After years of trying to map a universal customer journey, retailers are now clear that almost every single customer is unique in how they browse, interact and buy. A typical customer will shop differently from day to day, item to item and touchpoint to touchpoint.
This level of fragmentation in shopper behaviour has had a dramatic impact on retail as a whole, but particularly on those retailers that lack the flexibility in their systems, processes and culture to manage each journey in a way that is both profitable to them and satisfying to the customer.
The challenge facing retailers is the lack of connection between all the processes in the customer journey, causing disjointed experiences, lost sales and diminished levels of loyalty. In modern retail, the ability to adapt to the constant variations in customer demand is key, this means removing friction from the customers’ buying journeys. And, as Craig Summers, UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates explains, that requires new thinking about systems, data, logistics and execution in every step along the buyer journey.
The omnichannel dream
Consumers are hoping for high levels of choice, convenience and recognition in modern, omnichannel shopping. To truly offer an omnichannel experience, selling anywhere, fulfilling anywhere and engaging anywhere is essential, as is elevating customer service and interactions to create exceptional customer experiences, regardless of where the customer started their buying journey.
This is the holistic world that every retailer is trying to create, but the reality for large long-established retailers is that they are not going to strip out legacy systems and create this omnichannel eco-system overnight. C-suites are having to consider the profitability of change, and the reality of implementation. What new capabilities will new technology deliver? Will true visibility be achieved? Is the investment guaranteed to deliver results?
The retail reality
Retailers have, however, taken great strides to enable their ever-more demanding customers to shop according to their personal preferences, at any time, on any channel. Physical and digital have merged to the point where the customer should no longer be impeded by the limitations of any particular touchpoint; after all, consumers do not think about or talk about channels, they simply go shopping.
Yet, growing pressure to seamlessly offer customers choice, convenience and recognition across an increasing number of touchpoints has led to new challenges. The reality is that most retailers’ systems, processes and people were never designed or trained up to handle such a diversity of selling and fulfilment demand. This has resulted in gaps between what customers want, and what retailers are able to provide.
Paving the way for future prosperity
From inventory planning to order orchestration, new fulfilment strategies and the next generation of POS, integration of capabilities will pave the way to keep up with the speed of modern day shopping. They must embrace technologies that guarantee profitable omnichannel operations. Upgrades need to go well beyond papering over the cracks of outdated technology. Making modifications to legacy solutions will no longer be enough to protect profit margins or keep up with increasing customer experience mandates.
Cost control is front of mind, of course. But thanks to the emergence of cloud-native systems, unnecessary costs and technical limitations can be eliminated and that plague legacy commerce solutions. Cloud-native architectures, built with micro-services, are designed to enable a long list of dynamic benefits such as elastic scaling, run-anywhere functionality, easy integration, single view of the truth and seamless administration.
Engineered for what’s next
These new systems must also be future-proof. New systems may be adopted by an ambitious retailer, but three years down the line shopper behaviour may have changed again, and the software and processes may no longer be relevant. It has become essential to have architectural flexibility across evolving operations with engineered support for extensibility and customisation, with innovation at the core.
The tools to capitalise on the omnichannel opportunity by better serving digital and in-store customers alike are there for the taking. From warehouse and inventory to retail stores and contact centres, technology enables retailers to remove points of operational friction, cut costs, maximise resources and delight customers from one end of the supply chain to the other. If retailers are willing to invest in solutions engineered for omnichannel, they can reap the performance benefits of connected commerce solutions, and enjoy the flexibility to adapt to whatever the future of retail and consumer demand holds.