Retailers are not reaping the rewards of omni-channel just yet

By: Teamwork Retail

Companies that reach out to customers through a variety of sales platforms, including social media, e-commerce, mobile and physical stores, have an opportunity to expand their brands’ reach. Unfortunately, few businesses are actually leveraging omni-channel retailing to their advantage, a recent JDA survey found.

The study revealed more than two-thirds of respondents have experienced higher costs when trying to sell via omni-channel platforms. The report found 71 percent of companies indicated these expenditures are caused by order returns from both online and physical shops. Another 67 percent indicated direct shipments are the root cause, while 59 percent noted shipping orders to stores for pickup is another contributor.

When multiple sales channels are involved, the complications pertaining to order fulfillment are increased. Kevin Laquinto, chief marketing officer at JDA, said each order a business receives includes different ways to complete that purchase.

“Many brands are struggling with omni-channel retailing.”

“They can pull the product from a local store, send it from a centralized warehouse or ship it directly from the supplier. JDA’s new study demonstrates that most retailers lack the insight to make these decisions in a profitable manner – and are not sufficiently focused on this critical capability gap,” Laquinto explained.

Laquinto said retailers need improved fulfillment systems and more intelligent logistics tools to use omni-channel to their advantage. Businesses that want to establish themselves as market leaders will also need forecasting solutions to support all of their sales locations.

Cloud and POS solutions can go a long way
Brands that want to improve their omni-channel operations can do so by revamping their point-of-sale systems and adopting flexible technologies such as cloud computing. Aging POS systems may lack the data accessibility of a cloud POS system, which facilitates collaboration on an organization-wide level. Employees, regardless of location or Internet-connected devices in use, can view transactions in real time through cloud suites, making informed decisions to provide personalized customer service.

A cloud-based POS solution is the perfect way for retailers to upgrade their infrastructures to replace outdated equipment, empower employees at every level and offer the service audiences have come to expect from brands in competitive marketplaces.

The customer experience is essential to any omni-channel retailing strategy. The customer experience is essential to any omni-channel retailing strategy.

Don’t neglect customer experiences
The customer experience is also an essential facet of any successful omni-channel retailing strategy. Consumers want to know that their needs will be met, whether they prefer to shop in person, through e-commerce websites or via mobile devices. A joint SDL and Econsultancy survey of companies throughout North America found more than 80 percent of respondents expect to increase their CX spending in 2015, with one-third of participants anticipating their budgets to rise more than 10 percent.

The study also found that nearly 50 percent of respondents strongly agree that customer experiences represent their brands, while 80 percent accept this notion.

Paige O’Neill, chief marketing officer at SDL, detailed why customer experiences are so complicated for retailers.

“Retailers are overwhelmed by the complexity of data, technology and understanding of the customer journey. Our latest research indicates that North American retailers are acutely aware of their technological shortfalls when it comes to creating a seamless, personalized customer experience across multiple channels,” O’Neill said.

Retailers may be having problems with maximizing omni-channel strategies at the moment, but that should not deter brands from trying to benefit from such initiatives. There are solutions available that make data accessibility seamless across the entire organization to offer fast and personalized service. Cloud computing and newer POS systems also enable companies to replace outdated equipment that is likely nearing the end of its life cycle.

With the right infrastructure and mindset, retailers should be able to thrive in a marketplace that is ripe for the taking.

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