5 Tips to Help Retailers to Prepare for the Holidays

July 26th, 2016

retail holiday season

It’s July, so if you’re a retailer, it’s time to start preparing for the holiday season. Freestyle Solutions is here to help online retailers and brands survive and thrive during the busy season. Below are some tips that will help your business this holiday season.

  1. Prepare Your Website

Is your website ready for the traffic spikes the holidays can bring? Testing load time for API’s and your site’s speed is a good idea before the holiday season.

If you collect customer data or accept credit cards online, you’ll want to verify your site is PCI compliant. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

Is your website secure? Make sure your ecommerce and content management platforms have the latest updates installed and are using best security practices. If this is beyond IT team’s area of expertise, you may want to hire a security consultant to verify your website is not vulnerable to an attack. Businesses are frequently targeted during the holidays, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Is your site mobile-friendly? If it isn’t, it should be. Smartphones accounted for 45.1 percent of all shopping traffic online in the first quarter of 2016 according to a study from Demandware. This is more than computers at 45 percent. Also, Google search results are affected by whether a site is responsive. In May, Google rolled out an update to mobile search results that “increases the effect” of its mobile-friendly ranking.

  1. Get Your Inventory Ready

The last thing you want to be during the holiday season is out of stock on a key item or items that is going to be the item of the entire holiday season.  Looking at trends for specific products from last year or past holiday trends for top products will help you stock the products you need, and make sure that you are never out of stock.  You can also analyze monthly or weekly sales volumes for trends. With the omnichannel landscape expanding, tying in your brick and mortar stores for in-store pick up as an option will drive the success you need for this holiday season.

  1. Figure Out Your Sales Schedule

Sure Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a given when it comes to massive sales during the holiday season, but maybe you want to consider other days during the holiday season that would help drive revenue.  It also gives shoppers a reason to come and visit your site multiple times during the holiday season. You’ll want to be a step ahead of everyone else, become the trend, don’t join the trend.

  1. Plan Your Promotions Schedule

You want to entice people to purchase something on your site, but you also want to figure out ways that will drive them to the site after the holiday season. Creating promotions is a great way to drive demand. Setting the right promotions will get people to not only increase the size of their cart, but increase the size of the sale. Also, consider running promotions for after the holidays to give shoppers a reason to come back after the holidays are over.

  1. Get Your Seasonal Help Up to Speed

Having enough help to manage the spike in your business is a critical piece to help your business survive and thrive in the holiday season. You should determine which positions are most critical and can be trained quickly. It may be workers that help pack and ship out extra boxes of merchandise or answer calls in your call center. Using a staffing firm to hire temporary workers may be the quickest way to find temporary help. Training these employees quickly and thoroughly will help reduce headaches and increase the efficiency of your business.

Is your order management system well equipped to support your holiday sales? Freestyle Solutions can help. Find out more information about our two order management system offerings.

Why is Omnichannel so hard?

July 25th, 2016

omnichannel challenges

Today, retail executives struggle with omnichannel demands and expectations. According to a report from Retail Dive, only “21 percent of retail executives are more confident now than a year ago about their company’s ability to deliver omnichannel services”.

The challenge of implementing omnichannel capabilities is so hard for many reasons. The shop-anywhere, pick-up anywhere, ship anywhere, return anywhere expectations of today’s shopper drives demands on the infrastructure of retailers and ecommerce merchants like never before.

Here are just a few of the challenges facing today’s mid-sized retailers and ecommerce merchants:


Retailers and merchants need to get different systems that were designed to operate autonomously to now interact seamlessly, as if they were one comprehensive system. Examples are many, such as warehouse management systems (WMS), designed to manage and track product procurement, receipt, storage fulfillment and shipping now needing to interact with mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems. This type of integration was never needed in the past. The POS only needed to manage the products physically present in one particular retail location, and manage the sale transaction and process the payment for the sale of those products. The WMS only needed to manage what products were ordered for delivery to the warehouse, what products were stored within the warehouse, and what products needed to be shipped from the warehouse.

Now in an omnichannel world, the POS system needs to be able to look into the warehouse to see if a product that a customer is requesting but is not available in that store is available within a warehouse or distribution center, and if it is to be able to place that order immediately and have the product picked, packed and shipped directly to the customer or to the store location to be picked up by the customer.

Employee Skill Set

Just as the software and technology infrastructure needs to change dramatically to satisfy the needs of omnichannel, so does the skill sets and behavior of the retail staff and personnel at merchants. For example, many retailers are using their retail locations as mini-warehouses, fulfilling orders that they receive via their web stores or through their call centers directly from the inventory in their retail locations. This allows them to reduce shipping costs and accelerate time to delivery, as well as reduce or eliminate the cost of centralized warehouses or distribution centers.

Now think about the retail sales teams in those stores. In addition to assisting customers and conducting in-person sales transactions, they are now asked to pick, pack and ship products – becoming part of the fulfillment process in addition to the sales process. There are significant implications for staff training as well as facilities for packing and shipping operations.

These are just a couple high profile examples of the complexities of satisfying omnichannel shopper demands. Watch for future posts on how savvy mid-market businesses are solving these needs using the right omnichannel order management systems.

“42% of eBusiness leaders have either implemented or plan to implement the ability to view store inventory information online within the next two years. Around one-third also plan to offer at least one other omnichannel fulfillment capability — buy online/pick up in-store, ship-to-store, ship-from-store, endless aisle — within the same time frame.”
-Brendan Witcher, Forrester

Thoughts on the Transformation of Order Management

June 27th, 2016

The order management landscape has evolved over the past thirty years when we (then Dydacomp) introduced to catalogers the first order management system (OMS).  eCommerce, mobile and the Internet of Things (IOT) have all put more pressure on the OMS to be the central repository for customer, order, inventory and product information to provide a 360 view of their business.  For this reason, we find ourselves innovating again to meet the demands of the next generation OMS – the Omnichannel platform.

An OMS is more than just managing call center orders to fulfillment, today order management has the responsibility of optimizing the customer experience.  Companies are looking for the OMS to tie in with all sales channels, from ecommerce and mobile to call centers and stores.  Marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay have added complexity to inventory visibility and fulfillment.  The requirements for providing broader product assortments and a differentiated customer experience has grown exponentially due to the competition being one click away.

So what will you need moving forward to be successful?

Freestyle Solutions sees the order management system providing the following capabilities:

  • Insight on the order location and status thorough the entire order life cycle
  • The ability for a call center representative to create and modify orders
  • Real-time insight to inventory levels, avoiding out of stock issues
  • Making sure your customer never leaves empty handed
  • Unified, omnichannel experience to customers

Does your order management system meet your needs?  Learn more about Freestyle Solutions’ order management systems.


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What Omnichannel Means Today

June 2nd, 2016

This post covers the elements and challenges of creating an omnichannel environment for retailers according to Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Sucharita shared her thoughts in our recent webinar, “Beyond the Buzz What Omnichannel Really Means.”

What Omnichannel Means Today

Omnichannel has meant many things to many people over the years as the term has morphed based on new technologies hitting the retail scene.  With this ever evolving landscape, what does omnichannel mean and what are the specific elements of omnichannel today? When talking about omnichannel, retailers are mainly focusing on fulfillment of an order or a transaction in the store.   The common fulfillment processes include:

• Buy online, ship to store
• Manage in-store inventory visible online
• Buy in-store, ship to customer from store (endless aisle)
• Buy online, pick up in store
• Ship from store
• Reserve online, pickup in store

Challenges with Omnichannel Fulfillment
omnichannel fulfillment
The short answer is with legacy systems already in place, getting it all work together is costly and cumbersome.  Below are some of the most common challenges that retailers have faced when implementing an omnichannel program.

1. Endless Aisle – the goal of endless aisle is to provide a seamless view of inventory across the retailer and enable the ability to order an out of stock item through a POS or mobile device.

A primary challenge is limited visibility to warehouse and store inventory across the retailer. Another issue that plagues successful endless aisle implementations is the inability to easily locate inventory, reserve it and ship it. This rings true with many apparel and big box retailers.

Ideally, retailers should have systems that expose web distribution centers to stores and the ability to pull an item from another store. An order management system can be the inventory system of record allowing organizations full visibility into company inventory. Unfortunately today, there are still many retailers manually calling to find an item in another store, which is both inefficient and a poor customer experience.

2. In-store pickup – This practice allows shoppers to buy products online and pick-up their orders in stores instead of having them shipped.

The benefit for the retailer is that in-store pick-up drives traffic back into the store and the potential for additional sales. The benefit for the consumer is that they get their product that day, creating a greater level of customer satisfaction.

Retailers always want to move the post profitable inventory, so ROI for this sales channel is dependent on what percent of web inventory is available in store and the where the physical location of store is. Typically, only 50% of a retailers’ web inventory is available in store which can prove challenging for this fulfillment option.

3. Ship from store – This approach offers shipping items from local brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill online orders, instead of from distribution centers miles away.

The benefit of this fulfillment method is selling slow moving products in specific stores that would be targeted for markdown, thereby increasing profit margins.

A key challenge is the splitting of orders, which may increase shipping fees. Retailers that have highly varied inventory have difficulty creating efficiency to ship from store. This model works better for retailers that have consistent inventory. There are several retailers today that ship almost exclusively from stores. This fulfillment process can effective for retailers if their inventory is consistent across stores and they don’t have a large amount of variants or sizes.

4. Cross-channel returns – This practice enables customers to return online purchases in retail stores.

This is one of the best and most compelling aspects of the omnichannel value proposition for customers because they have freedom over the returns process. Customers benefit by getting their payment returned quickly, rather than shipping the item back to the retailer and incurring a delay. The value for retailers is the customer will visit the store and potentially make an additional purchase. Another benefit is using the store to repost the returned item to sell online and use the store as the distribution center.

The challenges include “online only” items being returned to stores and many stores have difficulty putting the returned merchandise on the shelf at full price. This is where having an order management system (OMS) that can be the central repository for inventory, product and order can make a difference. Otherwise, retailers may have to ship the merchandise back to a warehouse or move the item to markdowns.

5. Same-day delivery – This feature offers customers the ability to buy online and have it delivered the same day.

The challenges are similar to in-store pickup. Only a small percentage of a retailers’ online inventory is available for same-day delivery because it will need to be delivered from a local store. The unit economics are extremely high for same day delivery model where costs can run $15-20 for the labor alone. Even though there is excitement around this delivery model, demand is low. Only 10% of customers say they would be willing to pay more than $15 for a same day delivery.

The future may include more IKEA like models and offering more items in stores.

View the full webinar and download the presentation.
What Omnichannel Really Means Webinar

The Benefits of Using a RESTful API

May 23rd, 2016

Application Programming Interface
A RESTful Application Programming Interface (API) is a lighter, yet more efficient, alternative to Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) or Web Service Definition Language (WSDL). RESTful APIs are focused on accessing named resources through a single consistent interface. A RESTful API does not require expensive tools to interact with the web service, and is a faster solution than SOAP and WSDL, as there is no extensive processing required.

With an Event Driven RESTful API, an integrator can access the business resources of the system. This access allows integrators to make easy real-time use of the resources for customer, products, order, inventory, pricing, returns, refunds, and more.

With a modern Freestyle RESTful API, retailers and brands can:

  • Connect all mission critical applications to produce a unified system utilizing technical and retail services, as well as a centralized management within the platform
  • Gain access to a rich selection of services, allowing rapid introduction of future applications to consumers, all of which can be integrated into existing technology environments
  • Extend functionality by allowing retailers to write code to the API for adding new features and protecting the Freestyle OMS application and maintaining automatic upgradability

Freestyle Omnichannel Management System (O.M.S.) Offers RESTful APIs

With the Freestyle O.M.S. Event Driven RESTful API, an integrator can have access to the business resources of Freestyle O.M.S.

By using the API and its Event Driven features, you can integrate directly with any system in your organization and have a seamless auto-updated integration. For example, if you have a Warehouse Management System (WMS), you can develop integration to retrieve order information from Freestyle O.M.S. and update your WMS automatically when order information changes. When an order is received within the Freestyle O.M.S., an “order received” event, will fire and notify your WMS to update the order as received and/or a status changed.  Users can also subscribe to this alert. With “Events” and the Freestyle O.M.S. API, you can create a seamless integration that is always communicating to your systems in near real-time.

Examples of Integrations using the Freestyle O.M.S. Event Driven API

Below are some examples of how the Freestyle O.M.S. Event Driven API could be used to create a real-time integration.

  • Shopping Carts and Ecommerce Platforms
  • Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
  • Point of Sale Systems (POS)
  • ERP/Supply Chain Systems

RESTFul APIs in Freestyle O.M.S.

  • Orders
  • Inventory
  • Customer
  • Products
  • Shipping
  • Promotions
  • Pricing
  • RMA
  • Payments
  • Financials

Download this white paper to learn more about how APIs play an integral part in building a successful omnichannel ecosystem, How a Powerful API Drives Omnichannel Success.

The Importance of API Management

May 9th, 2016

Best practices in Application Programming Interface (API) management can often get overlooked, as retailers and brand focus heavily on fulfillment, personalization, and general ecommerce strategies. In fact, the most basic API security measures go unnoticed the most, according to a recent study.

“30 percent of APIs are planned out with no input from the IT security team, and 27 percent of APIs proceed through the development stage without the IT security team weighing in.”

Furthermore, 87% of respondents run an API management platform, while 63% use a platform developed in-house. However, basic API security practices were utilized by less than half of respondents.

An API provides high-level business-based transaction functions to interface with major areas of an order management system (OMS), including order, customer, stock, and inventory.

To efficiently manage an omnichannel sales strategy, below is a checklist of systems also necessary within an OMS.

  • Ecommerce platform for product and order information
  • ERP for product, inventory, warehouse management, and financials
  • Payment for authorization, settlement, fraud, and taxCRM for customer data

A good API should be secure, and we work to ensure following “best practices” by creating a token based security with our API that only allows for authorized access.

Download this white paper to learn more about how APIs play an integral part in building a successful omnichannel ecosystem, How a Powerful API Drives Omnichannel Success.
Download white paper

Embracing the Ecommerce Purchase Funnel

March 29th, 2016

Managing the retail supply chain from the point of purchase to management and delivery, has reached a point where automation is necessary to provide the maximum inventory turnover rate.


As retailers begin to recognize where these processes line up, it becomes easier to understand how the business is affected by even small changes in processes and practices, such as the power of purchasing.

Adapting to the Ecommerce Purchase Funnel:

The ecommerce purchase funnel is of course a recurring trend in consumer and retailer shopping, and as shopping evolves, an increase in sales and innovation is inevitable.

“B2C ecommerce sales in the U.S. totaled 531.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2012 and are expected to grow to 554.81 billion U.S. dollars by 2016.”

According to Custora, consumers are spreading out their retail purchasing across channels, which forces retailers to grow their online marketing efforts.

Some aspects that have increased ecommerce referrals last year include, paid search, affiliate marketing, and email. Another important piece of the purchase funnel to focus in relation to Dynamic Order Management (DOM) includes organizing shipping methods.

“Retailers that can’t afford to invest in alternative shipping options are offering consumers more fulfillment options using what many of them do have — brick-and-mortar stores.”
Business Insider

When handling the purchase funnel, shipping is not the only dilemma that exists. Sending and tracking orders and making the right purchasing decisions can also be problematic.

Ways to combat purchase funnel issues:

• Integrate your purchasing function to establish the best inventory levels for each stock item.

• Present ways to handle promotions for Dynamic Order Management.

• Enable order status reporting – allows you to find any line item on any order in your system, in any item state (shipped, filled, back ordered, etc.) Allows you to report on and display orders in any ‘status’ (shipped, packed, credit card charge required, etc.) Can be used as an advisement screen for processing orders (the ‘what do we do next’ screen).

When deciding on a fulfillment operation, it is crucial to take advantage of the best tactics for process automation, especially in regards to the ecommerce purchase funnel, as well as data analysis for optimal order management.

How to Integrate Data for Optimal Order Management

March 15th, 2016

integrate data order management

Retailers are constantly looking for new ways to incorporate data to help expand analytics, and much more. A recent IBM Analytics podcast discusses four ways data analytics will transform the retail industry:

  • From “less is more” to “bring it on”
  • From data mandate to data inform
  • From data reporting to data story-telling
  • From “industry-itis” to embracing the blur

As retailers begin to embrace new ways to include data into their efforts, inevitable shifts will come along, such as expansive data information. They speak about how retailers are starting to take a more balance approach to data.

As one retail executive shared, “Retail is science and art, and the art comes from people.”

Retail analytics and order management are no stranger to each other. Incorporating the correct data is essential to properly manage all of your business processes. Errors are most common when businesses fail to implement a way to deliver the right information to the right person, at the right time. Optimize performance by leveraging the power of actionable and timely information.

Features to Keep in Mind for Optimal OMS Performance:

  • Customized views based on business area – sales, inventory, orders, etc.
  • Ability to drill down into a dashboard with the click of a button
  • Easily export data via Excel, PDF or .CSV formats so you can manipulate or store your information wherever you’d like
  • Up-to-date view of key business information
  • Visual dashboards for quick view versus old standardized reporting

Specific initiates, such as buy online, pick up in store are some movements retailers are beginning to make in order to stay ahead. Internet Retailer reported about the home décor retailer, Kirkland, recently and examined their efforts to implement the ever-growing popularity of buy online, pick up in store.

“More than 70% of the retailer’s online revenue of $7.7 million in the second quarter, or about $5.4 million, were fulfilled via the buy online, pick up in store option.”
Internet Retailer

Along with the effort to implement new ways to keep consumers happy, retailers should also use a variety of differentiators to understand the needs of their individual customers. This includes customizing store views with advanced analytics that are targeted and localized, as well as providing real time reports for online order management.

Advanced analytics and data will give retailers and retail executives an advantage in anticipating changes in customer traffic patterns, defining ideal delivery routes and inventory levels, and enhancing unit profits. With data-driven, real-time fulfillment options, retailers can expect maximized profit margins.


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Activate In-Store Pickup for Dynamic Order Management

March 8th, 2016

in store pick up

As orders from multiple sales channels increase, even a thriving business feels the pressures and frustrations associated with customer service, order and inventory management. In-store pickup is also a constant challenge for retailers struggling to meet customer needs, and according to Forrester Research Inc. analyst Brendan Witcher, this trend is not going away any time soon.

“More than half, 53%, of the more than 3,000 online U.S. adults surveyed say they expect notification in two hours or less that orders are ready for pickup.”
Nailing In-Store Pickup Report

Witcher advises staying away from offering all products for pickup, as some can be too difficult to manage quickly. Products available for pickup should also be labelled as such on product descriptions and/or listing pages.

Retailers can keep up with their omnichannel initiatives by implementing the critical areas of improvement for in-store pickup.

  • Enhance customer service: Leverage knowledge from store associates.
  • Fast fulfillment: Make pickup orders readily available at the most appropriate location.
  • Manage returns: Give shoppers the freedom to handle returns at a specific location.
  • Attract new customers: Create larger in-store upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Utilize inventory: Use in-store stock leads to generate a faster inventory turnover and cut costs.



Defining the Omnichannel Business Case

March 2nd, 2016

Omnichannel investment is squarely aimed at increasing the availability of a wider assortment of products and improving the customer experience through better service.

By adding mobile enabled devices in stores to look up inventory across the organization, retailers will have the ability to “save the sale” and create an “endless aisle” scenario.omnichannel business case

On average, out-of-stock merchandise costs retailers 4.1% in lost revenue.

Universal access to inventory data also helps with inventory turnover for locations that are carrying excess SKUs. From a competitive standpoint, access to inventory across channels saves sales lost to the competition, and opens up a higher likelihood of future purchases.

Customer service is also heavily impacted by omnichannel initiatives. Allowing customers to buy through any channel and return products to any channel has become table stakes. Omnichannel integration is critical for cross-channel loyalty programs and consistent promotions.

It is 10 times more expensive to acquire a customer than retain one, so offering differentiated customer service that provides consistency of the full customer experience is critical.

When defining the business case, there are some critical questions you need to ask:

  • Do I have a system of record for customer, product, inventory and order/transaction data that can be easily accessed?
  • Are my points of brand access (web, mobile device, call center, and POS) ready to create a unified experience for customers?

If you have answers to all these questions, you are ready to take your first step toward unifying the customer experience and the critical elements of your business.

Find out how to master your omnichannel approach and organize your order processing for the fastest turnaround in our new white paper, The Shift to Dynamic Order Management.


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