Omnichannel Game Of Thrones

0aBill Palmer NSR ConsultingIf the customer is the Holy Grail to our Brand and Sales organization and Omnichannel is the new Kingdom, why do we continue the constant battle between E-Commerce and Stores? So often in today’s retail environment we see the Director of E-Commerce and the Director of Stores locked in their own personal Game of Thrones, each channel doing whatever it can to own the customer with total disregard for growing the Brand and taking care of the consumer. Each controlling their fiefdom trying to prove that they will rule the crown!

Can you remember the last time the Director of e-Commerce did not want to market a store event or promotion because they didn’t want to interrupt the normal schedule of email blasts or Facebook posts? Shouting the curse of “customers unsubscribing” because they are inundated with contacts? And have you ever seen the look on the store staff’s face when someone walks in to return an e-Commerce purchase? The cry of “We won’t make our sales day” runs through the store and, lest we forget the dreaded “Flash Sale,” and Will you match the web price?

Both houses feud because they want to rule the kingdom. Their vision is limited by the walls of their castle and world around it, be it clicks and discarded baskets or daily sales and low conversion rates, or perhaps it is simply protecting their place in the company hierarchy. These leaders don’t see how working together they can create a greater kingdom: by gathering stronger customer insight and causing customers to shop multiple channels, all while building brand loyalty. But what is a leader to do? It takes technology, process and vision to create this Omnichannel Utopia where everyone works together, and that costs resources that many companies are not willing to spare.


Well, I am here to tell that you can spend vast amounts of resources on ERP systems, and e-Com platforms and POS systems that connect to it all, but there are ways to work within your existing systems that will allow you to take the next steps down this road. It begins with three simple steps: Vision, Process, and Communication.

Vision is needed to understand what it is you want to achieve. As the definition of omnichannel as well as the underlying technology changes and grows, where does your company want to be? How do you want to impact the consumer experience in the stores and on the web? Do you want to be the leader letting technology drive your process, or do you want to let the desires of your customer drive the technology you use?

Cases can be made for both paths and the ROI can be justified either way, but ultimately it boils down to your vision for the customer experience. Do you have a Vision for what you want your customer experience to be? Not just on your e-Commerce site or in the store or on a mobile device, but the total customer experience.

Process: no one likes to get bogged down in process. But if you don’t have, or can’t yet afford, the technology, process can make the difference in your ability to enhance the customer experience. Even the one-store owner has an e-Commerce site these days. How that store handles a return from the web can make all the difference in the customer experience. It is no longer acceptable to simply say “No, I can’t take this, you’ll have to ship it back.” Having processes to handle web returns in store, or find unavailable product in another store, or to ship directly from the store are all easily handled with process.

Finally, Communication. Second only to having a vision, Communication is the one thing that will bring the whole kingdom tumbling down. You must make sure there are clear channels of communication between your e-Commerce Team and your Store Team. Senior Management, Merchants, Marketing, Business Analysts and Content Creators should have an open channel of communication with their counterparts. Without this communication the struggle to win the consumer will only grow. By managing certain key areas of communication you can enhance the consumer experience even without new technology or additional resources.  

Marketing, Promotions and Event schedules should be mapped out, and sales, markdowns and promotions should all be shared. We have all seen the customer in the store with our e-Com site pulled up on their phone. If you are having a sale in store and not online, this will create confusion and consumer frustration. Sales Trends should be shared: perhaps e-Com is selling a style that isn’t moving at the stores. Those resources can be shifted to maximize profits. This data can dramatically impact forecasting and buying to help to drive gross margin. Finally, customer feedback, whenever we receive it, needs to be shared.

Of course, there are many challenges and complaints from the various channels. How are sales and returns going to impact goals and metrics to measure performance? What about taking people off the sales floor to ship directly from the store? The list goes on. By understanding the goal and making simple changes in process, procedures, training, technology and most importantly, communication, you can make the difference, driving sales, building loyal customers and building a stronger brand.

It takes someone with vision to see the big picture, understand the challenges from both sides and work on the solutions that will make it more effective to work together than separately. Because if these channels continue down the myopic path of individual growth, the real loser in this Game of Thrones is the brand and the consumer. 

Bill Palmer is a senior retail omnichannel professional with 20 years’ progressive experience in growth strategy, operations and sales, with brands including Columbia Sportswear, Danner and Dr. Martens. He is focused on bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar Stores and e-Commerce to drive true omnichannel development, leveraging industry experience and business acumen to incorporate “best practices” and systematic process improvements that drive channel expansion, KPIs and sales growth.


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