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Channel Crossing

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No longer focused so heavily on the “why” of cross-channel – it appears that message has been received – we look much closer at the “how”: the tactics and priorities that retailers have on their plates as they attempt to fundamentally restructure their business model away from channel-specific and into something much more omni-channel.

 
From survey responses, we learn that although retailers may not yet be clear on how best to approach those channels, they now clearly see that they must be able to present their brand in any and all of those channels, and any new ones that emerge. Below is an excerpt from the report, RSR’s Bootstrap recommendations, based on what the data revealsabout winning practices in crosschannel Enablement.
 
See the Big Picture
 
Consumers increasingly use several channels to complete a single transaction. The behaviour to use more than one channel to execute one transaction is what RSR calls omni-channel shopping. This new consumer behaviour is enabled by ubiquitous information, available when and where consumers need it, in the context that they need it in (web, mobile, the store, the call centre – or any new presentation that may come along in the future). Retailers that are not cross-channel are not only leaving a lot of value on the table, but are actively encouragingcustomers to shop with other retailers that better accommodate how they want to engage in the shopping process. While consumers may not think of themselves as “omnichannel” or encompassing all channels holistically, retailers certainly do need to think “cross-channel.”
 
The question is, how should retailers respond to this new behaviour, and address the challenges and opportunities that it represents?
 
Spend to Learn
 
Companies whose cross-channel strategies are hampered because of uncertainty about emerging consumer omni-channel behaviours, should not stand on the sidelines, but begin by spending some timeand money to overcome that barrier. Although how consumers will use multiple channels (enabled by  anytime/anywhere/always-on technology) to execute one transaction may still be unfolding, adoption will certainly follow the dynamic of consumer adoption of any technology.
 
That is, while the “incubation period” for consumer technologies may take years, mass adoption up can happen very quickly once the right form factor and “use case” are found. This is the foundation of Apple’s success with the iPod and iPhone; neither technology was the “first” of its kind, but the form factor functionality were just what consumers were looking for. 
 
For many winning retailers, understanding consumers’ omnichannel behaviours is less and less of a barrier – in other words, they are getting their arms around the new customer behaviours, to the point where they can invest to enable it, and perhaps even move ahead to anticipate It. 
 
Recognise that Cross-channel is a Transformative Endeavour
 
Retailers are clearly focused more than ever on enabling consumer omni-channel shopping. While “creating a single brand identity across all channels” remains the top opportunity for most retailers, there is much more interest in how that will be accomplished. Many more retailers see opportunity in the attributes that comprise a cross-channel brand identity, such as a ‘consistent and clear explanation of product features and benefits regardless of channel”, “allow(ing) customer to purchase, take delivery, or return a product through the channels of their choice”, and “allow(ing) inventory allocated for one channel to be used for another channel’s fulfillment”.
 
Create Visibility into Important Digital Assets
 
Foundation and visibility should come first – retailers should not make decisions in the dark. Three of the top four technology enablers valued by our survey respondents are all about creating visibility: customer visibility, inventory visibility, and enterprise analytics. The emphasis on analytics reflects the business challenges that survey respondents reported, where retailers are looking for the language internally to overcome cultural challenges. If it can be measured, it can be improved. 
 
Re-align Incentives
 
No process change will occur without the right incentives. While every channel has to have its own metrics, when it comes time for sales performance, a sale should be a sale no matter what channel it is transacted in, because increasingly, every channel plays a role in making every sale. If incentives stay channel-aligned, a retailer will never have a strong crosschannel Capability. 
 
Convergence – Not Just a Buzzword
 
One of the most difficult technology challenges to navigate is how to architect cross-channel capabilities in order to best support crosschannel processes and customers. Part of the current challenge lies in the channel-specific nature of customer today. Point of sale supports stores, eCommerce supports online, and rarely do the two meet. It wasn’t too long ago that the industry believed that the two could never be converged. That is no longer the case. And Winners believe in a converged platform far more strongly than their peers.
 
Reach Out and Call Someone
 
Many Winners indicate a willingness to get outside help to drive internal process change. Laggards on the other hand are looking at tactical things as a way to move forward, without first dealing with the cultural, organisational, and process implications of supporting consumer omni-channel behaviours. In our view, this will led to costly mistakes and lost opportunities. Companies that struggle to understand how best to proceed should get some outside expertise to overcome these barriers.