The world of ecommerce straddles the physical and digital environments: Your "storefront" is online, you're operating out of your headquarters in Seattle and your inventory, warehouse and fulfillment center are based out of Denver. Your order management software needs to be intimately connected with all of your other systems if you're to provide your customers with a sophisticated experience while controlling your own costs and inventories. It's no easy balance to strike – and, if you're sticking with outdated order management software that you outgrew long ago, you're only complicating matters for yourself.
What Tools Are You Using, And How Do They Work?
Most small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) approach their order management strategies with one of the following tools:
- ERP Software: If you're in this category, you have an ERP solution with a built-in quoting tool or you use an external entry system that's integrated into the interface of your ERP software.
Managing quotes within a standalone ERP system is a hassle: It's cumbersome, slow and ineffective. Your ERP software may have updated information on inventory availability and product pricing, but it is incapable of generating proposals or interfacing with your sales software. This approach is disjointed and sacrifices efficiency in your quoting process.
- CRM System: You're an SMB that uses your customer relationship management system to create quotes.
Similar to ERP solutions, CRM systems are incapable of generating proposals. CRM software is also ineffective at transferring order data to the fulfillment system in place. Your ability to deliver goods and services accurately is hindered, and your customer experience suffers.
- Quoting Tools: You use a specially-designed tool to create quotes. This solution may either be a spreadsheet, database or a custom-built quoting tool.
The biggest challenge with this approach is maintaining the integrity of your product availability, descriptions and prices. It's difficult to juggle separate tools for all aspects of the sales, order and fulfillment processes without sacrificing accuracy. If the data in your quoting tool is not integrated well with all the other systems you use to run your business, you simply cannot expect effective, updated data transference throughout your company. Plus, you're sure to experience problems in back-end processing.
These disjointed, one-dimensional methods of creating quotes interfere with your ability to judge your company's performance and identify areas for improvement. It's impossible to develop a comprehensive assessment that incorporates all of your systems when they're each separate. In order to improve your productivity and your customer experience, you need to determine whether or not your processes are effective regarding quote conversion, average order size and overall cost-of-quote preparation, proposal creation and order fulfillment. Without proper reporting tools, you won’t know how you're performing in any of these areas or how to make adjustments to improve your bottom line.
What Does A Good Quote-To-Order Solution Look Like?
Your customers want a streamlined interface that makes the purchasing process easy. You want to keep your customers happy while keeping your costs down. A great order management strategy needs to fulfill both of these requirements, and it starts with automation.
The quote-to-order process tends to be the least-automated process among SMBs, yet it's one of the most critical determinants of sales and business success. Automation offers the unique opportunity to capture the collective intelligence of your entire enterprise. Ultimately, you want an integrated customer, order, invoice, fulfillment and shipping solution that eliminates error.
What Should You Do To Optimize Your Own Quote-To-Order Process?
You've determined that your order management process is no longer effective for your business. Fortunately, that means you're on the path to fixing it. How should you get started?
- Define The Characteristics
Determine what your business needs most, and configure a roadmap to judge what characteristics your quote-to-order strategy must have to make it happen. Don't be afraid to put the time and effort into doing this right: It's the foundation upon which your business management systems are built.
If, for example, you want to focus on improving the sales aspect of your business, you may come up with the following goals:
a. Lower Cost Of Sales
b. Accelerated Sales
c. Increased Sales Volume
d. Improved Accuracy Of Quotes And Proposals
- Capture Your Current Metrics
Analyze your business performance as it stands right now, and use that information as a benchmark. Set goals based on your starting point and make sure your strategy is designed properly to achieve those goals.
Once you've come up with your new strategy and established benchmarks, it's time to implement. Start using your new order management solution, analyze its performance and measure its effectiveness by determining the benefits your business is experiencing and the cost of each of those benefits. This is an ongoing process and results in tweaking of your strategy to make sure it's as effective as possible.
When it comes to your ecommerce management solution, a disjointed approach yields disjointed results. If your current quote-to-order strategy is cumbersome and fragmented, it's time to take another look. A truly comprehensive solution works wonders for your bottom line.
To learn more about the all-inclusive suite of tools that dramatically improve your business performance, contact the ecommerce experts at SMB Suite. Call 888.525.6398 or click the link below!