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Driving a seamless Omnichannel customer experience

Driving a seamless Omnichannel customer experience
December 20, 2017


Omnichannel is best known as a marketing and sales strategy to provide a continuous buying experience between online and in-store shopping. Customers learn about a product while checking Facebook or Twitter from their mobile phones, use a tablet to research product details, compare alternatives at a retail showroom, or buy it using a mobile app. This behavior has grown in the past 10 years, spanning multiple platforms and communication channels in both the physical and online worlds which we term as omnichannel customer experience. Retailers are facing tough competition from Amazon and Flipkart which are redefining shopping through e-commerce. A study published by the Aberdeen Group shows that retailers that have adopted multichannel strategies are able to retain 89% of their customers while others have a retention rate of 39% only.

Omnichannel is the future in retail and its full potential is still untapped

Roadmap to improve omnichannel experience

Customized webstore:

“If you’re not making the shift – you’re probably going to be merged, acquired, or go bankrupt,” Ray Wang, Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman, Constellation Research. Feature-rich and responsive websites allow shoppers to have the same experience across all platforms, giving them a more personalized online shopping experience. Make it easy and convenient for your customers to buy and return their purchase add features like in-store pickup and ship to store. The latter adds new user friendly payment tender types and personalize user experience. Allow users to access their session on any device and make online shopping easy as pie. First, make your checkout as simple and clear as possible. Avoid adding steps to the process that might distract customers from completing the sale, such as asking where they heard about the business. Save that for the confirmation page. Second, think mobile and build a site (and checkout) that’s friendly to mobile shoppers. Explore Cloud-based solutions — The most effective way to deliver digital transformation with new and improved customer experiences is to employ a single set of centralized resources that support all channels. The only way for retailers to stay this nimble is to run that platform in the Cloud, using an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) model.

Customer orders:

Customer expectations for “anytime, anywhere” order fulfillment is high: 25% of US online adults feel that it’s “important” for a retailer to offer a “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) service and 26% have already used the BOPIS fulfillment option. In order to service a customer from any place, anywhere, retailers must deploy an Operations Management Suite (OMS) solution that allows for order routing, inventory allocation within and across channels, order prioritization, and order maintenance. Inform customer about order status at different stages (shipped/allocated/delivered) via email or via OMS messages.
Aptos, IBM, Jagged Peak, Kibo, Manhattan Associates, NetSuite, Oracle, Radial, and SAP Hybris are some of the top OMS vendors.

Enterprise inventory:

Omnichannel strategy is the ’buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere,’ retailers must have a single view of all inventory in its pipeline from on order to on hand for all company locations. You cannot allocate what you don’t know you have. Therefore, emphasis needs to be placed on gaining inventory visibility, or having ’one version of the truth.’ Smart and effective inventory management is a complex task, requiring large teams of planners and allocators for various engagement channels. In my earlier job, I managed a team overseeing hundreds of millions in annual inventory for a large multichannel apparel retailer, and I can attest to the diligent and careful balancing act required. Too little inventory can lead to unsatisfied consumer demand and missed sales opportunities, whereas too much can reduce margins, as deep markdowns become necessary to clear obsolete products. Inventory management impacts sales and can be a potential nightmare for inventory managers who must account for the following variables:

  • If a customer makes a purchase online, should the shipment come from the distribution center or the nearest store?
  • Should the stores replenish inventory sold via other channels or leave as it is?
  • What is the process and policy if there is a return?

Integrate brick and mortar store and mobile:

The significance of the point of sale (POS) remains unchanged, even in the age of e-commerce. 
The difference between the online shopping experience and the reality of the POS is simply staggering. Now more than ever, retailers need to think about how to integrate their physical network of stores with their online environment in order to offer customers a shopping experience at the POS that is just as rich, engaging, and personalized as the one they can get in the online store. Otherwise, the retailer runs the risk of losing its customers to competitors: Competing offers are always lurking, and they’re usually only a few clicks away due to the widespread popularity of smartphones.

Experienced customer support:

According to a recent study, 76 percent of purchasing decisions are still made at the POS (2012 Point of Purchase Advertising International Shopper Engagement Study). However, today’s customers expect a lot from store employees. Currently, more than four in 10 retailers offer click and collect from stores or ship from store service to customers. Beginning with ship-to-store and pickup-in store, retailers have embarked on the integration of stores as an omnichannel delivery hub. Each store will need to develop its own personality.

Engage Workforce:

30% of the time store employees report that they spend with customers and 70% associate time goes toward executing operational tasks such as inventory management, back room functions, merchandise placement, and other administrative tasks. Source: EKN Research, “Empowered and Engaged Employees Are Central to Improving Customer Experience.” Physical store and its customer-facing associates have evolved into critical components of the all channel business model. Walmart, armed with scheduling software that accurately measures customer traffic, sales volume, and other demand factors, creates weekly schedules that feature a variety of open shifts for associates to build more flexibility into their work week.

  • Adopt forecasting tools to align skilled staff with customer demand
  • Implement just-in-time scheduling
  • Continuously survey your workforce
  • Adopt activity-based schedules
  • Explore new incentives programs

Implementation tools

Explore Cloud-based solutions 

To keep the costs low and start gaining the fruits of omnichannel strategy, I would suggest to tap Cloud-based ideas, using an IaaS and SaaS models.
Cloud solutions are internet-based, businesses don’t have to install hardware and technology is always operating on the latest iteration. One player that is strong in U.S. market is Demandware.

For a second year in a row, Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) has been recognized by Gartner.

Intelligent analysis

If we talk about omnichannel experience, an example would be that a large percentage of customers after purchasing from a website and purchasing over $2,000 in value tend to call customer service to ensure the transaction has gone through. Smart systems in omnichannel strategy can provide a proactive chat notification to get customers directly in front of a live agent – seamlessly and with less effort and time from the customer.

OMS systems and other software

Explore from many of the OMS systems provided by vendors:

Aptos, IBM, Jagged Peak, Kibo, Manhattan Associates, NetSuite, Oracle, Radial, and SAP Hybris are some of the top OMS vendors.

Kronos® for Retail is the most widely deployed workforce management solution available.

HCL Ideaprenaurs supporting behind the scenes for helping some of the retail giants to go omnichannel- ToysRus, DicksSportingGoods, and GNC websites, to name a few.