While omnichannel has been debated for nearly a decade, many retailers have still not cracked the holy grail – seamlessly connecting multiple customer channels.
Branden Jenkins, general manager of global retail at NetSuite, says to ensure the best customer experience retailers not only need to unify their customer channels, but also their backend capabilities such as inventory management.
"When it comes to fixing the customer experience, many retailers think it's a front- facing system problem, so they throw mobile solutions at it, but they never fix the backend problems and this just creates a web of complexity."
Jenkins says as technology and multichannel retailing has developed, traditional retailers have had to keep up with the rapid pace of change by bolting one piece of software onto another, again and again and again.
"Retailers need to stop making these channel-based buying decisions," he explains. "They've gone out and bought an eCommerce platform with its own order management system, and then they go and buy a POS and integrate that, and then tack on a CRM system – and all of this integration means the data probably isn't right if it's in multiple places and there will be a lag time which limits the experience and the customer journey."
Jenkins believes a single view of customers and inventory should all be on the same system, but he understands that ripping out the tangled web of systems is not easy. "It has so much risk and change management," he says, explaining that smaller retailers can rip-and-replace much easier because they are not chained to their legacy systems.
But standardising all channels onto one software supplier, he says, reduces complexity in the retailer's technology stack. And if the retailer chooses the cloud – like NetSuite's solution – it can rest assured that regular systems updates will keep up with demands from the ever changing technology environment we now live in.
"Cloud updates mean the retailer doesn't get left behind," he adds. "Whether it’s the next two, five or ten years ̶ as long as they're on a current system which is constantly evolving, they will be in much better shape than their competitors."
Billabong is one customer who chose NetSuite to consolidate the ERP, commerce and POS systems for all ten brands sold in 20 countries. The retailer has 400 stores of its own, as well as wholesaling to over 10,000 globally. This sizeable operation chose NetSuite to reduce the complexity of launching into new markets where it previously found itself cloning or buying new POS systems to bolt onto existing technology platforms.
Baby stroller retailer Maclaren also consolidated its efforts onto a single system which allowed it to launch five websites in four months. Meanwhile, Jenkins said swimwear retailer Orlebar Brown is now able to have a single view of its customer across channels allowing it to offer customers a more personalised experience.
"Once retailers get past the technology holding them back – it's up to them to figure out how to transform and disrupt their segment of the industry."
And having this unified view of both the customer and inventory means retailers can keep up with demands from shoppers.
"Consumers have zero patience," says Jenkins. "And they are increasingly becoming the number one challenge for retailers and if they can't keep up with consumer demand they'll be out of business."
Jenkins says it is technology which has caused the arrival of the impatient customer. "Just take on demand TV – my kids are so used to skipping commercials, when we were at a hotel recently watching regular TV they freaked out when the adverts were interrupting their show," he explains. "These generations are coming and the technology continues to change their behaviours and it definitely affects retail."
Jenkins uses Amazon as another example of the impatient consumer: "If you go into a store and they don't have the product I want, I will scan the barcode and it will be shipped to me for free in a couple of days," he explains.
"Consumers are impulsive and they want to go to into a store and walk out with product," he says. "But if retailers are not fully equipped with the right product, at right time, at the right price, as well as a sales associate empowered to act on it, they're going to miss that sale."
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