With footfall declining in physical retail stores across many major markets around the world and consumers increasingly turning to e-commerce and mobile channels to research, price check, and purchase their desired items, omni-channel retailing is a force that retailers must tame, says OneView Commerce
A recent survey from Forrester indicated 60% of surveyed consumers expect omni-channel services from major retailers and have high expectations for channel integration. The research also indicated strong consumer interest in capabilities such as click and collect, the ability to see store inventory online, online item reservation (to pick up in store), and a choice of delivery options when purchasing online.
Breaking the constraints of legacy systems
Retailers are seeking ways to respond, but consumers’ ever-changing preferences, tastes and purchasing behaviours, and their increasing demand for the right product to be available at the right price in the right channel make it a real challenge. The ability to keep up with consumer demand requires an up-to-the-minute, integrated view of each unique customer, including the products they purchase, when they purchase them, at what price, through which promotions, using which channels (online, in store, catalogue) and so on.
The real constraint is that most retailers’ infrastructures are rooted in the traditional assumption that consumers research, select and pay for an order in a single shopping channel, and that order is fulfilled in the same channel. But the omni-channel consumer’s demand that items they intend to purchase be available within hours or minutes, and they be competitively priced — online, in stores, in catalogues — as changed all that.
Retailers’ legacy back-end system architectures and business processes are largely unequipped to support this complexity and deliver the simplicity the consumer desires. They need technology that both supports growing, changing fulfilment requirements and gives 360-degree visibility into every customer’s preferences and transaction history in order to deliver a truly engaging customer experience through all their channels.
Seeking the right technology
While omni-channel retailers realise they need the right technology, their reticence is understandable in light of the failures that many large retailers with complex, heterogeneous IT infrastructures have experienced.
Technology that provides a single view of the customer journey across all channels combined with all standard POS functionality is critical. However, it is also vital the technology offers rapid delivery and results, agility to keep in step with change, and the ability to incorporate findings into new projects and phases to grow with and adapt to the retailers’ business and changing customer demands.
Case in point: E-Plus Gruppe
E-Plus Gruppe is a leading German telecommunications provider with €3.2bn annual revenues, 400 corporate stores and more than 25m customers.
As a core part of its digital transformation process, E-Plus was looking to develop its cross-channel customer experience and increase store footfall and customer interaction with initiatives such as ‘buy online, deliver to store’ as well as the ability for customers to order and return items at the point of sale. The key drivers for E-Plus’ cross-channel initiatives were to enable direct interaction between store assistants and customers who would otherwise not be drawn into the store, and to enable significant cross-sell, up-sell, and conversion opportunities in-store.
E-Plus engaged with OneView Commerce to help it deliver these new cross-channel offerings. Working closely with E-Plus, OneView Commerce was able to develop and launch a pilot programme across five stores in just six weeks, with a total of 60 stores going live within the following few months. OneView delivers all store-based cross-channel functionality to the store assistants tablet device, as well as information on the customer’s cross-channel activities, including online and in-store orders, and purchases and returns. The next phase will include mobile payments that enable customers to fully leverage the endless aisle by ordering from the full assortment via the web shop and paying for that order in store. In addition, E-Plus is focusing on appointment scheduling where customers can include products they are interested in reviewing with store associates.
E-Plus Gruppe has already seen significant results from adding this cross-channel functionality, including an additional million-plus product orders, tens of thousands of new contracts and insurance sales plus millions of additional accessories sold across the enterprise. Building on the success of the early phases, E-Plus has now decided to extend the solution to all 400 of its stores, which are expected to go live by the end of the year.
In support of the initiative, E-Plus Gruppe director of digital transformation Volker Glaeser, said: “Our success at E-Plus is linked to OneView’s agile platform which lets us quickly adapt to constantly changing retail dynamics. For E-Plus, our goal is to leverage tools that align us with mobile, online and in-store customers, so that we are keeping pace with and proactively leading customers with solutions based on projected behaviours instead of having to play catch up with customer demands.”