Too often companies fail to reach the potential of their technology investment through failing to grapple with the need for organisational change. Similarly, when deciding to invest in new commerce capabilities businesses not just in Australia, but across the globe, need to appreciate the full ramifications across the whole organisation to achieve the best results and a solid return on investment.
To engage with customers seamlessly across multiple channels (omni-channel) well it takes more than buying the right technology, it requires implementing changes in culture, training and operational practices. There is no use spending millions on an online store for example if you’ve got salespeople in your bricks and mortar stores on commission for sales through the till.
Many brands and retailers often overlook the need to incentivise shop floor staff to embrace the online store and use it to their advantage to increase sales. If they view it as taking away from their sales targets or commissions they won’t use it as effectively as they could to boost the customer experience. Businesses need to change the culture of differentiating between their online store and the bricks and mortar store – they are both commerce channels. They both have the same objective - to sell as much of your company’s products as possible.
The online store if used well can complement the bricks and mortar store and help overcome showrooming. It can enhance the customer experience through the ability to check out customers waiting in queues at peak times via an iPad for example. Or give the sales assistant the ability to order a product that is currently out of stock in the shop and have it delivered direct to the customer’s home - reducing the chances of the customer walking out and buying from another competitor’s store.
It’s not just the customer service team that need the right training and incentives but organisational change must extend through the business from call centre, to marketing, merchandising, product buyers, IT, management and the board. The entire organisation needs to understand how to use the technology for maximum benefit and importantly use the gold mine of data it is going to deliver.
At hybris we see that businesses in general are currently not gaining anywhere near the full insights they could from their customer data, hence not fully understanding and servicing their customer. Creating new jobs for specialists to not only analyse the data, but detect trends, understand customer preferences more deeply and how to communicate these learnings to the business when making buying and marketing decisions will be crucial differentiators in the future of commerce.
Consumers are one step ahead of retailers and currently use different channels simultaneously, for instance, checking prices on a mobile phone while standing in a store. Purchase decisions are increasingly being made via digital devices even if the end transaction actually takes place in a physical store. The lines between channels are blurring and businesses need to seamlessly connect all of them in order to fulfil customer expectations and remain competitive.
For retailers, the best way to understand consumers is to think of their entire inventory in terms of an ‘endless aisle’ – a continuum of products stocked across online, in-store, and distribution centres that the customer can access and purchase from any touch point.
A shift to this model demands an operational seamlessness that allows staff to fulfil customers’ wishes regardless of channel, stock limitations, or time which in turn requires organisations to undergo not only technology shifts but also large organisational shifts in the way they approach, conceive and conduct business.
Graham Jackson is hybris' Austraian managing director.