As the lines between the physical and digital worlds have blurred, retail customers’ purchase cycles typically span multiple channels. Customers today not only expect to be engaged and delighted no matter where they shop; they also expect a fairly seamless experience irrespective of the channel they choose.
As per a National Retail Foundation (NRF) report, online retail in the US will likely grow 8-12% in 2017 (compared to the 3.7-4.2% expected for retail overall). To meet these demands, traditional retailers are trying to take a quantum leap into the digital world by building on their strengths in traditional retail. E-commerce players too face the pressure to augment their online presence with strategically located physical stores. But for this multi-channel strategy to be successful, retailers need to be technologically equipped to provide a seamless experience and allow customers to switch channels as per their convenience.
For instance, some customers might prefer to shop online. Some others might research online, but not buy the product without experiencing it first hand at a store. Some others might check out a product at a physical store but eventually make the purchase online. Yet, a Forrester study found that 29% of US online adults who used “buy online, pick up in store” services during the three-month study abandoned at least one such purchase in this time frame. To plug such revenue leakages, providing a uniform experience is crucial.
What it means for retailers – A Robust Technology Platform
Because store and e-commerce led shopping are merging, retailers need to find ways to find ways to be present where customers are present, which is everywhere! Such a change isn’t accomplished through piecemeal measures such as a new website or a mobile app or in-store Wi-fi.
Instead, it entails a total digital transformation with strong technology backend that can support across processes, channels, and functions. Our Brick & Click Offering is built with this exact philosophy.
An end to end digital platform to facilitate Omni-channel retail needs to cut across the customer experience layer, the operation layer and the technology layer. Here’s how it is structured:
- The customer experience layer encompasses a variety of customer interaction channels such as an online storefront, mobile digital assistant, In-store shopping, assisted sales or customer service over the telephone.
- All these channels are integrated through a content management system that is scalable, easy to implement and comes with an intuitive user interface and sophisticated features.
- A personalization engine enables superior customer experience through personalized promotions, loyalty benefits, recommendations and in-store experiences.
- The system allows for a single view of the customer data including profile, purchases as well as browsing and social data.
- It also enables a variety of payment channels for customer convenience.
- All data related to retail operations is stored in a database, which then interacts with the Core ERP at the backend.
- A Cortana Analytics suite, using AML for the promotions and recommendations Engine, runs across all these layers and delivers advanced retail analytics
- A digital marketing and CRM solution also run across all layers.
Sonata has been partnering with Microsoft to provide solutions for the retail industry. In fact, Brick and Click is built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 since it provides a unified platform to deliver a personal, seamless and undifferentiating Omni-channel experience. It leverages Dynamics features such as customizable POS screens that can help retailers to check prices and availability, locate stock quickly, and improve customer interactions; management tools for customer profiling, inventory management, and accounting; and CRM capabilities that help compile and analyze real-time data to respond to customer demand.
There is tremendous scope for traditional store led retailers to once again become the preferred choice of shopping for customers by combining online and in-store shopping, to claim their rightful place in the new digital economy. But the right technology transform is needed!