Shoppers are no longer sticking to a single channel when interacting with retailers and venturing through the buying cycle. As consumers become more omnichannel in their shopping habits, retailers need to learn the best ways to engage these customers to drive sales and loyalty.
In a recent Connected Consumer Series webinar, titled: Investing For Success In Omnichannel Retailing, executives from Retails Systems Research and Junction Solutions discussed how the customer buying cycle has changed, and best practices for retailers striving to adapt their businesses to keep pace.
“The world has dramatically changed,” said Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research. “In the past, consumer-based behaviors were pretty much orderly — and that has fundamentally changed. It has since changed to a very chaotic pattern, and there are now many different paths to purchase. This has become what we have come to know as the omnichannel phenomenon.”
Investing in omnichannel tactics is the most effective way to surprise and delight channel-agnostic consumers, according to Rosenblum. Factors to consider include: Optimizing the path to purchase; defining the brand; identifying marketing’s new role in the company; and realigning the supply chain.
“We have to realign the supply chain, and bathe everything in analytics,” Rosenblum explained. “These chaotic paths to purchase create different pressures on the supply chain. They also change the processes valued within a company. Now, the most highly valued process is creating a consistent customer experience across all channels, followed by inventory visibility across all channels and customer order visibility across all channels. It’s really shifted the thought process of the steps we need to take in order to run a successful business.”
Consumer expectations also have evolved along with their changing shopping habits. Omnichannel capabilities are going to play a vital role in the future of online shopping, and the role of the e-Commerce platform is rapidly changing as well, according to Rosenblum.
Rosenblum noted: “We’re finding that the e-commerce platform is starting to move into other parts of the retail enterprise. There are those who believe that e-Commerce is ultimately going to become the POS platform — it certainly has already become a mobile POS platform. The bottom line is that the e-Commerce platform will become the digital channel of record.”
To succeed, retailers need to establish a long-term plan for implementing their omnichannel strategies. Since IT plays a significant role in all marketing and commerce touch points — especially supply chain management — retailers need to evaluate their current IT capabilities and look at the benefits of partnering with third-party solution providers.
“While many retailers have considerable expertise in IT, it still isn’t typically their core competency,” said Brion Reusche, Industry Principal at Junction Solutions. “So I recommend finding an IT consulting partner with expertise in the retail industry that can help you along in this journey.”
Don’t Fear Consumer Technology, Embrace It
Although innovation in consumer technology — such as mobile and social media — has been disruptive retailers should embrace the changes. For example, implementing mobile POS in-store can actually improve the customer experience, according to Reusche.
“The impact mobile and social has had on the retail industry is not new news to anybody,” Reusche said. “Retailers simply need to fight fire with fire. These types of consumer technologies should be leveraged instead of being worried about. And if implemented effectively, they can bring a lot of valuable information to your brand.”
Ultimately, regardless of the tools retailers implement and the amount of money they throw into IT, organizations may need to implement significant changes in order to see results in the omnichannel customer experience.
“If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results you’ve been getting,” Reusche said. “That’s why this shouldn’t be just an IT makeover or some system integrations, you need to have executives stand by your plans and you really need to keep your eye on the prize so everybody gets that this is how your organization is going to achieve omnichannel excellence.”
Click here to access an on-demand version of this webinar, and access all Connected Consumer Series presentations.