There’s no secret recipe for success in the retail industry. Remaining relevant and profitable in a rapidly changing retail environment is not without its share of challenges. Setting a strong foundation for omni-channel retail success requires a focus on four pillars: process, people, data, and systems.
The transformation to true omni-channel planning and execution starts with redefining business processes. In a siloed organization, each team has its own processes and, often, its own systems. By breaking down these operational silos, retailers can more easily streamline their planning processes, and more importantly, integrate these processes across new and emerging channels. So before moving onto the other pillars, cross-channel business processes must be defined and a change management strategy formulated to help the organization successfully make the transition.
In fact, silo-busting has become such a hot topic that some are suggesting that the “Chief Silo Buster” is the most important missing role in today’s C-suite. Silos are still common even in today’s retail organizations: it’s not unusual for retailers to have a separate web team, for example, that works independently, with its own KPIs and resources, separate from the physical retail team.
This magnitude of change doesn’t happen overnight, and more importantly, it doesn’t just evolve. Rather, it comes from a culture change — one that is championed from the top down.
Once the culture has adapted, the next step is for retailers to restructure their teams to support the roles within the new omni-channel planning processes. Change management will play a key role in helping team members to understand and adapt to their new roles and responsibilities.
More digital touch points mean one thing — a higher volume of incoming data. As new customer-facing solutions are adopted, so are new sources of information created. Simple structured data sets have given way to unstructured data created by the marketplace’s many digital touchpoints, including mobile and social media. CRM dashboards that provide a true 360-degree customer view and in-depth analysis can, for example, be used to offer a more tailored customer experience.
82% of retailers report that big data is a prerequisite to changing the way they interact with and relate to their customers, according to a report from Accenture. However, big data is growing exponentially and entering companies’ data warehouses so quickly that many struggle with how to harness the volumes of new information now at their disposal. Those that can manage to centralize this information and then apply predictive business analytics will be poised to accurately determine inventory levels and better allocate merchandise assortments to specific channels based on real-time consumer demand. This effort not only delivers better visibility to merchandisers, it also better positions merchandise enterprise-wide for full-price sell-through.
While technology alone cannot solve all business problems, it is most definitely the enabler of success once the other three pillars are in place. For example, by implementing modern retail enterprise systems, retailers can share data freely across the company, and gain a single version of the truth regarding customer information, inventory, and stock levels, as well as product movement. It is the final piece of the omni-channel merchandising puzzle and the pillar that supports the information needed to drive the company’s overall merchandising strategy.