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In Today’s Commerce World, There Are Clear Winners And Losers

  • Written by  Jim Barnes, enVista

0aaJim Barnes enVistaAs physical and digital commerce converge, the brands dominating and thriving in the market are those optimally engaging customers, meeting their expectations and delivering consistent, stellar, personalized brand experiences across the enterprise. Expanding channels, marketplaces and consumer expectations are also pressuring manufacturers and distributors to both improve fulfillment and service levels for their retail clients, and to develop direct-to-consumer digital commerce channels. In a race to compete, it is the retail fast eating the retail slow.

 

Companies that can rapidly unify commerce and optimize enabling supply chain processes will have a clear competitive edge, by strategically focusing on and leveraging:

  1. The Customer Experience
    1. Leveraging Physical Stores to Differentiate
    2. Leveraging Digital and Clienteling In-Store
    3. Leveraging “Best Ship Method” Preferences Online
  2. Digital Transformation
  3. Omnichannel Enablement
  4. Unified Commerce Platform

1. The Customer Experience

Customer expectations have rapidly evolved with the rise of digital commerce. Today’s consumers want to shop wherever and whenever they want. To keep pace, foster brand loyalty, increase revenue and thrive, retailers must deliver operational excellence, convenient and consistent customer-centric brand experience across all channels and locations (buy, fulfill and return anywhere).

  • Leveraging Physical Stores to Differentiate

Within the physical store, retailers have a critical opportunity to deliver exceptional experiences, personalization and choice. Brands like Nike, Under Armour, Eddie Bauer, REI, Nordstrom and Costco are creating unique digital and in-store brand experience such as branded sports facilities to encourage customers to try out products on sale, interactive in-store digital technologies, virtual reality pop-ups, retail-tainment, merchandise-free shops and more to differentiate, deliver a memorable brand experience, foster customer brand loyalty and improve margin.

  • Leveraging Digital and Clienteling In-Store

In-store digital innovation can also be a differentiator, but only to the extent that it improves the customer experience (e.g. choice, convenience and control). While technology such as mobile devices, on-site kiosks and digital display are often used to provide customers the opportunity to view enterprise inventory available to promise, product information and shipping timeframes and cost options, now they can also be leveraged to actually complete the order transaction. Digital in a store without execution is counter-productive and can hurt the customer experience if it is not intuitive for the customer or sales associate.

Point of sale (POS/mPOS) solutions with clienteling capabilities, customer order history and profiles, and integrated with the retailer’s enterprise order management system (OMS) also enable store associates to deliver personalized shopping experiences and recommendations and leverage enterprise inventory to save the sale. Associates are more easily able to find merchandise beyond their store’s catalog, leverage an enterprise-wide catalog from the store and check out shoppers from anywhere in the store, for an improved store experience for the customer.

  • Leveraging “Best Ship Method” Preferences Online

All retailers, even the giants, are competing on fulfillment time, but time is only a critical factor in some orders. Employing a “best ship” method strategy prior to cart checkout enables the retailer to 1) deliver a more personalized experience to the customer; 2) determine inventory fulfillment sources and associated costs for various shipment windows/timeframes; 3) provide those fulfillment and cost options to the customer at checkout, giving them more control and the ability to choose the shipment method that most closely aligns with what they value (speed vs cost); and 4) set and meet expectations, while proactively communicating the state and status during the lifecycle of the order to the customer.

2. Digital Transformation: The Convergence of Digital and Physical

Customers are more empowered than ever before. As technology evolves, so do customer expectations around their purchasing journeys. But while digital is everything, not everything is digital. The key to leveraging digital is to ensure it enhances the customer experience versus overtakes the undeniable, intangible human impact of live customer service and clienteling done well. To drive a flawless customer experience, digital platforms and applications must be an extension of your brand experience.

A great example of where digital and physical are merging is the ability to start an order online but finish the cart checkout in the store. This requires a platform that has a single view of the customer regardless of engagement point and platform architecture to manage the lifecycle of an order. Physical stores can also support and boost digital sales (ship from store/ship to store/buy online pick up at store, or from customer service resulting in residual online orders).

While some customers will appreciate a breadth of digital experiences where they can complete the transaction independently and remotely, others will still prefer, at least sometimes, to directly interact with the product and store or customer care associates. Understanding your customer expectations and patterns and preferences will help you elegantly and effectively leverage digital to enhance service.

 

3. Truly Omnichannel Enabled

 

Brands can provide a unified commerce, customer-first experience only if their operations are truly omnichannel enabled, including call center/customer care. Consider how customer expectations and resulting retail technology requirements have evolved over the last 10 and especially five years. With multi-tenant architecture, retailers benefit from functionality updates without having to upgrade their technology. What has made these changes possible? Cloud-based technology and a customer-first approach to unified commerce.

4. Why a Unified Commerce Cloud Platform is Required

Moving from a conceptual strategy to successful enterprise execution is easier said than done; it requires retailers to develop customer-first processes and to select and implement the right enabling technology to break barriers between enterprises, channels, technology and data. The game-changing solution to rapidly enable agile, customer-centric commerce is a Unified Commerce Cloud Platform. However, not all solutions are created equal; look for a platform built on a multi-enterprise integration framework to rapidly integrate, rapidly scale and speed time to market and value.


 

Jim Barnes is CEO of enVista. He brings more than 25 years of experience successfully deploying customized supply chain and unified commerce solutions for companies in the retail, wholesale distribution and e-Commerce industries, addressing their unique requirements. He has consulted with hundreds of recognized retail brands, unifying commerce and solving their omnichannel requirements as well as profitability and top line revenue. Barnes’ expertise includes all areas within the extended supply chain, including retail merchandise and assortment planning, e-Commerce, IT strategy, organizational change management, supporting supply chain and execution technology, global supply chain network design, strategic facility design, international and domestic transportation management. Additionally, he is the visionary of Enspire Commerce, a unified commerce platform by enVista. In today’s complex digital retail market, the Enspire Commerce platform enables mid-market, omni-channel companies to leverage a single solution to rapidly unify commerce, optimize customer engagement and deliver an exceptional, consistent brand experience.

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