The Race to Omni-Channel Excellence
How retail CIOs can provide a seamless and satisfying shopping experience across all points of customer interaction — from online to stores.
To fight back against online-only competitors, retailers with stores are realizing their physical locations have the potential to be a powerful differentiator against the likes of Amazon. By implementing Buy Online/Pickup in Stores, retailers can attract customers into their aisles and, through proper selling and well executed promotions, increase the size of the purchase over what the online-only transaction would have been. Buy Online/Ship from Stores has the potential to speed up delivery, reduce shipping charges, and increase inventory turns of slow-moving goods.
Below is an excerpt of a recent interview I did with RIS News which appeared in the report Next-Gen Store Ops: Optimizing the Last Mile of Service (registration is required but free). The report discusses how retailers are adapting store operations to better align with customer and market demands.
- What kind of shopping experience should the next-gen store aim to deliver?
Any category of retailer should provide an experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations. And two things are clear:
- Customers expect a seamless and satisfying online-to-store shopping experience
- Retailers must use analytics and customer insight — as they do now to fine-tune their web presence — to align store-level actions with customer demand
Consumers demand network wide visibility into product availability and the ability to click and collect, click and ship, and more. If the order is collected in store, it better be there when the customer arrives. If shipped, it needs to arrive as soon as possible, for free. Therefore, retailers need systems to maximize the efficiency of finite store labor in executing traditional and current and future e-commerce driven tasks.
- What are the high-priority technology enablers of a next-gen store strategy?
Shoppers who buy both online and in-store spend a lot more than online- and store-only customers. Omni-channel operational excellence is thus a competitive and brand differentiator.
Unfortunately, in a recent report by RIS News, just 25% of retail execs said they had up-to-date technology to execute processes like Buy Online/Pickup in Store. In the big picture, retail CIOs must lead their companies to break free of legacy apps that serve siloed departments only. Providing a satisfying shopping experience across all points of interaction must be the primary focus.
At the store operations level, that means implementing a solution that puts information into the hands of managers and associates so they can better engage customers. And it has to be just one app, preferably mobile. Today’s associates and “I want it now” customers alike will not put up with delays due to switching among multiple disjointed applications.
- How are retailers leaving money on the table due to inefficient HQ-to-stores communication and labor operations practices?
In the RIS News report I mentioned, retail executives said the number one reason for poor execution of merchandising, labor operations, and omni-channel processes was the use of email and spreadsheets. Yet many retailers still attempt to run stores using these tools, which are expensive, slow, error-prone, and literally, so last century.
- What is an example of a low-hanging fruit that retailers can focus on that will deliver improved store productivity?
An integrated real-time execution/workforce management platform is the new baseline for store operations. And that platform should tie in with other sources in the store eco-system such as Advanced Analytics (Big Data), location services (e.g., real-time promotions and customer check-in), and traffic intelligence to feed into a single app for viewing and responding to tasks and alerts. The good news is these solutions, at least the ones from Reflexis, can be implemented in weeks or months.
In addition, retailers need to better analyze unstructured data coming from social media, blogs, and news sites to anticipate and respond to customer demand. Reflexis is working with our partners in the IBM Watson team to help retailers identify and better respond to trends and events such as local events, weather, social buzz, and customer sentiment that they were previously unaware of but which are big drivers of customer demand.