The omnichannel reality – challenges for 2014

2014 will be the year that omnichannel becomes a reality; at least it will be for the forward-thinking retailers who realise the benefit of an integrated platform to deliver the same quality of service, functionality, and company culture throughout the business. As retailers move ahead with their efforts to create a better, more unified, customer experience, the world of retail is poised to undergo some major changes.

I will be running a bootcamp at RBTE on global expansion and what retailers need to know to make their business an international one, so what are the key themes of omnichannel adoption to watch out for?

Entering the era of seamless commerce

The customer must be empowered to transact across all touch points and channels. Whether mobile, online, or in-store, retailers must offer equally accurate and immediate access to products. Brands need to provide a shopping experience built around the reality that most consumers choose to browse online, often before they ever see the product in person. Customers are coming to the store simply to transact, and that means they must be able to not only locate a nearby store which has the products they require, but find that product and purchase it quickly and efficiently.

Streamline order orchestration

Fulfilling the orders of the omnichannel customer demands every warehouse, distribution centre and retail location become a component of a single, tightly integrated, enterprise-wide inventory. Offering online purchasing, but convenient in-store pickup, is just part of the equation. Store inventories can be used to reduce fulfilment time and costs, or to reduce overstock and avoid markdowns.

The digital experience moves into the store

The point-of-sale register will evolve significantly, transforming from a transaction point into an all-purpose commerce kiosk. It will be capable not only for checking out customers and processing transactions but querying inventory, shipping products from the retail’s supply-chain directly to a customer, providing in-depth product information and giving both sales associates and customers access to social elements such as customer ratings and reviews. It will also provide customer services, such as live help via applications like FaceTime or directions to the location of a specific product in the store.

Focus on the customer

Competition will motivate retailers to concentrate harder on understanding what their most loyal and high-value customers want in a shopping experience. Retailers must put the customer at the centre of the retail experience and leverage analytics for all touch points to gain a 360-degree view of their shoppers. By doing so, brands can better understand what motivates a loyal customer or encourages higher-value purchases.

No one knows exactly what the next major trend for retail will be, or even what form it will take. It could be a channel, touch point, device or business model. Too many retailers continue to operate on narrowly designed, purpose-built systems which make it impossible to seamlessly embrace these emerging opportunities. Doing business the way customers demand it – today – is of primary importance.

By Branden Jenkins, General Manager of Global Retail at NetSuite

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