“Omnichannel” has been a buzzword thrown around the retail industry and at the NRF BIG Show a lot in recent years, in fact so much that some execs tried to refrain from using the term this year. However, the concept is so vital to improving the customer-retailer relationship that it remains a prominent goal for retailers to achieve in 2015.
During the 2015 BIG Show, Tom Cole, Partner at Kurt Salmon, focused on omnichannel as the moderator of a panel discussion titled: Optimizing Omni-Channel: Lessons and Insights from Industry Leaders. Panelists included: Diane Ellis, President and CEO of The Limited; R.B. Harrison, Chief Omnichannel Officer at Macy's; and Brent Kirby, Chief Omnichannel Officer at Lowe's. Discussions centered around the definition of omnichannel; the industry-wide shift toward omnichannel; and the strategies taken to improve the customer experience.
Retailers providing their own brand of omnichannel experience must reach far beyond the customer-facing processes that are illustrated through the customer transaction, according to Kirby. The service also extends to every area of the retail business, including the back end: inventory visibility and supply chain management.
“As we’re evolving the omnichannel selling capabilities and the connectivity of those across our ecosystem and our touch points with the customer, we’re also evolving our supply chain capabilities as well to meet those needs, be they parcel or last-mile delivery,” Kirby explained. “For 2015 and beyond to me ‘speed’ is the word. Speed and connectivity are key for us as we continue on this journey, and I don’t think anything’s going to change there.”
Continuous Adaptation Mode
Omnichannel adaption needs to be in constant motion in order for a retail company to truly succeed, according to Harrison. For example, Harrison noted that Macy’s CEO, Terry Lundgren, urged the company to keep moving and evolving with customer needs, especially since the retailer has the opportunity to pass Netflix as the seventh-largest online retailer in 2015. As part of the effort, Macy’s unified its in-store and e-Commerce businesses under one umbrella.
“We have to change and choose our investment cycles differently,” Harrison stated. “Most people may not really think of Macy’s as a technology company, but we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology to enable all of this. This change in the way we look at inventory is all to facilitate a customer experience and deliver it to her truly seamlessly. We’re going to have one headset, but coordinated tactics to make sure that the experience captures the important digital side and captures the important in-store side.”
As much as the most updated technology continues to be in demand, retailers will need to learn how to adapt to providing omnichannel services through any medium. Therefore, employees need to understand their role and be ready at all times to be a brand advocate and provide real-time service to shoppers, even if it’s a task they are generally not used to handling.
Additionally, change management is a central part of the strategy. “You need people with an affinity for the customer and no ego investment in doing things the way they’ve been done before,” said Ellis. “If you don’t have people on the team who are open to change, you won’t get very far.”
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