Retailers that are serious about long-term omni-channel success need to break down the channel planning and system silos and put the foundation in place on which they can deliver the cross-channel shopping experience that customers expect while also achieving their financial goals. Setting this foundation requires a focus on the four pillars of process, people, data and systems.
The transformation to true omni-channel planning and execution starts with redefining business processes. In a siloed organization, each team has its own processes and typically systems. By breaking down these operational silos, retailers can more easily streamline their planning processes, and more importantly, integrate these processes across new and emerging channels. So before moving onto the other pillars, cross-channel business processes must be defined and a change management strategy formulated to help the organization successfully make the transition.
This magnitude of change doesn’t happen overnight, and more importantly, it doesn’t just evolve. Rather, it comes from a culture change — one that is championed from “the top down.” Once the culture is in place, the next step is for retailers to restructure their teams to support the roles within the new omni-channel planning processes. Change management will play a key role in helping team members to understand and adapt to their new roles and responsibilities.
More digital touch points means one thing — a higher volume of incoming data. As new customer-facing solutions are adopted, so are new sources of information created. Simple structured data sets have given way to unstructured data created by the marketplace’s many digital touchpoints, including mobile and social media.
While 82% of retailers reported that big data is a pre-requisite to changing the way they interact with and relate to their customers, according to “e,” a report from Accenture, big data is growing exponentially and entering companies’ data warehouses so quickly, that many struggle with how to harness this fast-growing information. Those that can manage to centralize this information and then apply predictive business analytics will be poised to accurately determine inventory levels and better allocate merchandise assortments to specific channels based on consumers’ real-time demand.
This effort not only delivers better visibility to merchandisers, it also better positions merchandise enterprise-wide.
While technology alone cannot solve business problems, it is most definitely the enabler of success once the other three pillars are in place. For example, by implementing modern systems, retailers can share data freely across the enterprise, as well as gain a single version of the truth regarding customer information, inventory and stock levels, as well as product movement. It is the final piece of the omni-channel merchandising puzzle, and the pillar that supports the information needed to drive the company’s overall merchandising strategy.