Shipout OMS Design -- Use 2C Mindsets To Design 2B Product
For consumer products, more and more companies have started to pay a lot of attention to user experience, to make it intuitive and fit its users' habits, which we call it “user-centered” design. However, for 2B products, for the sake of complicated tasks, companies still mainly design it around the job functions and task flows, instead of user flows. Based on my research and project experience, actually, every 2B product will still be used/operated by individual users, and most of them are complaining about the complication of the product, and they have formed their own ways to use the product only based on what is most convenient to them, instead of based on the original product design. So, my opinion is, we should design 2B products with 2C mindsets, on top of the job function and task flows, analyze the user flow first. I recently designed an OMS order management system, and that was how I did my design approaches.
Shipout OMS are mainly for those merchants who are doing e-commerce, they are managing orders from multiple channels like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Shopify, and so on. They are fulfilling orders with multiple suppliers or 3PL. Some of them own one or several warehouses, most of them are using third-party warehouses and/or amazon FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon). Some of them own a factory in China, most of them are ordering products to be shipped or to be manufactured in China.
To understand their businesses, I interviewed some e-commerce owners, and have also visited some warehouses. Some of them are using some currently available OMS like Dianxiaomi, MabanERP, or Shipstation, etc. A few of them are not using any OMS but using google sheet or even excel/word sheet. For those who are using OMS products, all of the people I interviewed said they cannot fully understand how the system works, and most features they have never touched. Most of them are using small warehouses, those warehouses are from 20K square feet to 100K square feet, but the management is also a mess. The human brain is the most reliable intelligence here. If a senior warehouse manager is on vacation, a lot of products cannot be found. An order can be placed to the fulfillment center via many ways, email, google sheets, WeChat message, or phone call. Communication is a big problem, tracking is also a challenge, invoicing, POs often have mistakes. And there is still a lot of labor-intensive manual work, which is complicated, hard to sync with team members, and easy to make mistakes.
By communicating with those target users, I found out their expectations on the OMS product. They would like to know how much employee time will the new software save them by eliminating manual tasks? How many processing errors can they avoid? Some of them also care about the cost of the OMS and would like to calculate if it is worth the investment. They want to see a smooth chain of activities that begins when an order is received from a customer. Which can help them to streamline inventory management, manage stock efficiently, and most importantly, save time and money. They should be able to route orders based on warehouse or customer location; easily update inventory levels across systems and sales channels; they should be able to track orders for customers and update accounts. It can help with returns and refunds, and is integrated with many channels, so that they can sync data with clients’ other platforms such as sales channels, fulfillment partners, financial systems, and even POS.
Most of all, the OMS order management system should help to improve order-to-cash cycle (OTC), so the business can efficiently receive, process, manage, and complete customer orders. This includes everything from collecting payment, shipping the items, creating invoices, and reporting. The order to cash cycle is critical to the success of clients’ online business. It impacts their bottom line and the customer experience.
I concluded that this OMS should include features for Payment Management, Customers Management, Inventory, or stock levels Management, Suppliers or 3PLs Management, Returns and refunds Management, Invoices and PO feature, Pick, packing, and shipping process, financial integration, with reporting and analytics.
I conducted competitor research on some current OMS in the market, the reason they are all seems powerful but yet complicated, is that they are all trying to based on all types of business cases, any business cases will be a category there, in the form of an excel-sheet like interface, with action buttons here and there, instead of trying to start from how different role of users in the business circle may work. Like I mentioned before, task-centered V.S. user-centered. Different roles within the business may only conduct some specific tasks, a manager can set roles and authorities, not everyone has to deal with such a sophisticated interface. And the task flow should be intuitive for them as well.
After some brainstorming and some ideas and iteration, my solution finally became more mature. I drafted some wireframes. My design has put much effort to ease users’ workload, making them work more efficiently, and I try to simplify and use the same layout for similar features, to reduce their learning efforts.
For example, enable batch editing. This is an important feature since many users will deal with a certain amount of orders or products at one time, instead of doing it one by one. Users can use filter to set criteria, then select many orders/products at one time, then handle it with one processing, e.g. set shipping methods, update dimensions and weight, edit insurance amount, and so on.
For tasks and service orders between e-commerce business owners and their warehouse/ fulfillment partner, there are too many communications. Currently, they may use emails back and forth or use a messaging app like WeChat to back and forth chat. Then it will become very difficult to track the message content, especially some tasks like changing labels, they will be attached files, those also easily be lost in the ocean of emails or WeChat messages. In my design, each task and service order will generate a conversation window, that involved personnel can communicate here. It is sorted by tasks. And attachments for each task will also be on the same page. So everyone is very clear about the job requirements, eliminating many potential mistakes.
Upon sign up, users can select the features they want, based on their own business model. Some are pre-installed, for example, order management, inventory management, taxes and finance, sales analytics; some are optional, e.g. Inbound and forward tracking, tasks and services, Pallets and packing materials management, truck and logistics network, etc.
I have also designed a widget store, which can be a good business model for Shipout as well. Some widgets are free, some are developed by an internal team, some may be from third-party partners. We will open API and work with global developers or partner with other partners, to provide more widgets to better serve customers with diversified needs, and we can share profit with third-party partners.
Of course, like many other OMS, to be able to sync with as many as possible selling channels is also very important. The business owner can add members and assign authorities to each role.
Keep similar features in a similar layout, so users will feel easy to use. Create a new PO purchase order, or add a new product to the inventory.
Create an inbound order, make the creation more visualized, instead of many boring typing in the forms, add more images and icons, for them to easily create an inbound order.
Easy to manage customers and view them by recent, group, or alphabets. Can send them group email, can batch edit as well. Can also assign them to different customer service personnel.
On every page, at the right bottom corner, there is an action button, all actions related to this page will be here. So users do not need to find all around the page, to find a button. E.g. Scan barcode, print, add new, import, export, etc.
Analytics for users to quickly view their most up-to-date summary, analytics, quickly knowing what they need to handle.
Added a calendar view is also my invention. No any other OMS in the market has this feature. But according to my research, actually the personnels will handle the tasks, handle the orders by dates, but it is not like a meeting, not easy for them to sync all the tasks needed with their calendar, by adding a calendar view, it makes users much easily to track each order, which one is delayed, which stages it is for each order, and I have also color-coded them, with different colors to show different status.
What is next I will do?
It is also very important to set up automation. Currently, most OMS’s automation setting are just like coding, users have to set up in which condition, then the system does what. It is very complicated and very hard for a normal customer to figure out how to do it. And mostly, it has to be a person with programming knowledge to set up it, which is not convenient at all.
So I am thinking, referring to the currently modularized way of programming, to make the setup just like playing with Lego pieces.