Customer Experience / Expectation vs. Retail Experiences – Closing the Omni-Channel Gap

In the last few articles I pointed out several option how to involve latest trends into retail and commerce – by the way I am working on my vocabulary, I am trying to drop the word e-commerce and m-commerce and all these xyz-commerce expressions, because it limits our perception of the world around us – but now back on topic.

All the things I mentioned - social shopping, closing the gap between digital and brick-and-mortal, etc. -  needs technology, backend, middleware, analytical, management, and a few more investments which support in minimum aspects which I will list at the end of this article.

All these investments are vital to enabling punchy exemplary omni-channel customer experience.  As customers expect retailers to provide consistent and unparalleled service across all touch points, retailers must implement flexible, fast reacting IT backbone that enable this higher level of service.
And when we talk about omni-channel retail, it’s inevitable having a powerful IT infrastructure to create product and inventory visibility, to empower sales and marketing to understand customer preferences and purchase history, and to empower the retail store to act as a local fulfillment center with pick, pack, and ship capabilities.

Current customers are concentrated on convenience, and they expect from their vendor and their brand of prime selection serving the same high convenience from corner to corner / from channel to channel. This expectation varies from business to business and from consumer to consumer but is changing from month to month – according to the technological improvement of devices and availability. And there are already a big number of customers who don’t want to know about backend problems and enterprise internal communication borders and for that reason they don’t care about channels. More and more consumer differentiates less between shopping in a store, online or mobile. But - Sad but true retailers still often do. Often the reason is because of   organizational matters (departments, communication, procedure, etc.) e.g. on the one hand the online customers analytics, data, customer history, etc.  And on the other hand retailer’s inventories, procedure, communication, promotions, etc. are separate from their brick-and-mortar knowledge.

Retailers need to have IT infrastructure which helps them becoming more customer-centric by bringing together customer, sales, and inventory information. And this IT infrastructure has to empower retailers with customer insights by combining customer interactions from point-of-sale (POS), stores, online, and mobile channels with insight from social media. To get a holistic picture the retailer needs a repository, analytic, and reporting system which delivers in no time insights of the customer by scanning and analyzing every own sales and touch point,  the social shopping channels, and other communication and promotion channels. Only by this complete picture retailers can really optimize advertisings, campaigns, branding, marketing, price formation, portfolio, inventory management processes, etc.
A substantial feature would be if this IT system, your backbone and 'central nervous system' of your retail,   provides a real-time view into consumer sales data down to the transaction level. Key is to enables retailers to understand better what, when, and where customers will make purchases. As well as having access to inventory levels, predictive models, and analytics in the application for improved operational management.

Consumer expectations:

Base: 256 US and European retail and manufacturing decision-makers involved in digital commerce initiatives 
Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Accenture and hybris software, November 2013 

I like to  outline the twelve aspects for the omni-channel-retail backbone which must work seamlessly together …
  1. Management and Strategy
  2. Customer Support
  3. Order management
  4.  Inventory availability
  5. Store inventory management
  6. Workflow management
  7. Returns management
  8. Finance and Administration
  9. Fulfillment
  10. Information Technology and Platform
  11. Social Shopping Channels
  12. Brand communication

Having just one view of the customer is a vital requirement for an successful omni-channel-retail. One view of the customer gives the retailer the ability to customize and personalize communications and in best case also interactions and experi­ences. And retailers can tailor dialogue, delivering relevant content that is adapted to the unique customer’s needs. These insights can also be used to submit personalized pricing and promotions based on the customer’s history.
Investment in a powerful IT infrastructure is the most strategic decision a retailer can make because it supports his ability to respond to the fast-moving and changing needs and behavior of their consumers.

One possible solution for this might be for you a solution by SAP. This solution is call CAR (Customer Activity Repository) - it’s a foundation that collects transactional data that was previously spread over multiple independent applications in diverse formats. The repository provides a common foundation and a harmonized multichannel transaction data model for all consuming applications.
Retailers can use SAP Customer Activity Repository to gradually transform their system landscapes from traditional database technology to the revolutionary, in-memory database technology.

SAP Customer Activity Repository includes the following features:
  • POS Data Transfer and Audit (POS Data Management)
  • Multichannel Sales Repository (MCSR)
  • Multichannel Sales Analytics
  • Inventory Visibility Analytics
  • Predictive capabilities, leveraging the Demand Data Foundation (DDF) and Unified Demand Forecast (UDF)

Implementation's examples of CAR:

If you like to know more about CAR – please visit CAR Customer Activity Repository
( SAP HANA, Analytics, Database and Technology ) or contact at SAP Giovanni Greco.