Retail industry is currently going through a transformation primarily driven by more evolved shoppers and technological innovations. In recent years, there is structural shift from traditional businesses to modern retailing channels, driven by mobile and internet penetration, resulting in shoppers buying virtually anything, anytime, anywhere using their preferred channel of engagement – In Store, Online and On the Go.
These changing market dynamics and rapidly evolving technologies have compelled retailers to offer seamless, personalized and consistent customer experience across the channels by blurring the line between different channels and quickly adopting omni-channel strategies to remain competitive.
Although omni-channel execution is undeniably a top priority for retailers, they are still striving hard to address several underlying issues hindering the effective delivery of this experience. Brands are increasingly finding it difficult to move away from channel-specific silos, and consolidate all customers and merchandise related data into centralized locations. There are three major challenges retailers are facing today.
- Customer silos and lack of holistic visibility into customer database across channels, making it difficult for retailers to understand and analyze customer data to offer contextual messaging and personalized experience. This siloed and non-integrated customer data is resulting in multiple copies of customer profiles, limiting understanding of customer behavior, purchase patterns and uneven customer experience.
- Legacy IT systems make it significantly challenging and complex to manage inventories across channels. Lack of clear visibility in inventory causes reduced accuracy, frequent out-of-stock scenarios in one channel and surplus inventory in another channel, resulting in reduced sales and increased costs. These challenges limit the ability of businesses to identify, track and manage inventory, impacting effective order fulfillment across channels.
- One of the most important challenge that businesses faces today is Siloed organizational teams working independently for e-commerce and store channels in organization. This not only limits collaboration, but also makes it difficult to enable process innovation which is a must for adopting omni-channel strategy.
ADOPTING OMNI-CHANNEL STRATEGY
To adopt Omni-channel strategy retailers need to align its business with customers by leveraging IT systems, optimizing business operations and creating agile work culture. Here are some of the must-haves for retailers who are looking at adopting omni-channel retailing to stay ahead of the curve.
CUSTOMER CENTRIC APPROACH
Building a sustainable relationship with customers is a key opportunity for businesses to achieve Omni-channel strategy. Seamless access across web, mobile and store channels and the ability to convert this into richer engagement is critical.
- Personalized campaigns and promotions – Predictive analytical capabilities enables retailers to launch personalized campaigns and promotions, resulting in improved loyalties.
- Location based customer engagement– New technologies such as NFC & iBeacon enable retailers to provide a personalized customer engagement based on proximity.
- Social Engagement – Businesses must engage with customers through Social media channels for commerce, customer insights, listening and integration.
- Care everywhere–Retailers must ensure a seamless experience for customers across their journey – Pre shopping, during shopping and post shopping.
All the above needs to be done in a manner that uniquely defines your brand and its value proposition.
UNIFIED COMMERCE PLATFORMS
Adopting the right technology platforms can help transform the business model, and establish a centralized system that enables consistent service delivery across channels.
Leading unified commerce platforms offer highly scalable and integrated IT solutions from engagement to fulfillment. The flexible architecture of these platforms supports the integration of multiple data sources and augments surrounding technologies such as E-Commerce, Mobility and Analytics. The major advantages of adopting unified commerce platforms are –
- Single view of customers across channels–Provides 360 degree view of customers regardless of the channels, for enhanced analytical capabilities, actionable insights and offering personalized experience.
- Inventory visibility across channels – Provides real-time and holistic view of inventory, optimizing operations and reducing out of stock scenarios.
- Optimized cross channel order management – The integrated order management system enables seamless order flow across channels.
- Enhanced order fulfillment capabilities – These platforms can be easily extended to fulfill orders through multiple ways: home delivery, click and collect and temporary pickup locations.
- Integrations with social media and online marketplaces–Unified commerce platforms enable the flexibility to integrate with social media and online marketplaces, providing complete visibility into customer, order and inventory data.
- Scalability– Unified commerce platforms are highly scalable in nature and supports business growth seamlessly.
AGILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Bringing people and processes in sync with technology to find the most appropriate and effective way of working collaboratively can be achieved through an Agile work environment. In order to realize omni-channel imperatives, businesses need to eliminate a siloed work culture amongst channel specific teams by creating a cross-functional collaboration based on shared company goals.
Achieving omni-channel excellence requires defining clear objectives and extensive executional, tactical and strategic capabilities. We believe retailers who move away from legacy systems to modern & scalable IT solutions have great potential to successfully adopt omni-channel strategies to gain competitive advantage.
Collaborating with strategic implementation partners with relevant industry domain knowledge and experience would allow retailers to leverage their expertise in providing best-fit solutions and services. Such platforms ensure successful integration of various touch points to deliver a superior omni-channel experience.
The Author, Omprakash Subbarao, is Head, Digital & Strategy, Sonata Software. The views and ideas expressed in this article are his own.