Friction transforming to Frictionless: The Omnichannel retail journey

 

By Brian Walker
CEO & Founder, Retail Doctor Group


I destroyed a lot of guitars trying to get them to do what I wanted, but I learned something from every guitar I tore apart and discovered even more things. Things like if the string is not straight from the bridge saddle to the nut, you’re going to have friction. Eddie Van Halen

Recently I witnessed a customer returning an online purchase back into a store. This national retailer, who has had a stellar year through COVID and what it represents, is still dealing with “friction” in every point of the “omnichannel” customer experience.

Anyway, this particular customer had made an online purchase and decided to return a bulky item back to the retailer’s shop. So, after queuing, the customer was advised that the shop could not take back this rather large and awkward product from their online shop, and that the customer would have to somehow post this back to the online store. Additionally, they would first need to call the online shop’s hotline and register the return, then at their own considerable frustration, find the time to return this product.

(And there is the Retail Doctor overhearing all this!)

Frictionless, digital and physical channels seamlessly connected? Hardly, although it is somewhat demonstrative of the phase many retailers find themselves in.

Customers now want and demand a seamless 24/7 experience from their retailers of choice. Perhaps some retailers think that building omnichannel capability is like adding a room to the house when it’s rather like rewiring the house.

So, what makes omnichannel work and what do retailers need to consider when implementing a true Omnichannel strategy?

It doesn’t start with the customer journey, contrary to some espoused views, it starts with the architecture of the back-end systems. In other words,…

  • Do you have an Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP) that supports the integration of ecommerce platforms including marketplaces, and the measurement of orders per day with live inventory updates?
  • When the customers are in multiple locations, requiring seamlessly integrated inventory management, can your ERP fulfill the business’ need to have different locations for storing inventory and speak to each location in real time with accuracy?
  • All data on products, customer relationship management (CRM), warehouse distribution, and accounts available in real time and fully integrated with transparency at all points.
  • Best in class POS solutions (as part of interfaces with an ERP solution) all integrated and automated.
  • A business culture and capability that is truly omnichannel, customer centric and recognising that the best systems won’t replace the moments of truth executed every day and every moment by the teams; that a customer having to go through all that difficulty returning a product across channels won’t lament on a lack of a seamless ERP system or under trained staff. The customer’s issue will be with the brand and their advocacy will be to tell others about their disappointment.

These are the true measurements of friction in the system, leading to true omnichannel designs that define and deploy a real omnichannel customer experience.

Deep subject matter experts in all things ERP amongst our partners and this experience showed me, as if I didn’t already know, that from friction to frictionless is effectively change management with all points of the journey aligned, all barriers removed and pointed to frictionless.

What about interim omnichannel? Take the customer’s product back, refund or swap, smile and figure it out in the backroom.

To learn more about the topic of Endless Aisle, an effective Omnichannel strategy and its implication, download the whitepaper now! Information on our Digital Insights programs are available here! 

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group.

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