Welcome back with us on the 3rd and final stop to simplifying your omnichannel journey! Up until now, we’ve firmly established the groundwork and laid the foundation to enable an omnichannel supply chain. Your customer now has the ability to shop using multiple channels and enjoy a continuous and consistent brand experience. The bulk of the work is done! But to complete the journey, additional components must be added. Stick around and we’ll cover just that!
Making the Customer Journey Seamless?
Order Management System
Our previous piece shed some light on the importance of real time inventory visibility. Having established that, only a few steps remain in creating a truly seamless shopping experience, the first being an OMS. While many retailers choose to use a standalone order management system and connect it to several other systems, the real benefit lies in an OMS as part of an integrated technology platform.
Think back to Bob from part 2 of this blog series. Suppose Bob is shopping online and comes across some items he likes. He selects the items, adds them to his cart, checks out and enters the necessary information for payment and delivery. He is pleased to see that he’ll receive his items within the next 3 days and is, overall, extremely satisfied with the experience.
What Bob doesn’t see is the workings of an exceptional OMS behind the scenes that is enabling this experience. The system provides a real-time view of inventory availability to determine the best fulfillment option. It checks inventory level in the store closest to Bob and sees that the majority of the items he ordered are out of stock. Not a problem! The system automatically proceeds to check the next store closest to Bob until it locates the required inventory and then puts in the order for the delivery to be made. The employees at the store will locate the items and set it aside for delivery (which has already been scheduled automatically).
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the system doesn’t find the products Bob has selected in any of the regional stores or central warehouse. What now? Well, the previously established omnichannel supply chain allows collaboration between brands, manufacturers, retailers and even trading partners and hence, allows for an endless aisle as well as the ability to drop-ship and have the supplier directly fulfill Bob’s order.
Another crucial aspect covered in our previous piece was the importance of a 360 ° view of customers. Once organizations have aggregated massive amounts of information and created a single platform for all inventory and customer data, all that’s missing are the tools to analyze this information. Analytics makes it less of a hopeful guessing game to figure out what customers want and more of a predictive system based on key insights.
Starting at the POS, the beginning of the interaction between the customer and the brand, the store associate will have access to a wealth of data. The data will have been captured from a variety of sources such as e-commerce platforms, social media and even call center records. This coupled with more specific information such as measurements and purchase history based preferences will help create a complete customer profile.
As we move further down the supply chain towards manufacturing and distribution, analytical tools can help optimize a company’s product assortment using size curve localization and historical sales data. This ensures its various stores are stocked with the right size, quantity and color of the necessary product at the right times. This predictive ability ensures that the right items are available at all times and prevents a loss of sales and inventory over-storage.
In addition, the same tools can be applied to sourcing. For example, In terms of vendors, the wholesaler has the ability to analyze and rank them based on reliability (for example, defaulters for shipping, incorrect orders, etc.).
Is a Seamless Customer Journey Enough?
In terms of a seamless customer journey from start to finish, you now have the structure and capabilities in place to guarantee one. But being able to provide customers with the product they’re looking for is ultimately useless without the ability to make them feel appreciated. It’s no secret that the modern day customer is less loyal to a brand and is more loyal to the experience that the brand can provide. Should the experience even be slightly lacking, given the options now at their disposal, they can purchase a product online from a competitor before even having left the current store. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? In reality, this is an opportunity to take the brand experience to a whole new level. With technology at hand, brands can engage with their customers in endless ways to make them feel valued and appreciated. And accompanied by the analytical ability that these companies now have at their fingertips, one of the best ways they can do this is through loyalty and promotional programs.
Loyalty and Promotions
In order to come this far on an omnichannel journey, it’s a given that a company will have a certain level of technological capability. Hence, the next step, an omnichannel loyalty and promotional program, is less about technological capabilities and more about the strategy. The implementation of this strategy depends on the customers, as one size does not fit all. With a 360° view of customers already established, all that is needed is the ability to slice the available data and enable customer segmentation. This allows for the creation of targeted promotions, customized loyalty programs as well as appropriate marketing campaigns. Add integration across all fronts including e-commerce platforms and POS system and the result is a personalized in-store experience. But how does one go about implementing this?
As mentioned earlier, one size does not fit all and a smaller company may benefit more from a big bang approach than a phased implementation. For companies that already have the technological capabilities to house large amounts of customer data, a parallel adoption with a phased rollout is advised. A CRM system encompasses multiple departments and this approach allows for a smoother transition with gradual training and adoption. While it may be more costly in the short-run, it is more effective in the long run.
Some examples of different ways that brands can cultivate loyalty through this system are:
- Enabling multi-channel point-based loyalty programs which enable shoppers to collect points and redeem promotions. Having these platforms available across all channels is in keeping with the omnichannel experience and lets customers choose the most convenient option.
- Tiered loyalty programs that give different rewards based on what tier a customer is in. Creating these tiers essentially challenges customers to reach these new levels and as a result, will make them feel more valued through the exclusivity.
- Monitoring and engaging all interactions online and throughout social media, regardless of where they are in their customer journey. Rewarding any social interactions or engagements is a great way to improve the brand experience and increase the likelihood of a future purchase.
- Rewarding regular customers with exclusive offers to show appreciation for their loyalty.
- Offering various discounts and promotions based on personal information and product preferences amassed.
Tweaking it for the Modern Day Consumer
You only have one step left to establish your omnichannel structure, one extremely crucial one. In this modern age, regardless of the industry, mobility is a defining factor. It comes into play at every step of the supply chain.
1) Store Level
At a store level, mobility translates into a mobile POS software which enables both back and front office functions. This involves in-store associates being able to quickly cultivate loyalty by adding new customers to the database and finding existing client information with ease which enhances the shopping experience with personalized service. Based on the information, she suggests a specific product only to see that it isn’t on the shelf. However, through the tablet, she is able to search on-the-spot without ever having to leave the customer.
She is immediately able to see that the store has some in stock and can even use the tablet to request someone closer to bring it out. In a situation where there is only stock in a different store, she can find out whether the customer would prefer to have it delivered or pick it up from the other store. Finally, the order can be processed and payment can be taken care of on the spot and the digital receipt can be emailed directly to them, creating a truly personalized and engaging customer journey.
2) Merchandising Level
At a merchandising level, mobility translates into empowering warehouse employees with mobile devices so they can pick, pack and ship as quickly as possible. Having mobile access to the entire flow of information maximizes the value of the warehouse and boosts productivity.
3) Design & Sourcing Level
At a design and sourcing level, mobility translates into being able to access the same functionalities described throughout this series remotely. The ability to access product and process information has traditionally been restricted to devices connected to a hardwired network (or devices on-premises). Nowadays, however, many tasks require users to leave the office for meetings, visit the production floor, perform field service maintenance, etc. As a result, professionals need to be able to remotely access the appropriate information and use it as part of their workflow processes. This includes product designers, resource suppliers and manufacturers.
If these professionals are offline and fail to respond in the necessary time-frame, bottlenecks can easily occur in the process. As such, mobile technology that provides the necessary functionality through an easy-to-use user interface becomes increasingly important. Add the necessary analytics tools to this and the relevant decision makers will be armed with everything they need to do their job while on the go.
You’ve now arrived at your final stop and at the end of your omnichannel journey! It’s been a tricky one but as you’ve seen, with the right guidance, it’s a relatively speed-bump free journey. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and that you’ve picked up a few valuable tips and learned a few lessons along the way!