Archive for the ‘Omnichannel’ Category

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Customer Interaction Optimization

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Part 3 in a 3 Part Series | Part 1, Part 2

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to do independent research to understand how mid-market retailers are addressing omnichannel in terms of process and technology. Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, we developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results.

Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences:

  1. buy online pickup in-store and
  2. place an order for return at a retail location.

Customer Interaction Optimization

In our study, we found that the retail associates universally processed returns via the POS and only in one instance was a second associate required to complete the transaction, so this process was smooth. However, retailers regularly miss an opportunity to turn returns into revenue. As retail employee attrition is all too frequent, technology rather than training should be available for consultative selling opportunities to impact the top line. While it is difficult to replace the experience of a stellar sales associate, retailers need systems to optimize the skill set of average talent.

The Numbers

  • Total time to process return was just under 5 minutes (4.71 minutes).
  • Associates were knowledgeable and comfortable with the technology scoring a 2.94/3.0 where 3.0 is the best scenario.
  • Less than 1 in 4 (24%) encouraged the customer to keep the product by suggesting an alternative item.
  • Even when prompted with a question about other product that could replace the return items, only half of the retailers who did not automatically recommend a replacement item (53%) took an interest in saving the sale.
  • 16% of retailers had store associates using technology to interact with customers.

24% retail associates encouraged customer to keep product

Additional Data Points: 2016 UPS Pulse for the Online Shopper Study
The 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, based on a survey of 5000 shoppers, reveals that in-store conveniences have strong appeal.

  • 38% online shoppers find appeal in the having associates outfitted with the ability to search for inventory across all stores.
  • 29% find appeal in having associates outfitted with mobile devices such as iPads to assist with product selection and roaming checkout from an associate with a phone or tablet.

The Opportunity

  • Utilize clienteling applications on mobile devices to save the sale in-store when you have out of stock items, a product knowledge gap or a consultative selling situation. By having access to company-wide inventory, store associates armed with mobile devices can keep customers from jumping to the competition that is one click away. Clienteling applications can also help with customer service needs such as returns, appeasements or additional product information such as ratings and reviews. Make sure your clienteling application is integrated with your order management system for customer, order, product, and inventory look-up data.

Read the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

16% store associates using technology to interact with customer

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Inventory Transparency

Monday, October 10th, 2016

inventory rightsizing

Part 1 in a 3 Part Series | Part 2, Part 3

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to do independent research to understand how mid-market retailers are addressing omnichannel from a tactical execution standpoint in terms of both process and technology.

Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, we developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results. Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences: 1) buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and 2) place an order online and return it at a retail location.

Inventory Transparency

For retailers, inventory rightsizing and turnover are two of the most important key performance indicators measuring the health of their stores. This is in direct conflict with customers who are no longer patient and want the products to be at the store when they arrive. With less than half of retailers allowing for this expected access, coupled with the convenience of BOPIS, an inventory foundation is fundamental to success.

There is work to be done where technology can support inventory transparency before and during store visits. Most retailers can complete a transaction on behalf of the customer and are able to ship from warehouses and stores often interchangeably based on desired business model.

The Numbers

  • Less than half of the retailers surveyed (44%) had an in-store product locator and of those retailers who did, 82% included an “in stock” status while just over 1 in 3 (36%) were able to share the number of units available in the desired store.
  • 32% of retailers enabled in-store pick up at retail locations yet only 63% listed the time frame for when product would be available for pick up. For those retailers that listed the time frame, 80% were same day and 20% had it ready within an hour.
  • 76% of the retailers can access inventory across the enterprise yet only 16% used mobile device in-store to garner that information.
  • 1 in 5 retailers still need to call another store to check inventory though some with enterprise access still do so to ensure accuracy of a store’s inventory.
  • 72% of the associates at the retail store were able to conduct a transaction on behalf of the customer yet only 11% had access to a mobile device (mPOS or clienteling) to complete the transaction and surprisingly only one retailer had a tablet available to access information to support shopper needs.
  • To complete customer transactions when an item was out of inventory in the store, 89% of retailers opted to send the product from the central warehouse.

buy online pick up in store

The Opportunity

  • Implement a central repository for inventory, such as an inventory management system or order management system (OMS), to provide product availability transparency for shoppers across all your channels (web/warehouse to store, store to web/warehouse, and call center to both web/warehouse and store). Customers now expect you can tell them a product’s location is when it is not available in the store, or online for that matter. Centralizing inventory is essential for omnichannel initiatives such as ship from store, order from store, return to store and buy online, pick up in-store capabilities.
  • Invest in buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) as it is an important convenience for shoppers while adding to your overall service value proposition. After you have a central repository for inventory data and orders, move beyond the stationary POS and think about adding mobile devices (always available, location agnostic and simple to use) to enhance the experience for customers. The key will be to not only plan for the technology execution of BOPIS, but also human resources to ensure proper system adoption. Also determine egress in the store to complement both your service and selling strategy. For example, if the goal for implementing BOPIS is to offer convenience for enhancing your brand and building customer loyalty, then place pick up at the front of the store. If cross-selling additional items during a shopping trip is important to your business, then establish pick up at the back of the store to inspire impulse purchases. Based on the data above showing that picking up products in less than an hour is a rarity (20%), there is a significant opportunity to delight customers by allowing real time access to online orders for shorter wait times in-stores.

View the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

buy online pick up in store

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Information Accessibility

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Part 2 in a 3 Part Series | Part 1, Part 3

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to conduct independent research to understand how mid-market retailers have adopted omnichannel from an execution standpoint in terms of process and technology. Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, the e-tailing group developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results.

Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences:

  1. buy online pickup in-store and
  2. place an order for return at a retail location.

Information Accessibility

Shoppers come to the store for many reasons and customer information access is at the core of a convenient shopping experience. Today, securing this information is not a smooth process. The dependency on the customer to provide an order receipt, given antiquated systems, is simply not shopper friendly. Every retailer must be able to access an order based on a multitude of search criteria. After 20 years of ecommerce, consumers are at the point where they feel this issue should have been resolved.

During the survey process several retailers told us straight out that their systems are not always connected and lack access to information forcing them to work in silos. On several occasions, store associates expressed frustration regarding daily customer requests that go unresolved due to system limitations. The information inaccessibility extends much deeper when stores carry thousands of products and the average job tenure of an employee is six months and the average age is 19 years old. This research tested this assumption to determine the following findings.

The Numbers

  • The ability to access order from the POS system was available in just over half the retailers (56%) with customer name as the predominant lookup (71%), phone number on order (29%) and order history, email or item purchased (21%) were also options available at select retailers.
  • Associate can access orders ONLY via a packing slip/ order receipt at 42% of retailers.
  • 3 out of 4 retailers had an online wish list available on their website, which we signed up for in advance of our visit, yet none were accessible within the store.

56% of retailers can access order from POS
The Opportunity

  • Retailers need to get a central repository for order, customer and product information. Once you have these requirements centralized, the goal will be to integrate all your customer and employee facing systems to the central repository for consistency and accuracy of data visibility. This will require an order management system (OMS) and/ or customer relationship management (CRM). If your product information does not live within these systems today, then you might need to invest in a product information management (PIM) system. If you do not have these systems in place it is the best place to start any omnichannel initiative.
  • The POS, in most cases, is a dumb terminal. Accessing information implies intelligence. When customers browse your website, visit your stores or shop on a mobile device the goal is to inspire them to purchase by providing information relevant to them. The problem is that only the online sales channels can provide an unlimited amount of information about product. That said, only the stores can provide a personal touch. By arming employees with mobile devices that offer access to order, product and customer information, you get the best of both worlds – a knowledgeable employee that can add a personal touch. It also enables employees to move from behind the counter and into the aisle where customer service requests and buying decisions are made.
  • Accessing order information is the most critical of all since the customer has already made a commitment to trust a retailer, and ultimately, their brand. The order contains inventory, product and customer information which can tell a store employee a lot about the customer.

View the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

retailers access order via receipt

Not Your Father’s Order Management

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

omnichannel customer experience

Order Management has come a long way from the golden age of catalogers.  Back in the 1980’s, pre-Internet, there were two sales channels catalogers needed to worry about: the phone and mail-in orders.  Today, order management systems (OMS) need to work with every retail channel, or omnichannel, in order to be the central repository for all customer purchases, not just orders.  This requirement has been propelled by growing consumer expectations generated by a paradigm shift in the way they shop.  In addition, retail executives are looking for the OMS to reduce the number of systems necessary to manage orders, inventory, products and customer information.

The Omnichannel Opportunity

Omnichannel is now a reality as many retailers have started initiatives to unify their sales channels for optimizing the customer experience.  Consumer facing sales channels such as the web, call center and store-systems must all have access to the same retail data for shopping and service consistency.  Across many retail verticals, it has become important to have the ability to view inventory values across different stores or even warehouses to get the right product for the customer, when they want it.  For example, when a customer shops online they want to know that if they walk into a retail branch the store associate can look up that order and make complementary product recommendations for their purchase.  If a product is out of stock, customers want to know that a store associate can quickly order the item and have it shipped to their house or to the closest retail location. Capabilities such as “endless aisle” and “save-the-sale” have become valuable tools for building customer loyalty, increase sales and stymieing the competition.

When looking at adding omnichannel functionality, the order management system is critical for success. The OMS can be the system of record for orders and inventory across your entire company.  Using an order management system can help facilitate the following four omnichannel initiatives:

  • Order from store – endless aisle or save the sale functionality using a mobile device
  • Fulfill from store – clear out excess products in stores for improved inventory turn
  • Buy online, pick-up in-store – allowing customers to purchase and pick-up products same day
  • Buy online, return to store – creating convenience for customers and getting them back in the store to buy other products

“…a retailer investing in an OMS today will realize immediately the benefits of offering omnichannel fulfillment across an existing store network, but that OMS will also scale to allow omnichannel fulfillment in new stores”.
Brendan Witcher, Forrester.
Download his report, Building The Business Case For Omnichannel In Retail

With a solid strategy and the right OMS, you can provide an omnichannel experience for your customers.

Contact Freestyle Solutions, to see how we can help guide you with your OMS driven omnichannel initiatives.

 

 

Best Practices for Implementing Omnichannel

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

omnichannel technology

Omnichannel may be the latest buzzword, but it’s more than just a passing fad.  Omnichannel technology is the infrastructure that enables retailers and online merchants to give today’s customer the shop-anywhere, ship-anywhere, pick-up or return anywhere behavior they demand.

The previous generation of technology that many of today’s businesses rely on consists of numerous disparate systems that were not designed to operate together.  Today’s leading edge retailers and online trend-setters have replaced those systems with omnichannel-capable new systems.  Now you need to do the same thing to remain competitive – but how?

Step one is to recognize that while omnichannel is complicated it still relies on the same principles that have built your business – satisfying your customer’s needs.  You don’t have to reinvent your business.  You have to adapt it to the shopping behavior of today’s customer. This requires sponsorship and ownership from the top of the organization – the owner, president, board of directors, etc.

Step two is to recognize that the key to omnichannel success is that your sales and fulfillment technology infrastructure needs to have enterprise-wide product or inventory visibility. For example:

  • To provide shop online, pickup in store capability your order processing and fulfillment technology needs to know the store locations, the customer’s location and whether the desired product is available in the local store.
  • To provide endless-aisle or “save-the-sale” features, your retail sales team needs to have access to the product availability in other stores as well as the warehouses and distribution centers.

The examples go on and on.  Enterprise-wide inventory visibility is the key infrastructure to enable omnichannel commerce.  So do you have to rip out and replace your point-of-sale system, your warehouse management system and so on in order to get it?  Many merchants have discovered that the new generation of order management systems (OMS) can provide a unifying technology layer that integrates to your current POS, WMS, eCommerce platform and other systems, obtains the product, customer and sales order information it needs to provide enterprise-wide visibility and enables omnichannel sales, returns and fulfillment processes.  Adding one new technology like OMS can extend the useful life of your other significant technology investments while helping grow sales by enabling the omnichannel shopping experience your customers demand and your competitors are beginning to deliver.

Let’s summarize:

First, you’ll need top-level executive sponsorship to implement omnichannel because it crosses many parts of the operation.

Second, you will want to focus on product and inventory visibility across the organization – all shopping channels, all physical facilities and all points of customer contact.

Finally, you should search for and implement an order management system to unify the various separate technologies your business relies on and consider using a partner who has experience in implementing that OMS to reduce the business risk and impact to your current staff.

Why is Omnichannel so hard?

Monday, July 25th, 2016

omnichannel challenges

Today, retail executives struggle with omnichannel demands and expectations. According to a report from Retail Dive, only “21 percent of retail executives are more confident now than a year ago about their company’s ability to deliver omnichannel services”.

The challenge of implementing omnichannel capabilities is so hard for many reasons. The shop-anywhere, pick-up anywhere, ship anywhere, return anywhere expectations of today’s shopper drives demands on the infrastructure of retailers and ecommerce merchants like never before.

Here are just a few of the challenges facing today’s mid-sized retailers and ecommerce merchants:

Technology

Retailers and merchants need to get different systems that were designed to operate autonomously to now interact seamlessly, as if they were one comprehensive system. Examples are many, such as warehouse management systems (WMS), designed to manage and track product procurement, receipt, storage fulfillment and shipping now needing to interact with mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems. This type of integration was never needed in the past. The POS only needed to manage the products physically present in one particular retail location, and manage the sale transaction and process the payment for the sale of those products. The WMS only needed to manage what products were ordered for delivery to the warehouse, what products were stored within the warehouse, and what products needed to be shipped from the warehouse.

Now in an omnichannel world, the POS system needs to be able to look into the warehouse to see if a product that a customer is requesting but is not available in that store is available within a warehouse or distribution center, and if it is to be able to place that order immediately and have the product picked, packed and shipped directly to the customer or to the store location to be picked up by the customer.

Employee Skill Set

Just as the software and technology infrastructure needs to change dramatically to satisfy the needs of omnichannel, so does the skill sets and behavior of the retail staff and personnel at merchants. For example, many retailers are using their retail locations as mini-warehouses, fulfilling orders that they receive via their web stores or through their call centers directly from the inventory in their retail locations. This allows them to reduce shipping costs and accelerate time to delivery, as well as reduce or eliminate the cost of centralized warehouses or distribution centers.

Now think about the retail sales teams in those stores. In addition to assisting customers and conducting in-person sales transactions, they are now asked to pick, pack and ship products – becoming part of the fulfillment process in addition to the sales process. There are significant implications for staff training as well as facilities for packing and shipping operations.

These are just a couple high profile examples of the complexities of satisfying omnichannel shopper demands. Watch for future posts on how savvy mid-market businesses are solving these needs using the right omnichannel order management systems.

“42% of eBusiness leaders have either implemented or plan to implement the ability to view store inventory information online within the next two years. Around one-third also plan to offer at least one other omnichannel fulfillment capability — buy online/pick up in-store, ship-to-store, ship-from-store, endless aisle — within the same time frame.”
-Brendan Witcher, Forrester

What Omnichannel Means Today

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

This post covers the elements and challenges of creating an omnichannel environment for retailers according to Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Sucharita shared her thoughts in our recent webinar, “Beyond the Buzz What Omnichannel Really Means.”

What Omnichannel Means Today

Omnichannel has meant many things to many people over the years as the term has morphed based on new technologies hitting the retail scene.  With this ever evolving landscape, what does omnichannel mean and what are the specific elements of omnichannel today? When talking about omnichannel, retailers are mainly focusing on fulfillment of an order or a transaction in the store.   The common fulfillment processes include:

• Buy online, ship to store
• Manage in-store inventory visible online
• Buy in-store, ship to customer from store (endless aisle)
• Buy online, pick up in store
• Ship from store
• Reserve online, pickup in store

Challenges with Omnichannel Fulfillment
omnichannel fulfillment
The short answer is with legacy systems already in place, getting it all work together is costly and cumbersome.  Below are some of the most common challenges that retailers have faced when implementing an omnichannel program.

1. Endless Aisle – the goal of endless aisle is to provide a seamless view of inventory across the retailer and enable the ability to order an out of stock item through a POS or mobile device.

A primary challenge is limited visibility to warehouse and store inventory across the retailer. Another issue that plagues successful endless aisle implementations is the inability to easily locate inventory, reserve it and ship it. This rings true with many apparel and big box retailers.

Ideally, retailers should have systems that expose web distribution centers to stores and the ability to pull an item from another store. An order management system can be the inventory system of record allowing organizations full visibility into company inventory. Unfortunately today, there are still many retailers manually calling to find an item in another store, which is both inefficient and a poor customer experience.

2. In-store pickup – This practice allows shoppers to buy products online and pick-up their orders in stores instead of having them shipped.

The benefit for the retailer is that in-store pick-up drives traffic back into the store and the potential for additional sales. The benefit for the consumer is that they get their product that day, creating a greater level of customer satisfaction.

Retailers always want to move the post profitable inventory, so ROI for this sales channel is dependent on what percent of web inventory is available in store and the where the physical location of store is. Typically, only 50% of a retailers’ web inventory is available in store which can prove challenging for this fulfillment option.

3. Ship from store – This approach offers shipping items from local brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill online orders, instead of from distribution centers miles away.

The benefit of this fulfillment method is selling slow moving products in specific stores that would be targeted for markdown, thereby increasing profit margins.

A key challenge is the splitting of orders, which may increase shipping fees. Retailers that have highly varied inventory have difficulty creating efficiency to ship from store. This model works better for retailers that have consistent inventory. There are several retailers today that ship almost exclusively from stores. This fulfillment process can effective for retailers if their inventory is consistent across stores and they don’t have a large amount of variants or sizes.

4. Cross-channel returns – This practice enables customers to return online purchases in retail stores.

This is one of the best and most compelling aspects of the omnichannel value proposition for customers because they have freedom over the returns process. Customers benefit by getting their payment returned quickly, rather than shipping the item back to the retailer and incurring a delay. The value for retailers is the customer will visit the store and potentially make an additional purchase. Another benefit is using the store to repost the returned item to sell online and use the store as the distribution center.

The challenges include “online only” items being returned to stores and many stores have difficulty putting the returned merchandise on the shelf at full price. This is where having an order management system (OMS) that can be the central repository for inventory, product and order can make a difference. Otherwise, retailers may have to ship the merchandise back to a warehouse or move the item to markdowns.

5. Same-day delivery – This feature offers customers the ability to buy online and have it delivered the same day.

The challenges are similar to in-store pickup. Only a small percentage of a retailers’ online inventory is available for same-day delivery because it will need to be delivered from a local store. The unit economics are extremely high for same day delivery model where costs can run $15-20 for the labor alone. Even though there is excitement around this delivery model, demand is low. Only 10% of customers say they would be willing to pay more than $15 for a same day delivery.

The future may include more IKEA like models and offering more items in stores.

View the full webinar and download the presentation.
What Omnichannel Really Means Webinar

Defining the Omnichannel Business Case

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Omnichannel investment is squarely aimed at increasing the availability of a wider assortment of products and improving the customer experience through better service.

By adding mobile enabled devices in stores to look up inventory across the organization, retailers will have the ability to “save the sale” and create an “endless aisle” scenario.omnichannel business case

On average, out-of-stock merchandise costs retailers 4.1% in lost revenue.

Universal access to inventory data also helps with inventory turnover for locations that are carrying excess SKUs. From a competitive standpoint, access to inventory across channels saves sales lost to the competition, and opens up a higher likelihood of future purchases.

Customer service is also heavily impacted by omnichannel initiatives. Allowing customers to buy through any channel and return products to any channel has become table stakes. Omnichannel integration is critical for cross-channel loyalty programs and consistent promotions.

It is 10 times more expensive to acquire a customer than retain one, so offering differentiated customer service that provides consistency of the full customer experience is critical.

When defining the business case, there are some critical questions you need to ask:

  • Do I have a system of record for customer, product, inventory and order/transaction data that can be easily accessed?
  • Are my points of brand access (web, mobile device, call center, and POS) ready to create a unified experience for customers?

If you have answers to all these questions, you are ready to take your first step toward unifying the customer experience and the critical elements of your business.

Find out how to master your omnichannel approach and organize your order processing for the fastest turnaround in our new white paper, The Shift to Dynamic Order Management.

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How to Stay on Top of Omnichannel Orders

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

how to stay on top of omnichannel orders

Your customers are everywhere, and with your experience in omnichannel selling, this is not exactly news. But, what you may not know is how this little morsel of information can send your business into a frenzy if you are not properly equipped.

Creating an omnichannel experience for your customer requires a bit more than just giving them multiple channel options. When not managed properly, adding sales channels can create bottlenecks and cause for customer concern in your processes.

“Consumers value speed, simplicity, quick responses to questions and reliable delivery, rather than worrying about whether they shop online or in-store.” – Economist Insights

To be successful in an omnichannel environment, you need to be able to efficiently monitor sales and fulfill orders from all channels. Logging in and and manually updating multiple orders from several sales channels can be daunting.

With optional features, you can manage as many as 50 different companies in one system. You can quickly switch from one company to another with just a few of clicks of your mouse or choose to share inventory across companies. All of this can be done with a full range of features.

Some popular ones include:

Import/Export Functionality:

This advanced import/export module lets you connect your OMS to outside web stores for optimal efficiency.

Multi-Company Functionality:

Multi-business software enables you to run an unlimited number of eCommerce stores, catalog fulfillment or cross channel companies using one single OMS.

Interactive Credit Card Authorization System:

Completely automate credit card authorizations and transactions direct to your bank or credit card network.

These along with a multitude of other features are sometimes necessary, depending on your specific business needs.

Find out if your OMS is missing the 5 critical capabilities in the eBook below

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How to Manage Omnichannel Orders

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

omnichannel orders
With 95 percent of shoppers using more than one channel for purchases, retailers need to focus on omnichannel customer experience initiatives, as they become the clear differentiators in the industry.

“Most retailers (two-thirds) still look at simple sales volumes to measure performance rather than longer-term indicators, such as length of customer engagement (only 27% of retailers).”
-Economist Insights

Looking at the integrations between your eCommerce store and supporting systems is one place to start. These integrations may connect your store to payment processing, as well as order, inventory and customer management systems.

EDI Solutions for eCommerce can be the quickest way to turn around payments effectively, avoid stock outs, reduce shipping errors and much more. Check out the infographic below to see how EDI can benefit your business, and start making omnichannel orders work for you.

edi solutions for ecommerce infographic
To find out how EDI can help your business in the long run, check out the integration video here.

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