Winning the Omnichannel Retail Arms Race: 5 Keys to Success in 2013 and Beyond

Not long ago, I bought a chandelier in a retail store, supplying my email address and other information. Back home a few days later, I ordered a set of matching sconces through the same retailer’s website. When I opened my order confirmation email for the sconces, I was dismayed to find the retailer recommending the very chandelier I’d bought in-store — at a 50 percent discount!

How could this retailer’s web storefront not know what its brick-and-mortar storefront had already sold me? Does my business mean so little to this retailer that it doesn’t care what kind of experiences I have with the brand?

You’ve probably had similar experiences and thoughts. They’re not uncommon, as many retailers run siloed and disconnected systems for e-commerce, in-store sales, call centers and back-end enterprise resource planning. These systems were designed to support the old retail world in which customer relationships consisted of one-channel conversations between businesses and consumers.

Organizations managed the rise of e-commerce by bolting internet capabilities onto existing architectures. As a result, these systems are arranged around point solutions, creating multiple siloes of disparate data sets. They present fragmented views of the customer. They have no single system of record for transactions, customer activity or cross-channel inventory. Unable to provide a foundation for customer-centric innovation, these implementations inhibit the abilities of IT and marketing to experiment and improve the customer experience through new solutions.

These spaghetti commerce architectures are a corporate liability in today’s age of smart and savvy consumers who expect a consistent and relevant brand experience. Unlike the shoppers of yesteryear, today’s consumers demand dynamic interactions over numerous retailer touchpoints, from in-person or call-center transactions to online sales via laptops, smartphones or tablets. Without these omnichannel touchpoints, companies risk customer dissatisfaction and a steady, long-term erosion of brand value.

Related Content
  • BrianSilverman2

    Great column. What I’ve seen as a great challenge, among many, is the need to normalize data so that you can have access to global inventory across platforms. Often, especially with established retailers, the .com inventory data is not in sync with the bricks and mortar inventory data, so information on size and color, for example, is not represented exactly the same in both worlds. As a result you can’t necessarily pull up a product online and determine what the in-store inventory is. Normalization of data across the online and B&M environments is a critical and complex undertaking.