In our last blog post we discussed seamless shopping with an emphasis on giving consumers tremendous flexibility in how they can engage with your store or brand. For example, it’s important for shoppers to be able to interact with your product and customer service teams across physical and digital channels, from stores to website to social media, regardless of the type of device they are using. We talked about how powerful product imagery and interactive experiences can translate across different touchpoints.
Today we focus on some operational capabilities that need to be humming along smoothly behind the scenes to meet omnichannel shopping expectations. For example, we know consumers want real-time inventory visibility, clear pricing and current information about the store nearest carrying their desired items. To deliver all of this information and ultimately the product itself, brands and retailers must have not only sophisticated e-commerce engines but also connected supply chains.
A seamless shopping experience is easier to offer when there is seamless connectivity within the business. This is easier said than done. It can require companies to break down organizational silos that isolate information. Often these silos simply build up over time, usually the byproduct of legacy computer systems and manual processes that have persisted even as organizations have evolved.
Integrated systems can offer more seamless information flow. For example, it’s important for your e-commerce solution to integrate tightly with your retail management system. This helps to ensure all product information is centralized and up to date, which is particularly important for maintaining current online product catalogs and consistent pricing across channels.
Beyond your company’s four walls, there are also opportunities to break down barriers that may be blocking the information flow between your business, your suppliers and the customer. When there are stronger connections between business partners, everyone can do a better job of serving the end consumer across multiple channels.
For instance, electronic data interchange (EDI) enables trading partners to automatically and accurately update each other on business-critical transactions from purchase orders to payments to shipments. EDI eliminates the need to manually perform these activities. Other IT solutions, such as online collaboration portals, enable brands and manufacturers to give retail customers easy access to order status, order entry, product availability and product photos. These tools dramatically reduce time spent chasing down answers via emails or phone calls.
When all of these solutions talk to each other, retailers know instantly what goods are in inventory, what items have been shipped from manufacturers and when products will be available to deliver to consumers.
This level of supply chain connectivity and visibility opens up new possibilities for meeting consumer demand and accelerating products to market. Retailers who know their real-time stock availability by location can share this insight with online consumers. If an item is not currently in stock, but can be promised to an online shopper for delivery by a certain date, the retailer also has an opportunity to win the shopper’s loyalty and confidence. Without access to this information, the consumer is likely to look elsewhere.
Consumers are looking for smart retailers who will show them everything, including everything they have in-stock and everything they have open to buy. The vast majority of consumers want to shop locally, but if local retailers don’t make their product offerings available online in a compelling fashion, these shoppers will turn to major online players such as Amazon.
Only when businesses trust their data can they ask consumers to do the same. That’s why being data-driven plays such a huge role in being consumer-centric in today’s omnichannel world.