E-commerce has proven to be a major boon for businesses with the foresight to supplement their traditional storefronts with digital services. In today's market, however, it's no longer enough to simply have a website for prospective customers to browse. To remain competitive, businesses need to actively engage their clients, taking them by the hand and guiding them through every stage of the order fulfillment process. The demand for more oversight and greater integration between internal channels has driven adoption rates for omni-channel solutions.
The notion of omni-channel systems sprang up in response to the new challenges that organizations faced as they diverted their attention and resources to e-commerce operations. Some businesses have run into obstacles managing both their brick-and-mortar stores and their digital shops because they consider them two separate entities. By doing so, these companies fail to take advantage of the fact that the consumers who shop online and in their physical stores are often one in the same.
Case study in what not to do
Highlighting a major retailer's troubles with e-commerce sales, Business Insider recently demonstrated precisely what can go wrong when businesses silo their various customer and order management channels. When the retail giant implemented different overarching strategies for these operations in 2011, it prevented any interaction between digital and physical store assets and created a great deal of confusion and frustration for prospective customers. For instance, an individual who saw an item online and came to his or her nearest store to purchase it might discover that the product was only available on the company's website.
Two years later, the company recognized its error and made the necessary adjustments - by that point, its digital sales had dropped nearly one-third, according to the source. Since embracing an omni-channel approach to all aspects of order management, including greater synergy between digital and physical storefronts, the organization has seen its online business improve. According to Business Insider, the retailer posted digital sales figures in the first quarter of 2014 that were 26 percent higher than those reported during the same period last year.
Deliver the experience customers expect, deserve
Tech-savvy consumers expect simple and streamlined coordination between the various commerce channels they navigate. A failure to adequately deliver that all-points integration will likely agitate potential customers and drive them to a competitor. A recent Avaya study showcased the gap between consumer expectations and vendor delivery in the financial sector. Seventy percent of industry customers believe their selected service providers should have fully coordinated, real-time communication outlets. Furthermore, 69 percent stated that they expect their needs to be met on an on-demand basis, with offerings being customized to their exact needs.
The results from that study highlight one of the potential downsides to e-commerce: It's far easier for businesses to get into the game now than ever before, meaning traditional order and customer management efforts just won't cut it anymore. Companies must distinguish themselves by incorporating omni-channel solutions and effectively integrating every facet of their order management system.
Implementing fully coordinated management platforms will be crucial to meeting consumer demands and executing excellent service from the order stage all the way through to delivery. Forty-four percent of the Avaya study participants stated that technological limitations prevented them from adequately meeting customer demands.
A comprehensive omni-channel commerce solution will provide the integration and oversight needed to ensure that every order is delivered successfully and that every customer experience is a satisfying one. These tools enable organizations to comb through inventory stocks and deliver a requested product even if it's not available in the store. In addition, consumers can be kept in the loop throughout the order completion process with real-time updates sent directly to their smartphones. Ultimately, omni-channel solutions are about making customers happy by delivering a streamlined and all-encompassing service delivery channel that anticipates and meets their every need. The math is simple: Happy customers result in more revenue.
If you enjoyed this article, check out more omni-channel insights from Lightwell:
- Getting Over Common Hurdles in Omni-channel commerce
- A Problem-Solution Approach to Omni-channel Commerce
- Keeping up with the 'Omnis': Overcoming challenges in omnichannel retailing