsor, will be participating in Solution Expo, and will be presenting in multiple breakout sessions.  For those of you planning to attend IBM Interconnect, you'll recognize that the conference is happening at the same time, just a couple of properties away. 

While there are so many reasons that we enjoy attending the IBM Amplify conference, we wanted to share 10 of our favorites for 2017 (in no particular order).

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Omnichannel Order Orchestration: Increase Visibility, Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Jul 28, 2016

Q&A with Alora Chistiakoff, Director of Commerce Services at Lightwell

We caught up with Alora Chistiakoff to discuss the challenges retailers are facing and the best practices around omnichannel order management and fulfillment. Here is a summary of what we discussed. 

  • What are the challenges to fulfilling orders across multiple locations?

Alora:  For retailers, there’s rarely one single source of truth for inventory information. There’s inventory from the store (in a POS), warehouse (in a WMS), drop ship inventory (in purchase orders), in-transit, on-order, on-demand, etcetera. To accurately understand fulfillment options, all of these pieces must be brought together into a single source, such as an order management system.

The real-time nature of this information is particularly important for retailers. A given warehouse might not be able to fulfill an order during a morning wave, but could put everything in place to ship the order later that afternoon.

They must quickly decide which is more important: getting the order out from the closest distribution center in the afternoon, or sending it in the morning from a location farther away at a higher shipping cost. Having sophisticated order orchestration capabilities is critical for this.

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Are you ready to “Outthink Ordinary” at IBM Amplify?

By Julie Baker | Thu, May 05, 2016

The annual event IBM describes as an opportunity to “learn new ways to understand your customers, turn insight into action, and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary” is swooping into Tampa from May 16-18. Lightwell is thrilled to be part of creating that opportunity. Will you be there?

If you aren’t registered yet, check out our previous blog post for the top 12 reasons to attend IBM Amplify. And if you need a couple more reasons, how about an opening keynote address by Academy Award nominee, author, and entrepreneur (don’t you just love Fabletics?), Kate Hudson, and a live performance by Grammy-nominated musical artist, Elle King!

As a Gold Sponsor of the conference this year, Lightwell is hosting a Solution Center booth (#610) and participating in two sessions. Here are the details.

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January 'Tis the Season for Retail Returns

By Julie Baker | Fri, Jan 08, 2016

Unhappy Returns

If you’re like most of us, you’re still picking pine needles out of the corners of your family room (if you’ve even taken down your tree, that is), scraping dripped candle wax off your furniture, and you have at least one shopping bag filled with presents to return that weren’t quite right.

Maybe you thought you ordered Women’s size 8 slippers for your 16-year old daughter, but you actually received Men’s size 11. And since you ordered online, now you have to package it up, print out a label, call UPS, etc., etc. Not that I’d know anything about that sort of mistake…

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Forrester Picks B2B Order Management Winners

By Julie Baker | Fri, Dec 18, 2015

Delivering great B2B customer experiences across channels is a hot topic these days—but without the right technology solutions to bridge the gap between front-office and fulfillment operations, it can be extremely challenging for B2B companies to achieve.

An order management system can play a critical role in harmonizing and optimizing customer- facing processes across a fragmented application landscape.  Without the right order management system, many B2B businesses are unable to support their customers’ growing demands for the streamlined, seamless purchasing experience they already enjoy with their B2C transactions.

So, how do you know what to look for in an order management solution?  A very reliable source of guidance is Forrester Research. Forrester recently released a new report, The Forrester Wave™: B2B Order Management, Q4 2015.

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Top Reasons to Attend the IBM Commerce Learning Academy in Dublin, Ireland

By Lightwell | Tue, Oct 06, 2015

We’re getting excited about the upcoming IBM Commerce Learning Academy 2015 event in Dublin, Ireland October 13-16. In fact, Lightwell is a Silver Sponsor of this year’s event.

Recently, when a couple of our customers asked us whether or not they should attend, unsurprisingly we responded (enthusiastically) that they should.  We thought we would share some of the reasoning behind this in this post.

Education and Insight

The IBM Commerce Learning Academy agenda has something for everyone--business and technical, deep dive and strategic level.  

For example, in the B2B integration technical sessions, presenters will share customer stories around the planning and issues involved in a B2B integration solution upgrade, as well as how your organization can handle the transformation from small scale integration to a high availability, high volume, multi-protocol environment. (See B2Bi Session 07 (B2BI S 07 in the IBM Commerce Learning Academy Technical Session Guide)).

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3 key benefits of order management systems

By Lightwell | Wed, Apr 01, 2015

Any time of year is a busy season for workers, but holiday shopping seasons come with a special set of challenges. The last month of the year sees boosted consumer demands, sending supervisors into overdrive when it comes to order management. We're now in the season to evaluate sales and trends from the 2014 holiday shopping season and ready for early preparation of production for next season.

A single misplaced item or delayed package delivery can make or break the overall experience for shoppers, so it is in managers' best interests to ensure that orders are filled and sent with accuracy and urgency. In these respects, an order management system can make all the difference.

Let's take a look at some of the benefits offered by order management software:

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