Today’s educated, connected and digitally savvy consumers are driving change in the retail landscape. Some of their demands and expectations include convenience, speed and a seamless experience, whether they’re shopping in your brick-and-mortar stores, online or other channels. As retailers struggle to keep track of how customers are interacting with their brand, they are quickly realizing that it is critical to adapt their business for the multi-touchpoint customer journey.
Below, we have identified 7 of the biggest obstacles to omni-channel retailing along with how retailers can conquer these challenges.
Obstacle #1: LEGACY SYSTEMS
Are you a retailer who is guilty of using the same system for the past 15 years? Many retailers’ existing infrastructure, architecture and applications are dated and the technology simply cannot keep up with today’s consumer shopping habits nor your business’ growth plans such as geographic expansion or the creation of new brands.
CONQUER BY… investing in a tightly integrated solution that is embedded into your retail business environment and applications. The accuracy provided by real-time technology and a centralized database is not only a benefit to operations, but to associates and customers. Having an omni-channel architecture allows retailers to easily manage multiple brands, products, pricing and business rules.
Obstacle #2: SILOED SYSTEMS
Many of the existing systems that retailers are currently using were initially designed for a single channel. This means that data for every channel is either stored in a different database or even a different server. As consumers become more demanding, retailers cannot afford to have siloed information for each point of business.
CONQUER BY… investing in a system that connects all applications: E-commerce, POS, Store Back Office, Mobile, and Order Management for consistent information across all channels. Here are several examples of the types of activities that retailers can perform with an integrated system:
- A store associate can update a customer walking into a brick and mortar store with the status of their latest web order.
- The same customer may have visibility to her complete profile including transactions and loyalty points while shopping online.
- Head office may be alerted of inventory movement from the warehouse to a store or from the web inventory to a store.
- Your call center will have access to review, edit and cancel orders when a customer calls.
Remember that at any given point, there should only be a single view of the truth.
Obstacle #3: INACCURATE CUSTOMER INFORMATION
Customers expect retailers to know exactly when and where they’ve interacted with them. What often happens with siloed systems is that the information being viewed in one channel (ex: in-store POS) only represents a snapshot of the customers profile since it does not take into consideration the other channels that may have been used (e-commerce, mobile app etc.).
CONQUER BY… investing in a solution that provides retailers with a 3600 view of the customer in order to personalize the experience at every channel. Information such as the complete history of the customer’s purchases, contact information, lifestyle information, preferences, website browsing history, wish list, and customer service interactions should be accessible by sales associates on the store floor and at head office in order to effectively engage with customers throughout the decision journey. Without establishing one-on-one relationships, retailers may underperform and may even lose customers by failing to optimize their business channels.
Obstacle #4: INCOMPLETE INVENTORY VISIBILITY
Many retailers are using separate systems to manage the inventory found in different stores, for web orders and in the warehouse. Similarly to obstacle #3, this results in an incomplete view of total inventory across all business channels. As a result retailers are losing sales, having stock outs and over-stock issues and generally lacking inventory control.
CONQUER BY… investing in the right technology needed to view and efficiently manage omni-channel inventory. Achieve rapid ROI by freeing associates from back-office tasks and enabling them to spend more valuable time on the selling floor by equipping them to perform receiving, transfers and physical inventory from anywhere. Customers expect retailers to be able to perform inventory lookups directly in the store and offer different fulfillment options. As well, retailers should look for features that help improve inventory turn by transferring products between stores or back to a distribution center.
Obstacle #5: HUGE VOLUMES OF DATA
Retailers generally understand the importance of collecting transactional, product, customer profile, and social data; however, many are still manually compiling the business intelligence that is being collected across channels.
CONQUER BY… investing in a solution with embedded analytics and business intelligence to access insights from within all business applications. A platform for both transactional and analytical reporting across the enterprise can help retailers make smarter strategic and operational business decisions. As well, customer information that is collected from every interaction and centralized in one location provides retailers with valuable insight to improve these interactions and the customer experience as a whole.
Obstacle #6: MANUAL AND INEFFICIENT PROCESSES
Although we live in a highly digital world, many manual and pen-and-paper methods are still being used in stores, whether to manage customer orders or store receiving and transfers.
CONQUER BY… integrating all of your omni-channel requirements with a centralized solution for customer orders and inventory management. This transition offers a great opportunity for retailers to review and standardize their internal processes across all channels. Minimize costs by automating processes, resulting in fewer errors, improved customer satisfaction and significant time savings in the order fulfillment process.
Obstacle #7: CONSUMERS ARE MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE THAN STORE ASSOCIATES
The modern consumer is armed with knowledge and technology. Consumers have access to information such as reviews and comparative prices when and where they want it, and as a result it is not uncommon for a customer to actually have more information about a product than the in-store associates themselves. More often than not, the sales associate needs to leave the customer’s side to get more information on the product or its availability. Not only does this lack of knowledge drive customers to use their mobile devices instead of engaging with your sales associates in the future, but you may also be losing them to your competitors the next time they decide to go shopping.
CONQUER BY… empowering your sales associates with mobile technology and the right set of tools so that they can provide outstanding customer service and employ bestselling practices. Although there are many ways to digitize the store, arming sales associates with mobile devices allows them to remain by the customer’s side throughout their entire visit. Several valuable mobile capabilities to consider include inventory lookup, product browsing, accessible in-depth customer information (purchase history, preferences, wish lists) and mobile transactions. Store experience, customer service, and sales associate education are important in increasing store traffic, conversion, average transactions value and gross margin.
As a retailer, it is crucial to be agile and adapt to the changes that are taking place in the retail environment. Consumers are now the ones in control and leading the way. Keep up with the pace to avoid hindering your business with increased errors and lost productivity, frustrated and dissatisfied customers, loss of revenue and your inability to grow and innovate. Remember, there are experienced technology partners out there that can help you conquer these 7 obstacles to omni-channel retailing.