The world of retail has been revolutionized by omnichannel commerce, as what was once a buzzword has now become the industry standard. To remain competitive, retailers must link the physical store to the digital world for a connected shopping journey.
While it’s clear that unified commerce is the backbone of a successful retail organization, what is less clear is how to achieve it. This three-part blog series will dive into just that, providing key insights to simplify an omnichannel journey. As more and more businesses transition towards operating in this manner, the need for change management becomes absolutely crucial. We’ll kick things off by discussing its importance and the different ways to go about managing it.
Why Is Change Management So Important?
Perhaps the most daunting aspect of an omnichannel transformation is managing the human side of moving towards this new business structure. Human beings, more often than not, are adverse to change which involves moving away from the comfort of day to day life, especially if it requires substantial time and effort. People prefer stability and value the comfort of tasks and procedures which they already know how to handle. And anything which pushes them from this comfort zone will, naturally, be met with resistance.
Nearly 70% of all change management initiatives fail. Moreover, most companies would cite not the technical or operational side of things, but rather, inability to manage employees as their reason for failure. Ignoring the human side of change is costly as a lack of appropriate measures to help employees through this transition creates risk. Employee productivity declines, absenteeism increases, morale dips and as a result, the company suffers.
What Does Change Management Entail?
The key lies not in preventing the inevitable resistance, but in managing it. Proper measures must be put in place which guide employees through their period of adjustment. Effective change management experience goes a long way in implementing measures to help employees thrive. Here are 5 ways to ensure a comfortable transition for employees
1. Emotional Investment
Without emotional investment and a clear understanding of the impact of the project, employee resistance is bound to increase. To avoid this, the company has to spend time shifting the employees from a state of just being aware, to a state of wanting to take ownership of the change. Employees must understand the impact of the change on their functional areas, understand how they benefit from it and be willing to acquire new skills to achieve this. The result is a workforce that is actively taking initiative to safeguard the company through this transition.
An employee buying into a change is already half of the battle won, but learning new skills is still challenging. It is here where a bit of guidance from the company goes a long way. Having a system in place that allows employees to follow a standardized series of step-by-step instructions for learning new tasks or software makes life much easier. This alleviates employee concern over handling unfamiliar situations and how to go about finding the right answers.
3. Transparency and Awareness
During the hustle and bustle of a major transition, it is often very easy to overlook smaller details while dealing with all the moving parts. Having a system to keep the entire team up to speed on the progress and importance of each task is extremely useful. Being open and transparent helps sidestep tricky situations as there are no surprises.
4. Review and Feedback
A standardized workflow tracks and records all types of changes in a single system. Such a system would also provide the option to configure plans that specify which type of tasks apply to which type of change. Logging the entire history of the project enables the team to know exactly what worked as well as what went wrong so adjustments can be made on the fly.
5. Operational Planning
Planning the nitty-gritty of the operational aspect of change management saves employees a lot of trouble. Often, the complexity of transitioning to omnichannel only truly becomes apparent after it begins and solutions must be drawn up to problems that were never anticipated. Improvising not only proves stressful, but just doesn’t provide the ideal solutions.
Proper planning and experience ensures that everyone is on the same page and is capable of dealing with common day-to-day scenarios. For example, if an in-store customer requests a product in a certain color that is not available at that location, can the associate use the online channel to order it for the customer, or should he request that the DC supply it to the store? And which channel gets credit for the sale?
Change Management and your technology partner
Changes in the marketplace or in consumer behavior that are generally caused by changes in technology demand for companies serving these consumers to respond. However, the popular assumption is that simply implementing new technology is going to right all wrongs and put you back in the game – but this can be extremely detrimental to a brand’s existence. Time and time again it becomes abundantly clear that managing the human aspect of change is quite often the most important factor to the success of any project. For example, if you implement a top of the line order management system but you haven’t clearly outlined which channel manager gets the credit for an ‘order online, pickup in-store’ sale, your store associates will be left facing a daily dilemma to prioritize orders.
Implementing new technology means not only training all members of the organisation to use and engage with the new software, it also requires changing certain processes, even if they may seem to be working perfectly fine. A good technology partner can not only help you with software that is easy to use and intuitive but can also assist with identifying and revamping existing processes that are not recommended according to industry best practices. Moreover, a technology partner with multiple successful projects under their belt can help facilitate the transformation journey by avoiding the obvious roadblocks and steering the project in the right direction.
Tying It Together
When it comes to change management strategy, one size does not fit all. Such an approach fails to provide the right solution and address the unique needs of different companies with specific goals. In the aggressive world of retail, where change is the only constant, the smallest details make all the difference. Having ample experience with what change management actually entails and the proper resources to deal with it is absolutely essential.
Change management is the first stop to simplifying an omnichannel journey and delighting customers but it is by no means the only component. Discover more key elements in part two and part three of our blog series!