Over the past couple of years, omnichannel has become quite the buzzword in the retail industry. There are various opinions on the best omnichannel strategies and common mistakes retailers make when implementing omnichannel solutions. However, many retailers can agree that without having the right technology in place, retailers pursuing omnichannel will fail.
For that reason, we’ve conducted a Q&A with SalesWarp’s Director of Operations, Scott Schubert. Scott has worked with various companies to successfully implement omnichannel technology and has over 25 years of experience in business management, project management, marketing and operations. In this Q&A, Scott shares his insights on everything retailers need to know about omnichannel and the technology that is crucial to survive in today’s marketplace.
- Why is omnichannel so important in today’s retail environment?
Customer expectations have evolved significantly due to digital advancements and new standards set by retail giants like Amazon. Today, customers demand a consistent, convenient, and personalized shopping experience across all channels and all devices. Since shoppers can turn to a competitor or an alternative sales channel with just one click, retailers must focus on a consistent customer experience across all sales channels to create and retain brand loyalty. A well thought out omnichannel strategy will deliver that consistent customer experience. Although implementing omnichannel can be a technological challenge, it will enable retailers to offer the services that today’s shoppers have grown to expect and come out on top in an increasingly competitive market.
- What common challenges do retailers face as they move into omnichannel?
To develop an omnichannel strategy, retailers must overcome the mindset that each of their sales channels is a separate silo with distinct inventories, customers, and systems. While the retailer may be thinking ‘omnichannel’, they continue to view their various ecommerce and physical stores as separate entities. Retailers must recognize that customers expect consistency in promotions, pricing, products, order information, and delivery options…regardless of the sales channel.
Once in the proper omnichannel ‘mindset’ retailers face the challenge of synchronizing (in real-time) all the data that must flow between their various channels. This reveals the following challenges that must be addressed: (i) data is siloed and often duplicated in different systems, (ii) existing systems are difficult to integrate, and (iii) current business processes are often manual, highly repetitive, and not well documented.
To address omnichannel, retailers need to consolidate all of their data (e.g. inventory, customer, order, and shipping) from the multitude of systems that manage their various business functions. Ultimately, this requires understanding and integrating those numerous business systems and manual processes. Only with fully-integrated systems and operations will retailers be able to facilitate the data synchronization needed across all sales channels to provide superior customer experiences.
- What are the key steps to executing a successful omnichannel strategy?
Merchants need to start with the desired customer experience first. Retailers can design an effective omnichannel strategy by first mapping the customers’ numerous (and desired) possible path-to-purchase options. With the customer at the center of the strategy, the retailer is more likely to achieve omnichannel success and increase their sales.
Then the retailer needs to analyze, document, and decide which systems and operations should be integrated to achieve the desired customer experience. In conjunction with that review, the retailer should catalog where the relevant business data and information is stored within these systems. Finally, a rigorous assessment should be done that covers the technology solutions that are able to pull these disparate goals, systems, and processes together.
Oftentimes retailers start with a review of what available technology solutions can do before they decide on the desired customer experience. That’s a mistake, because it can allow technology to decide what the business goals should be.
Additionally, it’s important to understand you do not need to rip out and replace all (or even most) of your legacy systems. These systems can be leveraged. The best omnichannel implementations blend the retailer’s existing assets with a robust distributed order management system. This accelerates time to market and reduces costs. It will also avoids pulling out significant layers of an existing technology stack, which can be exorbitantly expensive.
- Are there any other things to consider before starting an implementation of an omnichannel solution?
Know your customer. Know your business. Know your data. Now is the time to assess everything and start looking for opportunities to win. Stop thinking in terms of “this is how we have always done it.” Instead, consider “how can we do it better?” Part of doing that is making sure you first fully understand and document all existing data and processes from buying, promotion, selling, fulfillment, through to customer service. Meet with the departments that take part in each of these processes. I can guarantee each department is doing things slightly (or very) differently than you believe. Identify what processes work and where the pain points are…especially as those points could relate to your omnichannel goals. Then have senior managers and your technology teams review what has been learned. This will fill in gaps and provide guidance to the how the omnichannel strategy should be implemented.
- How does SalesWarp help retailers overcome the challenges mentioned above and achieve long-term omnichannel success?
SalesWarp starts with a consultative approach to understanding each retailer’s desired omnichannel strategy and customer goals. From that starting point, we then work with the client to figure out if our software can help them achieve improved customer experience, increased sales, and lower costs. Our software solution provides real-time order, inventory, supply chain, and customer data. This real-time, integrated data eliminates the silos that interfere with providing a seamless, convenient, and personalized shopping experience. SalesWarp’s omnichannel solution enables businesses to better serve their customers and run more smoothly and efficiently, while also dramatically reducing errors in the system.
Additionally, SalesWarp’s software is designed on flexible architecture that can be configured to achieve the client’s customer experience goals while leveraging previous technology investments where possible. SalesWarp offers the lowest possible cost to modify a workflow and the highest possible flexibility within the system, while still adhering to industry best practices. Our modular order flows allow us flexibility and responsiveness to changes that may arise in the future ecommerce and omnichannel market.
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