Omni-channel commerce: Mind the gaps, take control


iStock_000030408368_XXXLarge-1Omni-channel commerce has risen to prominence in recent years, and it's at the focal point of most retailers' selling and customer engagement strategies going forward. Despite the growth of omni-channel commerce, there are still many kinks that need to be worked out, and many businesses struggle to grapple with such drastic shifts in their approach. The surrounding confusion can give rise to some gaps in thought and action in omni-channel commerce, which can be difficult to overcome if an organization is just getting its feet wet in the centralized world of digital retail. It's important to understand how inaction can grow and solidify, putting organizations at a disadvantage when they try to adapt systems that have long stagnated.

Organizations are still figuring it out
It can be tempting to believe that your company's competitors know exactly what they are doing, especially if you feel hopelessly buried under new initiatives and getting supply chain stakeholders in line. The reality is, is that most other organizations are similarly wandering in the wilderness, still working toward a system that functions smoothly and seamlessly. For some companies, it may not even be on their radar - according to one survey conducted earlier this year by Forrester Consulting, only 42 percent of businesses said that they needed to enhance their omni-channel commerce capabilities in order to better serve today's customer.

In the same survey, however, more than half of organizations agreed with points about the changing nature of the modern customer, who wants more flexibility in ordering and pickup, and wants to be able to shop seamlessly from a computer to a mobile device to a brick-and-mortar store. In fact, 62 percent of the organizations said that their customers are expecting omni-channel commerce to evolve. So why the discrepancy between observation and action? The gap in thought is fairly large and supported by slowness in reorienting supply chain and sales systems - one 2013 survey found low omni-channel commerce flexibility in some key features, including in-store pick of online orders (only 29 percent of U.S. retailers), mobile commerce (just 18 percent) and sales associates trained to support omni-channel shopping (20 percent), according to The Wall Street Journal. For many companies, awareness of a need to evolve isn't actually translating to aggressive development.

What is holding businesses back?
If organizations are aware that they need to adapt, what is stopping them from pulling the trigger? The fact of the matter is that a hesitant or drawn-out move to omni-channel commerce doesn't take full advantage of its benefits, and as consumer expectations continue to heighten, businesses that drag their feet are at risk of underperforming to what consumers want. In this day and age, the sheer number of options make resolute customer loyalty a thing of the past, so companies have to earn and keep consumers' trust by continuing to show how they can meet rising demands. There are three main areas that are giving enterprises trouble:

  • Business model: In the Forrester survey, 50 percent of respondents acknowledged that their company's business model was a significant barrier to omni-channel commerce success - the most of any contributing factor. Unless the company is new, the business model predates the rise of omni-channel commerce, and it can be difficult to adapt it. There are risks involved, and no enterprise wants to sacrifice a currently successful approach for the relative uncertainty that always accompanies a new one. However, this reticence could cause organizations to find their old model outdated before long.
  • People: Omni-channel commerce supply, product and customer service chains require an incredible amount of people all working toward a common goal. Often, it can be hard to train customer service reps to handle questions coming from multiple sources, or migrate users to new technology-driven forms of order management and inventory oversight. This is especially true as security and compliance issues move to the forefront. The process of onboarding new users and refashioning legacy models of customer interaction can be tough, but it shouldn't hold organizations back.
  • Technology: From customer relationship management tools to network infrastructure, many enterprises are unsure if they have the IT backbone for a full omni-channel commerce integration. Once again, the longer a company relies on a last-gen technological framework, the wider the gap grows and the more difficult it will be to get back up to speed later on. Businesses should seek creative solutions that allow them to evolve their IT system without wasting tons of man-hours or breaking the bank.

How order management software and solutions can help
To close the gap, organizations need a comprehensive order management solution that can offer end-to-end improvement of the omni-channel commerce chain. Excellent options include IBM Sterling Order Management (OMS) for mid to large sized enterprises, and NetSuite Order Management System for mid-market and growing companies.  For example, some of the benefits of the NetSuite Order Management solution include: 

  • Builds strong links between both digital and physical storefront and back-end product management systems
  • Reduces the amount of time and effort that needs to go into building a robust IT framework
  • Positions businesses for stronger, more beneficial B2B and B2C relationships

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