Merchants must unify the shopping experience across all channels, or risk losing revenue and long-term customer loyalty. An overwhelming 95% of retailers understand this reality, agreeing that the store and digital experiences must be merged to deliver seamless customer engagement, according to research from Retail Systems Research (RSR).
In a recent webinar, titled: Unify In-Store And Online Systems To Transform The Customer Experience, executives from RSR and NetSuite discussed how retailers can take advantage of modern platforms to streamline operations across all channels. Ryan Johnson, COO at Lovesac, also provided insights into how the retailer was able to reduce complexity between channels, deliver real-time inventory for sales associates and consumers, and further build brand awareness.
Steve Rowen, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research, noted that store employees need to be returned to a position of relevance if they are expected to create a seamless customer experience. More than half — 57% — of retailers think the best opportunity to create that experience is through offering store employees the best possible selling and productivity tools, according to the 2015 RSR Benchmark Report.
Retailers understand that the primary way to engage with consumers is through building brand awareness, according to Rowen. In fact, 84% of respondents listed “building brand awareness” as a very important factor in having a digital presence, while the other 16% listed it as somewhat important.
Rowen shared data based on aspirational views, indicating that retailers appear to understand what issues are holding them back. As many as 86% of retailers agree that there are differences between the in-store POS and e-Commerce order management systems that need to be considered, while 77% agree that legacy POS systems are preventing them from providing a consistent customer experience across all channels.
Unfortunately, these retailers also feel that they might be stuck trying to update their POS systems for a significant amount of time. While 82% of retailers say they are aware of viable customer order management systems that can navigate all selling channels, 68% agree that replacing the legacy POS with a newer, omnichannel-focused solution would be too expensive and disruptive.
“There are some deeply held cultural beliefs that modernization is going to be expensive and painful,” Rowen said. “Whether or not this sentiment is held in error, this is what retailers believe, and it has to be hit head on before there can be any wide scale progress or any pushing forward of the needle.”
The digital influence will continue to increase within the next few years, according to the RSR report. While 32% of retailers believe digital shopping behaviors currently influence from 25% to 75% of total sales in 2015, nearly half — 47% — indicate that digital shopping will influence this percentage of sales in three years’ time.
Lovesac Revamps Omnichannel Strategy To Create Unified View Of The Consumer
Lovesac, a furniture retailer selling couches and beanbags, has encountered challenges in building brand awareness and understanding the specific needs of consumers as it looks to establish a consistent experience across all channels. To reduce complexity and make relevant information available under a unified solution, Lovesac deployed the NetSuite cloud business platform.
COO Johnson noted that 20% of the company’s sales are completed online, with more than half of the company’s digital traffic taking place on mobile.
In deploying NetSuite, the Lovesac team has numerous points of focus as it seeks to strengthen its channels, including:
Understanding customer expectations while building brand awareness;
Creating seamless experiences between stores and other channels;
Delivering real-time inventory and making it available for all sales associates and customers;
Implementing a modern POS;
Training employees on using modern tools; and
Translating all operations to mobile.
“Our customers bounce between channels, and when the experience isn’t seamless, it raises questions, concerns or barriers to purchase that we would waste a lot of time and energy on — from store personnel to customer experience people,” Johnson said during the webinar. “Gaining one view of the customer has been amazing for us. Previously, we didn’t know how many times we kept touch with these customers and how much we were educating them at each touch point, until we went down this path.”
During live Q&A, Branden Jenkins, General Manager of Global Retail at NetSuite, fielded questions regarding the platform and its deployment at Lovesac and other retail partners. Jenkins indicated that retailers need to break out of the habit of making channel-oriented decisions if they want to deliver the optimum value to their consumers.
“Retailers can step back, look at their situation holistically, and start with a customer experience blueprint across all their channels and touch points,” Jenkins stated. “In taking that blueprint and working backwards into their operational, core and engagement systems, they then won’t find themselves making decisions based off of the limitations of these back end systems. The customer journey is not one linear path anymore.”
Jenkins also explained the attributes retailers should be looking for as they choose a modern POS system. Today’s POS systems can no longer function only as a typical point-of-sale; they must also integrate the digital experience into the store, he said.
“Provide that experience not only on mobile and tablet, but all form factors that make sense to best service your consumer and your various store footprints,” Jenkins advised. “When you have that unification on a single commerce platform, omnichannel order and fulfillments become seamless, and you can empower your associates so they are more valued by the consumer and can start driving more relevant and personalized experiences — regardless of the channel that the consumer is interacting with the brand on.”