True Omni Channel means that the customer has the same experience regardless of where they purchase. It also means that the customer can buy anywhere and have it shipped or picked up anywhere – click and collect, buy in store and send, buy in one store and pick up in another. Speed matters. There has to be complete transparency within the systems with the ability to see live data. Prices have to be identical to be truly Omni Channel.
Often times, this is easier said than done. Most often, POS/ERP systems are on different platforms than e-commerce. Do both systems calculate promotions identically? You would be surprised at the complications involved in creating identical promotion capability.
The returns process needs to be thought through and streamlined. Again, if you want to be truly Omni Channel you need to allow the customer to return a product any way they want. But you need to decide the process for this. Do they need a receipt or can they access a customer file in each location (which is suggested)? Does the return negate any promo used on a purchase? There is no right or wrong answer to this – just be consistent.
There has to be a live feed from all warehouses and stores with accurate inventory to achieve true Omni Channel. In addition, you need to be able to reserve stock in the system AND create the process internally to physically reserve the stock. Most retail staff on the floor of a store will sell a product even if the system says that there are none available.
In addition to the system requirements, you need to be prepared from a physical point of view. The stores need to have space and resources to pick and pack. An area to collect the product, wrap it and label it for shipment. There should also be access to the shipping system in order to track shipments.
Gift cards and loyalty cards need to be integrated with all systems so that they are live and searchable immediately. Theoretically, a customer should be able to buy a gift card, walk out of the store and use it to purchase something on the website within minutes.
Other things to consider in your Omni Channel pursuit:
- Engaging in CRM – social listening – understanding what your customers are saying about you
- Warehouse stock – do you separate the e-commerce stock or pick it from general stock – what are the pros and cons
- Do you package or wrap a purchase in store the same way you wrap it when shipping?
- What happens on international purchases? Do you have separate websites in countries? Do you have a warehouse outside of your country to service these sales?
- Should you have a warehouse outside Australia to avoid GST? What are the pros and cons?
- Where do you hold Master Data?
There is a lot to consider if you want to be truly Omni Channel. There are ways to stage the project with Omni Channel as the end goal. It is a big project that needs the appropriate experts to guide you. Make sure that you either have them on your staff or hire a good consultant.
Managing data across your business is a complicated process but with Phocas, it can be simple. For retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, Phocas can help you get a clear visibility into your data.
This guest blog was written by Mike Holtzer, a talented executive, with over 25 years of Executive Management experience in the retail industry spanning over three continents: Australia, North America and Europe.
Click here to watch on demand the webinar Inventory and Stock insights.