How do retailers offer seamless service across channels, or add customer histories to transactions?
For one, they need to get different supply chain systems talking to each other on the back end
BRANDING has gradually become simpler and simpler. While a simple ‘tick’ started it all, soon enough a multi-coloured apple became white and we saw the golden arches. Even choice and packaging have become less confusing to tempt consumers.
So why, as retailers, do we still offer complex shopping experiences for these brands?
No customer has ever been happy with poor service. But a lack of different fulfilment options is exactly that. No customer should have to suffer simply because retailers can’t get different supply chain systems talking to each other on the back end.
To make customers happy, companies need to unify their sales channels and make the retail experience as simple for shoppers as possible.
This includes offering them a range of fulfilment services so they can choose the one that is most accessible to them. If not, they risk losing customers to their competitors. They need to make shopping, simply ... shopping!
But the ‘what’ is always easier than the ‘how.’ So when we say ‘offer a seamless service across channels’ and ‘add customer histories to transactions,’ how do we achieve it?
Get online stock levels in sync
It starts online, and with stock levels. Know how much stock you have is the obvious tip. There’s nothing worse than a customer getting to checkout and the item has disappeared from his or her basket because it’s actually not available.
Beyond a simple stock-count, know how much inventory exists across the whole business – and apply it to online transactions.
This means not counting items in channel-based siloes, but maintaining a single inventory pool. The outcome is greater product availability and the ability to fulfil orders much more simply.
Any item available in store can therefore be available online as well, which makes the customer happier when they can easily buy it. It also provides an avenue through which full price sales can be made for stock that would otherwise be discounted, if left in store, unsold.
Extended benefits of single inventory
But that’s just the start of it for the retailer. A single inventory pool is the platform for doing a lot more.
For example, you can spot opportunities to incentivise sales. Goods can be at near full RRP (recommended retail price), with simple offers like ‘free delivery,’ instead of dropping them below RRP because they’re not selling in the specific store they’re shelved in. Retailers make profit, customers get a great deal.
Some of these changes require a shift in mentality. Retailers need to see back-of-store operations as equally important to front-of-house, as this is where customer loyalty is built.
Branding and shop fitting have an important place, of course, but if the items aren’t there to be bought, sales simply cannot be made.
This refers to all channels, not simply in-store. The only way to offer this is for retailers to have a single view of all stock, across all channels at any one time.
The pressure to deliver this service is heightened by the competitive market and how easy it is for customers to go elsewhere.
Those retailers that will gain a competitive advantage are the ones which have aligned all their channels and can fulfil through each one profitably.
They turn difficult customer experiences into rewarding ones and ultimately, secure customer loyalty for the future.
Scott Gillies is director of retail, Asia Pacific at Manhattan Associates, where he’s been for more than 15 years. Prior to this role, Gillies held the position of sales and business development executive for the North American market.
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