The seven deadly sins of omnichannel retail

In today’s interconnected world, omnichannel has become more than a buzzword.
13 March 2019

Intelligent digital signage concept. Source: Shutterstock

Omnichannel retail is a consistent, personalized customer journey, that depends on retailers having unified commerce capabilities in place to maximize every sales opportunity.

Those that fail to evolve risk presenting a weak experience to their audiences and are likely to see customer loyalty erode. So, what are the classic pitfalls today?

# 1 | Dangerous disconnects across customer touchpoints

To better unify interactions with customers, companies need to knit together the channels and communication points, giving visibility of customer, order, sales, and inventory data.

They can accomplish this by interlacing channels into one single interface and unifying all interactions, allowing store associates and customer contact center employees to switch between channels more efficiently. A major benefit is no longer forcing customers to repeat information.

# 2 | Under-utilized sales assistants on the shop floor

Growing demand for omnichannel perfection means that store associates and contact center agents must be skilled across multiple channels, and fully utilized. They need the digital tools at their fingertips to do this, but frequently this isn’t the case.

There is a risk that retailers are not providing the mobile devices that can aid sales by ‘clienteling’ and offering basic order and product information to take out friction in the customer journey. These devices give store teams the power to offer ‘endless aisle’ inventory and arrange delivery of goods beyond the store’s immediate stock pool. Good training and buy-in from high-quality salespeople can lead to a championing of the frictionless customer experience.

# 3 | Lack of vendor support on the journey to omnichannel

Providing a consistent omnichannel experience is nearly impossible without early-stage consultation and on-going vendor support. Great technology vendors can turn a retailer’s omnichannel vision into a reality, allowing the company to scale and shift cadence depending on customer demand, says Samir Belkhayat, UK Director at Cegid.

It’s also likely that vendors are well-versed in new trends and emerging challenges and frequently roll-out updates to support change and differentiation, he adds.

# 4 | Unsuitable cross-channel measurement strategy

A measurement system to track the right key performance indicators is crucial to help formulate better omnichannel strategies for the future and deliver high-level customer experience. For on-going improvement, it’s essential to outline benchmarks, embed these across the organization, and use analytics built into the communications platform for easy reporting.

The most successful companies use omnichannel insights to measure, report, analyze, and allocate resources as needed to ensure consistency and alignment of labor, technology, and operations.

# 5 | Digital displays and automated services that don’t engage the shopper

With omnichannel retail comes more in-store tech, giving shoppers access to other digital channels and information. Replacing a human cashier or store assistant with a self-service digital touchscreen is missing a major opportunity.

Rather than this technology simply being a way of improving efficiency and cutting cost, it should be used to improve the whole customer experience, by ‘participating’ in the experience. This might mean making on-the-spot informed suggestions and guiding the customer through the buying process.

Early examples of digital displays in retail use imaging technology to identify demographics, such as gender and age group, to offer more specific product recommendations. However, we have a long way to go before this is widely adopted.

# 6 | Failure to future-proof with technology

Cutting-edge technology is hiding the fact that much existing legacy tech fails to perform. Moreover, machine learning, blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, mobile, and geo-location marketing, and others are coming on-stream, but their potential is often hampered by lack of systems, data, and processes to drive them.

This is short-sighted as many long-term benefits can be gained from fully omnichannel systems. For instance, using machine learning, order data will yield more accurate buying signals, that in turn will enable more dynamic inventory allocation and pre-ordering. Data insights will also emerge from unified commerce platforms that reveal how channel use is evolving over time. This will inform future fulfillment and marketing strategies and the best route to long-term growth.

# 7 | A culture of complacency

There is often friction between a retailer’s finance department and the urgent needs of the CIO. Often internal departments have different priorities and are not working from shared goals or, importantly, performance metrics.

Omnichannel will only become reality if there is buy-in from the top of the organization, and culture of forward-thinking cascades properly through all areas of the business, Cegid’s Belkhayat argues.

From digitizing the store to introducing new fulfillment services and the next generation of PoS, retailers need to integrate their capabilities to keep up with the speed of modern-day shopping. They must embrace technologies that guarantee profitable unified commerce, and upgrades need to go well beyond papering over the cracks of outdated technology.