It’s no surprise that omni-channel appeared in Gartner’s 10 most overused marketing words in 2014. By now, retailers are fully aware of the ease with which consumers hop between channels. However, knowing is one thing – reacting is quite another.
While shoppers find it straightforward to blend digital and physical shopping, cross-channel activity has created new challenges behind the scenes. Retailers are having to replenish stock across multiple channels in ever quickening cycles, without draining resources in one area to satisfy another.
If 2014 was the year in which retailers embraced the concept of omni-channel shopping, 2015 will be the year of reconfiguring their business model to meet it. Old models no longer apply; organisations need a new roadmap to fulfil profitability across all channels – and it starts with these 4 steps:
1. Gain not just visibility, but availability
Retailers are gradually making the transition from siloed to omni-channel data sharing, but complete visibility of inventory alone does not improve allocation and fulfilment. They need to see what stock is available to purchase – and what’s already on order, in transit or returned – across networks to create complete operational control across their enterprise. The retailer needs to be able to view the inventory available to meet the specific customer proposition rather than a simplistic global inventory view. This can’t be done with legacy systems, unable to integrate information across channels.
2. Put all inventory to work, regardless of location
Being able to fulfil orders quickly and profitably means using every supply source to meet customer demand. This includes stores, which are playing an increasingly important distribution centre role, and improve the customer proposition, allowing Click and Collect within 1 hour for example. Retailers also need to move towards enabling returns in any channel or location, so that unwanted stock can be easily turned into available to purchase inventory, and this relies on a cross-channel solution capable of processing transactions across the network.
3. Make decisions based on total insight
With the capacity to know exactly what inventory is available to purchase, and the capability to fulfil orders from any point within the business, retailers will find themselves in a powerful position. The key to success at this point is investing in an efficient omni-channel order management solution, which can automatically calculate ifs, whens and buts on a daily basis to maximise sell throughs and margins. This is something we discuss in depth in our new eguide, The Land of Endless Aisles: how retailers can catch up with their customers.
4. Empower employees to deliver outstanding customer service
Centralising inventory and order management data doesn’t just give head office personnel the ability to make more profitable fulfilment decisions; it can empower associates throughout the business. Through a single view of customer transactions, sales staff can track orders, look up product availability and address enquiries from all channels – improving customer interactions and ensuring that shopping remains a positive experience.