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What Should Your Order Management System Do?

Order Management is a large part of running an online business.  As such there are many features a merchant should look for when evaluating order management systems and what each can do for them.

Let’s take a look at some of the key things an effective order management system should offer.

Manual Order Entry

If a merchant decides to take orders over the phone or through mail order, the order management system should allow a user to enter orders into the system manually.  This means being able to enter billing and shipping information, choose the items the customer is ordering, and specify shipping, surcharges, and discounts by hand.

Even if a merchant accepts orders by other means, such as an online store, technology failures and hiccups can still happen. Rather than losing an order, being able to enter them manually may be a necessary short-term alternative to losing business.

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Order Aggregation

More and more merchants are accepting orders from multiple channels, such as online stores, online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, phone and mail orders, and perhaps a brick and mortar store.

It is extremely inconvenient to use separate systems for each of these methods, so having an order management system that can import or aggregate all of your orders into one location will save time and resources training staff on all of the different systems.

Payment Processing

There are many different processes for getting payments from customers.  An order management system should be able to accommodate importing prior authorizations from the website and allowing a later capture of the funds.  It should be able to capture funds without a prior authorization as well.

The order management system should also be able to log that a payment is received instead of processing it in case the merchant’s chosen gateway does not work with the system or if the customer wants to mail a check.

Along those same lines, a merchant should try to choose a system that integrates with the payment processor of their choice to make it easier to process payments from one location instead of having to log into another site.


If a merchant has a policy that allows returns, the order management system should allow the merchant to modify the order appropriately to reflect that a return has occurred. It should be able to handle all of the potential surcharges and fees that might accompany a return to recalculate the order total.  It should also allow for a record of the reason for the return to be recorded for later reporting.


Analysis of sales data is critical to decisions a business needs to make.  Therefore an order management system should include a robust set of reports, preferably with an option to allow custom reports to be created.

Examples of necessary reports are how much of an item is selling, when the volume of sales is the greatest, how many customers are repeat customers, and how much revenue was made in a specified time period.  There are obviously many other reports that a merchant might need, depending on its specific goals and related metrics.

Integration With Other Systems

A robust order management system should also allow for integration with other aspects of the business for easy data transfer.  It should be able to integrate to inventory management systems, accounting systems, shipping systems, customer management systems, and purchasing systems.

Be careful with systems that have these features included as a bundle.  They would each need to be evaluated separately to make sure they meet the merchant’s needs as there is a lot of depth to each system.  One system that “does it all” may not have the level of depth a merchant would need in a particular aspect to be most effective.

Order management can be a very deep topic itself, and many things should be considered before settling on one order management system.  One should be chosen that closely fits the business process a merchant has established, but also is flexible enough to allow for changes in that process for efficiency.

Have you shopped for an order management system recently?  What requirements did you have for choosing one? Do you wish you had considered other features? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

This post was originally featured on November 25, 2012.

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