By Mark Weimann

More than ever retailers must provide customers with a complete shopping experience to encourage brand loyalty in order to be successful in a dynamic marketplace. To do this retailers need an end-to-end retail solution that connects people, information and processes across the organisation reducing complexity from sales to supply. This will help drive growth and foster lasting customer relationships.

Consumers now choose to shop where and when it is most convenient. Technology, such as smart devices, means trading hours have been extended to 24/7. As they browse products on a retailer’s website, consumers want to be able to buy online or reserve online and go into a physical store to pay and pick up the items. When they go into a store, they expect it to be stocked with a full range of products. If the product is unavailable, the consumer then expects that it can be delivered to their home.

How today’s consumers would describe the complete shopping experience:

Personal: The retailer knows who they are and deals with them as a person. Their product offering is exactly what they are looking for and they get individual attention and special personalised offers. Retailers help consumers get the most out of their time and budget.

Seamless: They can connect with the retailer wherever and whenever they want, on whatever device they prefer. Whether in-store or online, they get the same great experience from a retailer who knows them. The promotion from their favourite social site travels with them on their mobile device so they can easily redeem it later.

Differentiated: The retailer makes it easy for them to get what they want at a good price. Their people are helpful and efficient. They provide excellent customer service. They consistently do a better job than other stores where they shop. They have the best overall experience here.

Ultimately, consumers want a unified experience. They want their online experience to feel like an extension of the brick-and-mortar store and their smartphone app to feel like an extension of the ecommerce site.

As a consequence, the supply chain is working overtime. While some of today’s smart retailers have highly-efficient, integrated retail supply chains and focus on delivering exceptional buying experiences that keep customers coming back, the reality is many don’t.

The biggest pain point for many retailers is the lack of seamless and consolidated systems to manage omni-channels and to deliver up to date information across the entire supply chain. There are also high initial costs and ongoing maintenance costs in keeping all these systems in place and in sync. Maintaining reliable data flows between systems and keeping consistent business rules across the applications can cripple the retail supply chain.

In other words, retailers must have a supply chain that supports each different channel but delivers the same results.

To do this, an integrated retail solution is critical. An omni-channel supply chain is only as strong as the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that supports it. The solution needs to be seamless from the warehouse to the web, to the point-of-sale solution and it needs to be easy to use. Most importantly it must deliver a 360 degree view across the organisation, including the warehouse, the shop front and the retail customer.  

Delivering the complete shopping experience now means going well beyond the movement of goods and services. Retailers need to realise the importance of the right technology to leverage the shift in consumer shopping habits.

A consistent customer shopping experience across these omni-channels is achievable when the retailer has:

  • A system that is fully integrated to all these channels
  • A single system to manage all of the channels
  • Visibility of what’s going on in all these channels at any point in time.

A strong omni-channel supply chain is key to a retailer’s success. Today’s consumers expect a flawless interaction from browsing to delivery. It takes the right solution and business process combined to create a seamless interaction for the consumer and for the retailer.

Three ways retailers can deliver the complete shopping experience

  1. Be connected to customers across channels to listen, learn and respond with consistent and convenient experiences. Offer customers what they want, where and when they want to shop.
  2. Be empowered to increase productivity and customer service across a changing global workforce helping their most valuable asset—people—reach their full potential.
  3. Be proactive in executing the complete shopping experience with insight. Have the systems in place to access critical information in real time, which will optimise performance and anticipate trends to capitalise on opportunities.
  4. Today’s dynamic retailers need an end-to-end retail solution that drives growth and fosters lasting customer relationships, connecting people, information and processes to reduce complexity from supply to store.

Mark Weimann is solutions architect manager of UXC Eclipse, an enterprise resource planning platform provider.