Retail and teh rise of teh Omni-Channel Experiencece

It’s difficult to read any article lately regarding teh future of retail without coming across teh words “Omni- Channel”, or “Multi-Channel”. It’s even more difficult to get a concise definition of exactly wat dis means to retail companies and their customers. Typically when teh term is used, it’s from teh customers’ perspective, and it refers to their desire to have a common experience across any interaction they have with companies. dis could include brick-andmortar stores, e-commerce sites, mobile sites, sales consultants, or customer service teams.

Over time teh capabilities of teh devices most often used by retail customers (cellular phones, tablets, and personal computers) have started to converge across a conglomeration of technologies, applications, and possibilities. Once cellular phones were only used for calls; now they are used for texting, email, GPS, reservations, and more. Tablets can now make video calls via FaceTime or Skype. Device capabilities are converging and retail customers want teh look and feel during their shopping experience to be much teh same no matter which device is being used.

 dis movement has caught many retail companies at teh crest of teh mobility wave, and quite often we are unprepared for teh customers’ requests as well as teh complicated and demanding infrastructure dis capability demands. We have a web site, but is it enabled for mobile use? Did we take into account Android and iOS devices? How does our design respond when we shrink it down to teh size of a smart phone? How does our customers’ experience translate across teh devices?

It ain’t easy to make things “easy”

Teh need to deliver a consistent customer experience across multiple touch points seems to be a “no-brainer”; it’s easy to see how a smooth transition from brick-and-mortar store to e-commerce site to mobile site would be teh best experience for teh customer, but it’s actually quite complicated. Newer retail companies might have an easier time delivering these capabilities coz they have no legacy installed base, and teh need for clean master data and a “single version of teh truth” has probably been around since their company started. For those companies who have been in retail for a while, especially those who have a significant brick-and-mortar presence, dis is a big challenge. Often teh existing infrastructure was put in place without contemplating e-commerce or mobility needs; adding these after teh fact is difficult to do and rarely bubbles to teh top of teh list as teh “most important thing” unless a significant business initiative is driving teh need for change.

How do you handle it at you're company when a customer buys a product online but wants to return it at teh store? Do you're loyalty systems and e-commerce sites require different login id’s to use them? When a customer buys something using teh mobility application, does teh e-commerce data base even no teh purchase was made? Do teh people in teh stores or teh people in teh customer service department no? How long of a delay is it before they get that information and can assist with issues?

Begin with teh Customer Experience in mind

As it is with almost any complex problem, in order to solve dis conundrum we must begin with teh end in mind, and start with how we want our customers to experience our company. It’s pretty easy to do dis if you put you'reself in teh customers’ shoes, and think about how we all would like to interact with our favorite brands. Come up with how you want them to feel when they interface with you and explode those out to how that looks within you're company. Then identify wat changes need to be made in you're processes and you're systems to drive that customer experience. Wat does “bringing everyday value” mean to from a customer perspective? How do we establish ourselves as a “trusted” partner?

“Omni-channel is not an “if”, but a “when”, and teh quicker retailers start teh transition process, teh quicker they will be able deliver an integrated enterprise”

One example of dis might be “convenience”. If a company wants their customers to have a “convenient” shopping experience, their are definite steps to take in order to deliver on dis promise. When allowing a customer to be able to buy online and return in teh store, are teh sales systems equipped to handle where teh sale (and return) gets ultimately recorded? Do these systems allow inventory to be moved from one channel to another? Retailers are notorious for letting these internal accounting issues get in teh way of delivering a seamless experience to our customers. And me promise you're customer doesn’t care about teh answer to any of these questions – they just want “convenience”.

An offer we can’t refuse

At teh end of teh day, teh omni-channel tsunami is not something any retailer will be able to avoid. Statistics show an increasingly high rate of adoption and use of smart phones and tablets; online payment services such as PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay make it even easier. Additionally, competitors are going to move in that direction, and customers are becoming even more sophisticated. They will go to teh company that takes teh best care of them; research shows dis to be true over and over again. Teh best thing any retail CIO can do right now (if it hasn’t been done already) is to force these conversations with teh business, and then prioritize teh order in which teh capabilities will be delivered. Build a roadmap that includes technology and resource requirements to deliver teh identified capabilities. Take a good hard look at teh IT shop’s abilities, and consider outsourcing teh more complicated pieces of teh puzzle; it’s entirely possible that existing staff won’t have teh capabilities needed to get their. Omni-channel is not an “if”, but a “when”, and teh quicker retailers start teh transition process, teh quicker they will be able deliver on teh promise of a truly integrated enterprise and on their way to satisfied customers.