By Freddy Fam, Product Marketing Manager, Honeywell Scanning & Mobility
The biggest challenge on the mind of retailers across the Asia Pacific region today is how to successfully build and operate an omni-channel that will win over current and potential customers. The omni-channel opens up many shopping choices for consumers such as the ability to order online and have products delivered to their home, work or in store for pick-up.
It also allows shoppers to exchange or return their purchase by mail or in store. While it is essential that retailers offer a wide range of options as part of their omni-channel strategy in order to cater to a range of different customer shopping styles, it is also vital that all shopping channels operate seamlessly to offer the same level of customer satisfaction across the board.
With Asia’s middle class experiencing huge growth we can expect consumer demands for the best possible omni-channel customer experience to increase. This expanding Asian middle class and their corresponding rising consumer buying power is already leading to calls for a wider array of products to choose from, including high end goods previously not sought after in this market.
The omni-channel trend
The omni-channel business model has reached a tipping point in the Asia Pacific region and retailers are increasingly aware they need to get their strategies right and make sure individual business silos work together to offer a seamless customer experience across all their retail channels.
The omni-channel strategy requires technology designed to grow revenue and solutions that integrate brick and mortar stores with e-commerce, provide greater mobility and data visibility, and overall improve the customer experience. It’s all about creating the perfect customer experience, building a loyal customer base, and growing a more profitable business.
Connecting with the mobile shopper
Shoppers today use multiple channels to buy merchandise, increasingly online. As a result, retailers are strengthening their online presence and using customer’s mobile phones to increase online and in-store shopping visits.
Mobile technology has also reshaped retail customer engagement. According to the CFI Group, consumers who are engaged by retail workers with mobile devices are far more likely to spend more and evangelize the brand . Retail staff can now have easy access to information about product, price, promotions and stock, at their fingertips on a tablet or mobile computer. This allows them to guide sales and accept payment from any location in the store or even remotely in the field.
In-store order fulfilment
A more recent addition to the omni-channel model is the move by a number of retailers to require the ability to pick, pack and ship small e-commerce orders from the retail store. Voice technologies can support this evolution, as it frees the retailer worker’s hands during the picking process and allows them to pause their order picking if they need to help an in-store customer. Voice can also be used to seamlessly pick new orders, while also replenishing stock, price marking, cycle counting, to increase productivity at the same time as reducing trips for the worker.
RFID technology can also help avoid stock-outs, which improves the customer experience. RFID can automatically track the movement of merchandise from the back room to the display floor, and allows more frequent cycle counts, which closes the gap between virtual and actual store inventory.
Big changes for the DC and delivery
The omni-channel is driving a change in warehouses as higher customer expectations around faster delivery and order tracking at every point in the supply chain lead to higher throughput requirements. DCs have to now combine the traditional direct store delivery with consumer direct single order shipping. Technologies such as mobile computers, scanners and voice help to increase efficiency, productivity and accuracy of receiving, picking and putaway in the DC.
Delivery services are also feeling the pressure to get the right product to the right customer in the right amount of time. Consumer expectations around delivery times also continue to shrink. Mobile computers help delivery operators to track and trace deliveries, plan routes and record proof of delivery.
Technologies that increase the accuracy of orders also ensure retailers avoid costly and reputation damaging reverse logistics caused by errors in order fulfilment. And even when customers do need to send a product back or get a refund, the use of technology that traces an order at every point in the supply chain, helps retail workers process the return or refund quickly and efficiently.
As the food and beverage industry becomes more globally connected via multinational retailers, consumer demand and government regulations are driving the need for traceability of food products from point of harvest to point of sale. In fact, this is already the trend amongst some large US retailers, who have already rolled out the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) standard labels for their suppliers. We can also expect to see this trend to also flow on to the Asia Pacific region.
Retailers who have comprehensive traceability throughout their supply chain, capable of meeting local and international standards with technologies that facilitate real-time information such as 2D barcodes and smart labelling or RFID, will be ready for the introduction of traceability standards.
Winning over customers at the check-out
At the retail check-out customers can be won or lost, as customers are now likely to only tolerate less than two minutes of waiting to be served. This means the speed and accuracy of the retailer scanner is paramount to the customer experience. Beyond minimising check-out time, scanners can also be used to automate retail loyalty programs.
Elevating the customer experience
All retailers in the Asia Pacific region are facing the challenge of the constantly changing omni-channel environment. It is those retailers who have the right technologies in place to optimise efficiency, productivity and accuracy, who will win over today’s customer.