Author: Abhijeet Vijayvergia, VP-India and South-East Asia, Capillary Technologies.

My previous post addressed the present landscape, target markets point of view , web rooming, show rooming , marketplace and single brand eCommerce related omni channel retail trend in 2016.

In this post I would be mainly addressing the major missing piece of the puzzle -the technology challenges and the digital trends that has affected the omni channel retail trends in India in 2016.

Technology challenges continue to derail the omni channel retail adoption rates

Providing omni-channel customer experience has become a critical factor to differentiate brands. Effective omni channel strategies are those that can accurately and effectively integrate in-store, online and mobile sales channels to deliver a hassle free buying experience. Apart from revenue growth and ROI, factors such as increased customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, customer loyalty, and brand perception are also regarded as key factors to attract new prospects and maintain a large customer base. Technology investment and setting right processes are critical to enable the complete omni-channel customer experience.

In case of omni-channel solutions, technology investments are majorly needed to provide product and inventory visibility, personalize customer experience, and to enable retail stores and local fulfillment centers with pick&carry or pack &ship capabilities. But in order to realize the complete benefits from omni-channel initiatives, retailers must consider their capabilities and the challenges to seamlessly integrate systems such as CRM, POS, order management (OMS) and eCommerce platforms into all of their channels.

 

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The below framework can act as a starting point to assess and establish a robust technology assessment and implementation process.

Capture

To comprehensively enable and enhance omni channel retail solution, retailers would first need to capture the complete product information. The products that are listed should relate to the information that customers are searching for. Omni-channel success requires an underlying platform to manage or facilitate such systems and changes that relate to customers preferences and purchase patterns. This is where the selecting the right real-time CRM platform comes in to picture.

Unifying disparate online and offline/store systems and applications is also a continuous challenge. Organizations with multiple databases will need to implement a data governance strategy such as Master Data Management (MDM) and integrate CRM with ERP to support inquiries such as inventory availability, goods in transit and customer transaction history. Data governance measures can also help in streamlining views of the customer by consolidating and standardizing customer data, eliminating duplicate data and by preventing invalid data from being captured at the data entry sources.

Analyze:
Ominchannel strategy also incorporates how retail performance metrics are calculated. Top retail metrics that typically need to be measured include bill/transaction value, total number of transactions, average basket size, customer share, RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value) and CLV (customer lifetime value).

Ideally analytics can help retailers deliver consistent customer experiences by gauging consumers’ desire to engage with their favorite brands or products over the channel that is most convenient to them at any given point of time. Analytics and loyalty solutions can offer numerous insights including

  • Who are the most loyal customers and how frequently do they buy?
  • Which products have the customers viewed online before they walked into a specific store location?

The appropriate use of analytics can also keep customers engaged at individual touch points and maintain customer conversations across different channels. This includes gathering data and insights to identify

  • How retailers can encourage their high value customers to purchase more often?
  • What products should retailers personalize and offer to a specific customer to increase his/her basket size?

Retailers who best acquire and analyze Omnichannel data, use analytics to interpret customer preferences and act upon this data by personalizing campaigns will have a distinct advantage.

Assess

Once we have gathered the relevant customer data it’s important to convert this data into actionable insights to identify buyer purchase patterns, loyalty program behaviors, social media preferences, buyer persona details and more – in order to deliver relevant and personalized offers. This data rich customer profiling results in enhancing customer engagement initiatives that facilitate revenue goals such as higher campaign conversions and increased customer lifetime value (CLV). This is where gaining a single view of the customer can help marketers design relevant campaigns, analyze customer journeys and enhance the overall consumer experience.

Training store associates has also become a major concern for retailers since store associates are expected to become product owners and personalize customer experience.

In-store Clienteling – a customer centric single view screen available on a tablet or smartphone can empower the sales associate gain complete visibility across the customer data to provide a personalized shopping experience that can drive repeat visits.

Deliver and Promote

Consumers now expect offers and promotions not just based on who they are but also on how they communicate. It’s important to deliver branding and messaging with personalized offers or promotions across the most relevant channels that is optimized towards a customer’s communication preferences.

For this reason, retailers would need certain marketing platforms integrated to the CRM or analytics software that can help convert online research to in-store purchases, permit consumers to manage their loyalty program from any device (mobile or online or in store) and that can facilitate simultaneous promotions across multiple channels— i e on the eCommerce site, the mobile app or through SMS or across the physical stores.

How omni channel technology has to be driven by assessing the mindset of Indian consumers

To enable technology advancements, retailers would need to shift their focus to meet the needs of consumers anywhere, anytime, and however they want. Over time with smart omni-channel retailing strategy, one channel can drive another and retailers can set channel-agnostic revenue goals.

Another potential benefit of a well-defined omni-channel strategy is to drive customers to shop in physical stores. Despite the predictions of the demise of brick-and-mortar stores, many research studies continue to show that consumers still prefer the experience of purchasing merchandise within the store. Many consumers also prefer in-store pickup to avoid online shipping costs; while some customers suggest that they find it convenient to pick items from a store rather than having them shipped to their homes. This trend clearly indicates that online channels can be designed to get consumers into the stores. This is the reason why some of the online only stores are planning to set up their physical stores across India.

Although, the retail landscape in India is presently at the crossroads of a digital transformation and the future seems optimistic, many retailers lack clear KPIs to track their omni channel initiatives. Not all initiatives can be measured using the revenue and operating margins metrics. Retailers must consider dividing their KPIs into separate categories revolving not just around gross margins but also around their marketing goals, customer engagement and experience strategies, operational efficiency initiatives and around supply chain/fulfillment capabilities.

Conclusion

Overall, in order to successfully implement omni-channel retail strategy, retailers would need to analyze the insights from good quality customer data, assess the technological and business impact of their strategies and allocate the right mix of roles and responsibilities to their internal and external resources.

But, presently driving an omni channel technology enablement initiative still remains a huge challenge for Indian retailers.

I have deliberately not addressed the demonetization issue in this post as we still do not have adequate data to assess the demonetization impact on organized retail. But I promise I would soon address the payment related issues that have taken the entire country by storm in my upcoming blogs.

Do share your thoughts, opinions and ideas on on the technology capabilities and challenges that were discussed in this article.

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