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 Chuck Schaeffer How to Succeed in Omni-Channel Retailing

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An Omni-Channel Strategy and Framework

Omni-channel retailing transcends what has been largely siloed, multichannel consumer communications with personalized and consistent engagement across all channels and touch points. The days of simply talking about omni-channel as a theory or future capability are past. Leading retailers now recognize that omni-channel sales and service engagement is no longer a differentiator but instead is fast becoming the new norm and a cost of doing business if you expect to retain and grow retail consumers – and particularly the most loyal consumers with the highest spend.

Retail Systems Research (RSR) Retail Insight report found that while omni-channel retailing is top of mind with retail executives, 94% of e-retailers have not yet executed omni-channel strategies. "The move toward omni-channel represents a 'reset moment’ for the retail industry," advises Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR, "… rising consumer expectations remain relentless, particularly around omni-channel fulfillment."

Research from Forrester echoes the challenge. A Forrester study titled, "Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omnichannel Commerce Gap," found that retailers view omnichannel maturity as a key brand differentiator for their companies, and improving their ability to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels as a top priority but that 94% of retail decision-makers surveyed said that their companies face significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel company.

Despite the undeniable mandate to meet consumers in the channels they frequent, achieving personalized and consistent consumer conversations across channels is a complex undertaking.

To meet this challenge, retailers must recognize omnichannel as more than an integration exercise as any technology deployment in the absence of accompanying strategy and supporting processes will result in the all too predictable scenario where systems are always trying to catch up to consumer demands and retailer objectives.

Retailers should further recognize that omnichannel retailing is much more about the consumer experience, not just channels of communication. Omni-channel retailers will interact with customers in stores, websites, chat, tablets, kiosks, mail, catalogs, contact centers, social media, mobile devices, and many more forums. But these channels are just the mediums, not the strategy. The primary omni-channel goal is to let customers experience the brand rather than the channel. The channel is the means to the goal, not the goal itself.

10 Step Omni-Channel Framework

The retailers goal is to deliver a channel-agnostic Customer Experience (CX) that promotes the brand. But seamlessly crossing online and offline channels to deliver a real-time, personalized, consistent and rewarding customer experiences across any and all channels and at every customer touch point is a tall order.

Achieving omni-channel success starts with a strategy that understands the needs and preferences of consumers, designs experiences to meet those needs and applies technology to automate and scale consistent delivery.

Here’s a framework to use as a starting point in designing your omni-channel retail strategy.

  1. Business Strategy. For real business transformation to occur, retailers should consider a more holistic view of their business as a whole, rather than as siloed operations competing for revenue. They should further consider how to advance from product-centric to customer-centric organizations. This requires a change from the all too typical inside-out thinking that is entirely designed around the retailers objectives to outside-in thinking, and understanding the consumers’ objectives. It’s a good idea to start with Voice of the Customer (VoC) analysis to understand what channels your consumers prefer for what scenarios. You want to gather, categorize, prioritize and really understand your consumers rational and emotional preferences and habits. Also correlate your channel and use case scenarios with consumer personas or profiles. Consumers are not homogenous and not every channel is needed or appropriate for every consumer use case.

  2. Executive Sponsorship. Adopting a CX strategy, becoming a customer-centric retailer or modifying cross-departmental processes to achieve an omni-channel strategy starts with boardroom buy-in and executive sponsorship. Studies consistently show that omni-channel shoppers outspend their single channel counterparts, but implementing an omni-channel retail strategy requires a significant investment. While many retail leaders believe deploying omni-channel is a prerequisite to compete, directors and CEOs require a business case which aligns investment with ROI. If you don’t succeed with the business case or gain executive sponsorship, stop, retrench and try again. Don’t proceed without executive sponsorship.

Next - Omnichannel 10 Step Framework >>

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The primary omni-channel goal is to let customers experience the brand rather than the channel. The channel is the means to the goal, not the goal itself.


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