Managing the Channel Balance

It may seem very obvious, but it is of great importance in the fast moving customer facing environments of today, that, having invested in cross and multi-channel functionality, retailers are able to control their own destiny rather than being driven by the differing priorities and journey concepts between digital and in store-channels which can limit the necessary evolution required to ensure competitive advantage. Indeed, as the blend and capabilities of these channels change and evolve, this drive becomes a constant and ongoing process, and its management becomes increasingly important.

The rise of Omni Channel approaches to retail transactions has meant that there is a trade-off between the various capabilities inherent in differing channels; each offers customers different choices and processes.

In trying to consistently manage these differentials compromises are needed and it is sometimes very difficult to make the choices that will serve both the retailer and the customer best.

This is not helped by software suppliers pushing “One Size Fits All” solutions which allegedly only require configuration. On the surface such applications seem to offer everything retailers need, however the difficulties arise when changes need to be made in the processes themselves, not just their appearance and parameter settings.

Such changes are often necessary for competitive advantage - to continue to project and grow a retailers brand or to offer unique and compelling customer journeys. The pace at which such changes need to be made is often far quicker than can be managed with standard packages and configuration techniques. Often, by the time that the retailer has managed to spec, source and implement the new process across the channels, early adopters have stolen a march, and the opportunity is lost.

Because eComm platforms don’t have to offer the myriad customer -facing functions provided by store systems, such as gift cards, in-store stock, HR functions and management reporting a disparity can open up very quickly in the functionality delivered in each channel. This can be very confusing for the users who expect to see a consistent set of functions available in the various customer journeys. The continuing future of store systems (which now need to encompass the rollout of more channels) is dependent upon integrating digital capabilities coupled with processing and workflow capabilities.

There needs to be a better way for retailers to change the processes in a face-to-face customer environment together with the resulting new business flows at a speed and frequency to match the changing business requirements. This would allow for continual and frequent innovation, with an ability to “fail fast” and move on, resulting in customer journeys that reflect and integrate the realities and pace of todays digital world. This would really place retailers’ destiny back in the hands of the business, avoiding the frustration of lagging behind in the Omni Channel marketplace.

David Lowrence

Posted by St. Marlowe

Semi-retired IT Consultant in the retail sector. Currently Chair of the Saints Supporters' Club, and purveyor of Fine Olde Websites to the County. Come On You Saints

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