Mastering the art of omni-channel retailing

by Infor Retail January 3, 2017 Converged Commerce

Highlights from our recent webinar with Forrester

By David Dorf, Vice President of Product Strategy, Digital & CX at Infor

The omni-channel model has become standard operating procedure for retailers in every segment. However, it’s easy to lose sight of just how profound this change has been—and how customer expectations and retailers’ technology investments are continuing to evolve in the omni-channel era.

I recently joined Brendan Witcher, Principal Analyst at Forrester, for a webinar focusing on how today’s retailers are adapting to changing markets and customer preferences to master the art of omni-channel engagement. Following is an overview of what we discussed.

A look to the past and toward the future

First, we looked back at some of the developments that have brought us to the omni-channel era. Historically, technological innovation has focused on the internal systems and processes that drove enterprise productivity for retailers. Omni-channel has upended that trend.

With the advent of online shopping and mobile devices, the balance of power has shifted to the consumer. In 2016, 49% of all U.S. retail sales will either be influenced by or occur online.1 By 2020, mobile and tablet commerce will exceed 48% of online retail sales.2 And the cookie-cutter experience no longer works for today’s empowered shoppers. Some 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.3

Every time customers are exposed to a better shopping experience, their expectations reset to a new, higher level. This has triggered a fundamental change in the way retailers evaluate and invest in technology. Now the customer experience takes top priority in retailers’ technology decisions.

Achieving the goal of seamless and consistent customer experiences in engagement and fulfillment

Great omni-channel experiences start with a deep, data-driven understanding of customers. Retailers need quantifiable information on where, when, and how customers like to shop to build the experience that fits their expectations. Understanding the omni-channel shopper is a daunting challenge, but the good news is that today’s customers are increasingly willing to share information about what they want and don’t and whether an experience is appealing to them or not. As Brendan pointed out, 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use their information to make experiences more efficient and compelling.4 That data is critical to bridging the gap between what you think you know about customers and what you actually know—and delivering a rich and relevant experience.

How are some of today’s innovative retailers collecting that information? Some are incorporating digital technologies such as kiosks and touchscreens into the store and matching that data with information captured online for a more complete and nuanced picture that spans channels. A true 360-degree view of the customer has to incorporate data on in-store behaviors. Other retailers are using their proprietary mobile apps to bring the online experience into the store to better personalize the brick-and-mortar experience. These retailers aren’t simply offering experiences via multiple channels—they’re using digital technology to create consistency across channels.

A rationale for omni-channel technology investment

So, the follow-up to understanding the customer is omni-channel fulfillment. Why are innovative retailers so focused on omni-channel fulfillment initiatives? Not surprisingly, it’s because customers are rapidly adopting services like click-and-collect. Some 40% of customers say they regularly use in-store pickup when it’s available.5 As a result, more retailers are deploying this type of omni-channel service. One in five retailers now offer ship from store and another one in three are expecting to provide this service by 2017.6

In fact, innovative omni-channel fulfillment can be a competitive differentiator. Retailers who offer feature-rich click-and-collect (such as using beacons to streamline package pickup or offering the ability to schedule a specific pickup time) can create a unique experience that sets them apart from other retailers in their category.

Investing in channel coordination that aligns with customer expectations

Our discussion then turned to the path retailers are following with their investments in the channel coordination technologies. Brendan offered the surprising insight that retailers don’t necessarily need to invest in groundbreaking innovations. They just have to be sure to do the right things extremely well.

While the creation of compelling experiences is the primary focus with the technology investments in the following areas, the good news is that implementing these best practices also creates value for the retailer.

  • Enterprise inventory visibility – Easier planning and greater convenience for the customer, higher conversion rates and an easier associate workload for retailers
  • Buy online/pick-up in store – Providing customers quicker access to the goods they want, while increasing store traffic and upsell/cross-sell opportunities for retailers
  • Ship-from-store – Quicker delivery times and access to local items for customers, while streamlining inventory and reducing markdown pressure for retailers
  • Ship-to-store – Expanding the customer’s access to free shipping and improving order security while reducing the retailer’s carrier costs and driving more store traffic
  • Endless aisle – Reducing shopping times and facilitating educated purchases for the customer, and allowing retailers to save more sales and involve associates more effectively

The takeaway: what’s good for the shopper can also be good for the retailer, provided that the right technology and processes are in place.

The Infor perspective: The advantages of Converged Commerce

The evolving nature of omni-channel engagement we discussed during the webinar synchs well with the vision we have at Infor. Our approach is to provide a single selling platform for customer engagement— a solution we call Converged Commerce—as a way to overcome the inconsistencies and inefficiencies of trying to integrate multiple, disparate systems that were never designed to work together.

Infor’s vision for an omni-channel retail architecture—or “Retail Marketecture”—consolidates the engagement and fulfillment that are both essential aspects to making good on the changing expectations of today’s shoppers. Whether the path to purchase begins online or in store, we offer an integrated approach that seamlessly combines customer-facing, associate-facing, and back office capabilities natively integrated and built from the ground up for omni-channel retail. Our cloud-based, Converged Commerce solution delivers the experiences and that consumers and employees love, with a direct impact on the top and bottom lines for retailers.

Many thanks to Forrester’s Brendan Witcher and everyone who joined us for this insight-packed session. If you weren’t able to participate, an on-demand replay of the webinar is available here. 

David Dorf is Vice President of Product Strategy, Digital & CX at Infor.

David Dorf Infor retail

  1. Forrester Research Web-Influenced Retail Sales Forecast, 2015 To 2020 (US)
  2. Forrester Research Mobile and Tablet Commerce Forecast, 2015 to 2020 (US).
  3. Forrester’s North American Consumer Technographics Brand Compass Survey, Q3 2015
  4. Today’s Shopper Preferences: Channels, Social Media, Privacy, and the Personalized Experience, Accenture Interactive, 2012. (http://www.thelbma.com/files/317-Accenture-Interactive-Survey.pdf)
  5. Forrester North American Consumer Technographics® Retail Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, 2014.
  6. Forrester North American Consumer Technographics® Retail Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, 2015.