Last year I needed an extravagant sports jacket for an event I was attending. The jacket needed to be gold.
At any rate I decided to do what any logical consumer would do — search for "gold sports jacket" on Google. As you can imagine the search results were, well — interesting. From Macy’s to Amazon to some sketchy-looking ecommerce sites, all ends of the spectrum were being displayed.
After searching for a few minutes, I found one that appealed to me and that was also in my size. The ecommerce product page said it was "in stock" and would ship same day so I decided to make the purchase as I needed it seven days from then.
What's Up With My Gold Jacket!
About two or three days went by and I realized I hadn’t received any shipment update from the business, so I returned to the site, logged into my account, and saw that my order hadn’t shipped. As I proceeded to contact customer support, they indicated that the gold sports jacket was no longer in stock and asked if I wanted to order another color (as if a gold jacket wasn’t specific enough). I declined, asked for a refund, and had lost valuable time that I needed to receive my jacket for the event I was attending.
This age-old tale likely has happened to you as well. Since being able to purchase on the internet, we all have experienced the above situation at least once in our lives. Frustrating? Yes. Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No, not really.
The reason this isn’t surprising lies in prescribed, trained behavior that all of us as consumers have learned through purchasing products from maybe the most important digital experience company of the last 20 years.
Yep, you guessed it — Amazon.
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Amazon Set the Bar in Customer Experience. Time to Compete
Amazon has built an empire on maybe the most simplistic customer experience idea, yet almost impossible to achieve 100% perfection on — ecommerce orders being delivered on time. Oh, and by the way, they have been able to create a business model that fosters consumers to pay yearly membership fees (Prime) to receive products FASTER than on time.
As we look forward to 2022 and beyond and the most important area of your business I’d recommend investing in (thanks to Amazon) is accurate inventory, delivery and fulfillment expectations for your consumers. Sure, how a product detail page looks is important. Sure, giving customers guest checkout is important. Sure, personalization within site content and workflows is important.
But none of that is worth its weight in gold (Editor's note: pun intended?) unless customers KNOW when they will receive their order. In the example I mentioned above with my gold jacket, my trust with that company is gone, and I’ll never use them again. How could I? They lied to me!
So, the million-dollar question — How can you implement this in your business and compete against Amazon?
Here are three ways to get you on the path of "inventory transparency bliss" that will dazzle your customers and allow you to compete against the Amazons of the world?
1. OMS, OMS, OMS
OMS stands for Order Management System. This piece of software typically integrates with your ERP, CRM as well as your ecommerce platform. Think of an OMS as the order orchestration behind the scenes and the brain of how your orders get delivered to your customers.
OMS systems allow your business and employees to pivot orders based upon geography, profitability and time to delivery. This is a foundational essential to providing exceptional customer experience in the realm of order fulfillment.
2. Omnichannel Transparency
Once you are or have been leveraging an OMS system, make sure to offer your inventory and delivery transparency in ALL channels that your customers desire. Specifically, in all channels where commerce occurs.
It’s important to give consumers options as well. As we have seen with Prime, consumers will in fact pay more for faster delivery services. It’s all about setting expectations and being true to your word, and if you can’t be true to your word — i.e., there’s a problem with a customer's order — letting them know in advance and providing them options for faster delivery with different products or services.
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3. Flip the Script on the Amazons
Take advantage of what the Amazons of the world can’t, and flip the script on them.
Have retail storefronts today? Turn these stores into mini fulfillment centers where employees can pick orders and ship to customers’ homes.
Have a lot of foot traffic at these retail stores? Offer "buy online pickup in store" and "buy online pickup curbside."
Looking to increase profitability, customer LTV and reduce customer service call times? Implement OMS administrative dashboards that give employees the flexibility to provide answers faster, pivot orders and exceed customer expectations — in real-time.
So What's Amazon's Big Secret Anyway?
Amazon’s secret isn’t its onsite experiences. Its product detail pages are filled with exorbitant amounts of content. Its design elements are dated. Its checkout flows aren’t anything special. Yet why did they book nearly half a trillion dollars of revenue in 2021? People knew when they would get their order. It’s that simple.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Honesty is the best policy,” and though it may not be his most important declaration, it is the most important when it comes to achieving customer experience success in 2022 and beyond. After all, we the people deserve to know when we will receive our gold sports jacket.