Order management is the process of tracking orders placed by your business’s clients and managing the necessary fulfillment processes for them. The most effective business-to-business order management solutions allow you to adopt multichannel or omnichannel strategies within your business. That means you can accept orders wherever your customers are browsing and buying while processing them in line with your unique workflows and practices. So whether customers submit orders online, over the phone, via EDI, or in person, you’ll easily gain an overview of them all. And if you’re a hybrid B2B and B2C business, your systems should also capture sales from other platforms that your retail customers use, such as Amazon, eBay, and brick-and-mortar stores. Let’s standard steps in order fulfillment, highlighting B2B-specific processes and challenges along the way. Then we discuss different software systems involved in the order fulfillment process and special use cases for manufacturers and businesses selling services. On a high level, order processing includes the following general steps:
- Customer places an order in person, by phone, via email, or through online selling channels such as eCommerce site, partner website, or Amazon, for example. This action generates the sales order.
- In some B2B businesses, orders must go through an automated or, sometimes, manual validation process.
- An order notification is sent.
- Next, the sales order is routed to the warehouse for fulfillment. If a business operates several fulfillment houses or 3rd party logistics (3PL) warehouses, the order management system should route orders to the most cost-effective location for processing.
- The warehouse processes the order Order pickers locate every item at the warehouse, pull products from the shelf, and move them to a packing and shipping station. As the order is fulfilled, the available inventory amounts are adjusted. If an item isn’t available, the order management system helps with backorder management by notifying the warehouse manager, sales rep, and customer of the backorder situation.
The order is packed and prepped for pickup by the courier or pickup in-store. The system notifies the customer that the shipment is on the way and provides tracking information and fulfillment details. The sales order is then converted to a sales invoice. That may be done automatically or manually by the accounting department.
The customer may pay for the merchandise at the time of order or pay on extended terms. Either way, the transaction must be recorded by the ERP or accounting software to post revenue and calculate the cost of goods and profit. The customer order history is updated as well.
The final step in order management may include a notification that the order has been delivered. That provides an excellent opportunity to collect feedback through user reviews or invite the customer to contact the support department if they have any questions or concerns. The order processing happens in reverse to manage returns and refunds. You can configure the Ecommerce system to perform several automated order validation steps.
Due to the complexity of B2B business, that may not be enough in some cases, and order needs to go through a manual validation process by salespeople or customer support.
Large orders may require additional approval. The order processing department may need to consult manufacturing to confirm availability and delivery date for build-to-order products. A salesperson can contact the customer to clarify the order, suggest some replacement product, discuss delivery time, or if an order needs to be split into multiple shipments.
Building such steps in the order workflow is vital for selling complex products confidently online. Suppose an order is modified during that stage. In that case, it is important to notify the customer and update it in the Ecommerce system so correct information is displayed in the self-service area. Because of the two-step validation process, you may need to send two order confirmation emails. The first confirms receiving the order, while the second informs the customer that the order is accepted.
Learn more about B2B Order processing with the course Digital Commerce for B2B Business