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Top 3 IT investment priorities for retailers to succeed in today’s new consumer age: Cross-channel (3/3)

3 min read

Close up shot of entering credit card numberToday I finish the blog post series I started 3 weeks ago discussing the 3 top IT investment priorities for retailers. After my previous posts talking about Mobility and Cloud, I’ll cover Cross-channel today.

Retailers no longer need evidence that cross-channel capabilities are critical for success. Consumers today expect a seamless shopping experience across all channels. Their expectations at this level include:

 

  • Price and product information consistency across channels
  • Consistent assortment across channels
  • In-store, ability to book out-of-stock items and get them shipped home from another store
  • Track order status from home and receive notices about any changes
  • Buy online and pick up in the store or buy online and return in store, as typical cross-channel scenarios

However, this does not mean that all retailers are ready for this new reality and most of them have a long way to go to become true champions in this field. Retailers face several challenges to achieve full cross-channel operation:

  • Lack of a Single Platform. A single platform would facilitate seamless cross-channel scenarios but the reality is that by the moment retailers´ transaction platform will be a hybrid of multiple channel specific platforms. It is the natural result if you take into account how they made their large prior IT investments. An interesting aspect to consider is whether in the future the primary transaction system will be POS or E-commerce. At the moment, only big retailers can afford to progress in this field and we are starting to hear about new Order Management Systems that are trying to orchestrate the fulfillment process across different channels to provide a seamless omnichannel experience. Home Depot new COMS (Customer Order Management System) is a good example.
  • Lack of Embedded Visual Analytics. Retailers need actionable customer intelligence that allows them to react quickly to customer behavior changes or evaluate the efficiency of any go-to-market strategy. Retailers require visual and role-tailored decision-making tools that communicate key performance indicators in simple terms and allow you to drill down when immediate action is required. In fact, based on our study. 71% of retailers think that cross channel initiatives are still low due to the lack of proper actionable analytics
  • Poor Merchandise Management Agility and Supply Chain Management Efficiency. Merchandise Management Agility and Supply Chain Management Efficiency are considered two of the most important building blocks for a successful cross-channel strategy.

With retailers facing fierce competition today it is critical for them to be agile when managing a huge number of products, assortments, promotions and discounts across all channels. The information is getting more and more complex in order to offer more personalized products but the need for data consistency remains the same.  Flexible and solid platforms are required to allow you to adapt to very specific requirements and distribute information to all channels in the shortest time to ensure strong information consistency.

Cross-channel operation does have an impact as well on Supply Chain Management. Retailers need an accurate vision of their inventory at every location to minimize out of stock situations while minimizing the inventory costs. Detailed and real time visibility about the stock at each physical store and warehouse would for example allow to fulfill online orders from stores and this way to reduce distribution costs and provide better customer service since online orders can be actioned in a shorter time.

What do you think? As a retailer what is your cross-channel strategy?  Are you ready for these new challenges?