The Unexpected Opportunity: How COVID accelerated digital & CX journeys of brands, retailers

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The online and offline retail worlds are converging faster than ever, and for any successful brand or retailer, a sound Omnichannel strategy has become indispensable for future success. But devising a foolproof Omnichannel strategy calls for detailed analysis of the myriad of channels including identifying and prioritizing them, as well as defining the logic of distribution within all the available channels.

In an attempt to understand the preparations, objectives and parameters of retailers in order to thrive in the current pandemic situation and also looking forward to new opportunities and approaches to sail through the phase, the Phygital Retail Convention (PRC) hosted a session titled, ‘Catalyzing Omnichannel Innovations To Offer Customers Unparalleled Assurance And Convenience’.

The session was co-moderated by Srinivas Rao, Sr. VP Marketing, Lifestyle International and Mahadevann Iyerr, SVP – Customer Loyalty & Analytics and Business Transformation, Lifestyle Int. The panelists included:

  • Deepak Kishanchand, Head – IT, South Asia and MiddleEast – Levi Strauss & Co
  • Jitendra Joshi, CEO, Ambab Infotech
  • Yash Dayal, CTO, Zivame

Omnichannel: The Way Forward

“When we devised our Omnichannel strategy, we started off small, focusing mainly on in-store solutions so that we do not lose customers. But in the current situation, things are currently changing drastically, and we have been compelled to focus on a complete digital footprint. Now we are going with a full blown Omnichannel strategy that includes all channels and we are trying optimse everything,” states Deepak Kishanchand, Head – IT, South Asia and Middle East, – Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi’s is well distributed across many MBOs, Department Stores, EBOs, online marketplaces, etc. For a brand with as many channels as Levis, the fundamental concern is to define the logic that has to go to ensure that the inventory is flowing with the order – irrespective of the channel of sales.

Anther brand which has been operating through the Omnichannel route since its inception is Zivame. The only difference is that Zivame has depended on the digital space for about 80 percent of its orders since Day 1 and is thus backed by a robust technology infrastructure. “Right from the day we started our main aim was to offer consumers the same experience irrespective of his choice of channels. Zivame is actually a tech company so that actually builds a lot of capabilities of how we are able to leverage modern technology to back us in our operations. We are fully running on ‘Cloud’ that allows us to ensure smooth inventory flow across both online and offline channels. Even our pricing are centrally led, so the prices of all our products are same across all channels,” says Yash Dayal, CTO, Zivame.

According to Jitendra Joshi, CEO, Ambab Infotech, currently when businesses transitions to Omnichannel, the previous technological infrastructure cannot ensure accurate inventory and order management across all channels. This is a big challenge that can lead to execution failure of Omnichannel. “That’s why it’s a big challenge to work with the legacy system because changing the legacy system is capital intensive. And specially during these times, I don’t think anybody would really want to invest so much,” he states.

To ensure higher ROI it is always wiser for retailers to start with a single inventory view. “If retailers can manage to turn around the inventory in higher numbers, the cash flow will increase which will help them invest in single customer view. This will help them in pulling in more retail customers as well,” he adds.

Brands that have a single view of the customer can gather more information and data about their customers, educating them on consumer expectations, and helping them in offering higher degrees of personalisation.

For an Omnichannel transition to take place, understanding the customer journey is indispensable. Landmark, a brick-and-mortar major, started its e-commerce journey in 2017 with the sole aim of expanding its capabilities from an Omnichannel perspective. “The first part was understanding our customers and their expectations, and then see what kind of promises we can define for them leveraging our physical and digital presence. We needed to ensure value to the consumer which in turn will justify our ROI. So that led us to under the systems and processes that will be needed to support the customer journeys. What we achieved through this is a single view of the customer which helped us offer more value to our customers and ensure seamless and uniform experience for them across all channels,” states Mahadevann Iyerr, SVP-Customer Loyalty & Analytics, and Business Transformation, Landmark Int.

Data: The New Currency

Data is hot currency in the Omnichannel journey of brand and retailers. It is an undisputed fact today that data plays a key role in businesses around the world, one that will only become more central as time passes. Using data is the most accurate way any organisation can understand the sentiments of its customers. Actionable insights derived from data are proven to generate better results for companies.

“From a customer understanding perspective, it is about trying to get a single view of customers. In stores, it is about all understanding customers from the type of transactions they do and their buying behaviour. In the online world, customers today use a slew of channels to interact with businesses – right from websites and apps to various social media platforms. Here, apart from transactions, there are huge amounts of digital exhausts – the types of pages that the consumers have browsed, the products that they have clicked, how many times they have been added to cart or the intensity of removing products from cart, etc. The onus is on brands and retailers to combine all that and have a single identity which can be resolved across the various data points that you have. Once you have that then you will have an understanding of the customer value that is getting generated,” says Mahadevann Iyerr.

One of the main challenges that retailers face is synthesising the data collected. Today’s customer is digitally literate and more emancipated than ever before. They require immediacy, trust, and gratification from Omnichannel shopping experiences. And hence, to create authentic shopping experiences retailers have to harness the power of modern technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to synthesise the data collected. Moreover, brands can also leverage on the power of AI to seamlessly execute personalised marketing.

To sum up, for most brick-and-mortar retailers, it is important that they understand the consumer journey so as to fulfil the fundamental aim of Omnichannel – serve consumers with a uniformly seamless experience across all online and offline channels. “Moreover, it is also crucial that the POS allows integration with various tools and technologies for rapid transition. Inventory becomes an important aspect because end of the day the customer needs to get an endless view of the inventory. Data also plays an important role because without data it would not be possible to understand the customer better and offer him and thrilling customer experience,” concludes Srinivas Rao, Sr. VP Marketing, Lifestyle.

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