Why Data Integration is the Key to Successful Omnichannel Retailing
In anticipation of its webinar on Tues., Feb. 4, Breaking Data Integration Barriers in Omnichannel Retailing, IBM's Jane Porter, product manager for retail integration, answers a few questions on what to expect during the hour-long virtual event, including her thoughts on the biggest challenges to providing a seamless brand experience, what data is most relevant in order to provide this single brand experience, and the steps retailers must take to integrate data from multiple sources. Click here to register for this free webinar.
Retail Online Integration: What are the biggest challenges for omnichannel retailers who are looking to provide consumers a seamless brand experience?
Jane Porter: Integrating existing channels of interaction so the information and data can flow between the applications and systems that support each channel. For instance, to make click and collect work you need to have an accurate and real-time view of the inventory in each store, and the e-commerce and store systems need to be updated so accurate and timely information is made available to the customer.
This isn't as easy as it sounds. Many retailers not only have an IT infrastructure specific to a channel of interaction, but also completely separate teams of people, business processes and in some cases different inventory between e-commerce and store, which may mean different business partners.
ROI: What data is most relevant to omnichannel retailers looking to provide this single brand experience?
JP: Customer information. Customers provide a lot of information about themselves: name, address, email, etc., and they only want to be asked for that information once by any one organization. Repeatedly being asked for the same information from different areas of an organization is just plain annoying. Customers also expect the retailer to have knowledge about their purchase history across all the channels of interaction, and to combine all the information that organization holds to provide an experience that's tailored to their preferences.
ROI: What steps must brands take to overcome the challenge of integrating data from multiple sources (e.g., brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce, mobile)?
JP: View integration as a key component of the IT infrastructure, not just an add-on to link a couple of applications. It's easy in the short term to view integration as an annoyance that can be fixed by quickly implementing a point-to-point integration between one or two applications. However, as this expands the resulting architecture ends up being complex, expensive and difficult to change. By implementing an integration strategy and viewing the integration software as an entity in its own right, the architecture becomes flexible, allowing the infrastructure to support business decisions with the introduction of new applications and the removal of old applications more easily.