Omni-channel commerce: Fulfilling high expectations

     

iStock_000008866254_XXXLarge-1The rise of the customer-centricity is certainly a trend that every e-commerce company has had to deal with, probably in multiple ways. As a development, though, it's not all that surprising - with more resources available all the time to browse, shop, compare and make decisions, it's no surprise that customers are more empowered than ever before. 

It's also likely the case that many retailers struggling to move to omni-channel commerce can understand when customers are dissatisfied, since they've been there themselves. The rise of consumer-centricity is more reflective of a rise in options rather than a shift in philosophy. Those who work in the industry are also on the flip side of the equation as consumers, and deal with many of the same annoyances - and enjoy the same positive experiences - that their customers do. Of course, there's less pressure on the consumer side of the divide - it may be frustrating to learn you could have gotten a better deal elsewhere, but making a misstep generally doesn't have the same degree of consequences that can hit an organization that's misfired on its e-commerce objectives. 

So the approach here becomes, how can you fulfill your customers' high expectations, as well as your own expectations for how successful your company can be?

What can omni-channel commerce leaders do?
On the front end, omni-channel commerce success starts with connecting with consumers. While the still-evolving nature of just what customers want from e-commerce can make pinpointing exactly what that is difficult, there are certainly some overarching concepts for which invest in can push on full speed ahead. One clear phenomenon is the use of mobile devices to browse, and increasingly, to buy. One recent survey, according to PYMNTS, found that 28 percent of consumers use smartphones and tablets to browse Web stores, while 17 percent said that they also make purchases from their devices. The younger generation of shoppers is increasingly active online, with 50 percent using mobile phones to research products, and 33 percent buying things online. It's safe to say that the digital sphere of retail is diversifying.

Additionally, the survey also found that a sizeable portion of customers would be open to cloud-based payment systems, which have only gathered mainstream attention fairly recently. Of the survey's respondents, 17 percent said they would prefer using a cloud-based payment system rather than a card-based one for making online purchases. That number will probably only go up as more customers opt for payment systems that are both speedy and user-friendly. As consumers, members of your organization may know the headaches that poor integration can cause on the customer side. If you're dealing with omni-channel commerce compatibility and cost-efficiency on the back end, well, it could mean that the headaches are contagious.

Moving past the obstacles to omni-channel commerce

In order to cater effectively to these highly attuned customers, it's necessary to line up back-end supply chain, operational and customer management infrastructure so that they can operate in concert. Marketing, sales and customer service all need to be able to rely on a consistent back end, especially in terms of order management, inventory movement and fulfillment procedures. E-Commerce Times contributorGeorge Gallegos recently wrote about the importance of integrating data-using applications to make for a better customer experience. 

"To deploy this type of cross-device marketing for a mobile-first consumer, retailers must ensure that their front- and back-end applications are connected and can transmit data quickly to deliver the right message at the right time," Gallegos wrote. "However, in order to get any value from these connected devices, retailers need to make sure the data gets transmitted quickly to the correct application."tomer service all need to be able to rely on a consistent back end, especially in terms of order management, inventory movement and fulfillment procedures. E-Commerce Times contributorGeorge Gallegos recently wrote about the importance of integrating data-using applications to make for a better customer experience. 

There are solutions out there that can supply the kind of next-gen application and data integration that makes inroads into a more enlightened customer fulfillment process. IBM WebSphere Commerce, for example, offers a high-powered, interactive platform where key process data and initiatives can be consolidated, made more visible and used to build a more informative, actionable customer-facing approach. It helps businesses offer their customers or clients a more tailored shopping experience, especially as consumers move across channels. More visible, easy-to-use information can be more easily acted upon by everyone from marketing professionals to sales and customer service reps, ensuring a better end-to-end shopping experience for your digital denizens, and higher conversion rates, ultimately leading to better customer fulfillment - and more fulfillment for your company as well.

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