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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why Invest in Omni-channel?

Meeting the complex expectations of the omni-channel shopper demands substantial investment in emerging and effective technologies. Let us look at the factors that are driving omni-channel growth before discussing the return on investment.

The number of smartphone subscriptions globally was 1.6 billion in 2013. According to a report produced by a leading mobile technology enterprise, this figure is expected to increase to 5.6 billion in 2019. 90% of the world’s population will then be able to access mobile Internet connections. This growth in Internet penetration and the immense increase in popularity of smartphones will only magnify omni-channel customer behavior exponentially. These trends point towards omni-channel being the only sustainable way of doing retail business in the future as ‘one-click shopping’ becomes a reality.

Innovation in technology is also driving the retailers’ interest in omni-channel retailing, supporting new capabilities in personalized consumer engagement. Advances in store digitization technologies, predictive logistics, virtual assistance, and customer recognition systems are game-changers. These new technologies have the potential to disrupt existing business models in the same way as e-Commerce disrupted traditional brick-and-mortar sales few years ago.

In future, diverse business models will be driven by the modern day consumer’s preferences. The point in case will be e-commerce giants who are trying to add physical presence to get closer to the customers. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers are adding online stores and also reinventing the customer experience and the role of their stores (for example, by using stores as fulfillment centers for online orders).

Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful sales and marketing channel. Online companies sit on a goldmine of rich consumer data and they can easily use this to customize offers and target consumers more effectively. 

Thus today, technology enables consumers to be present anywhere and everywhere and to meet these consumers in their comfort zone, retailers need to be present wherever they are. For this, they need to invest in modern retail technologies that allows a seamless omni-channel customer experience. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

ETP Blog - What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

Retail has undergone a major transformation in the digital age, and today customers demand better, quicker and seamless experiences. Therefore, brands need to provide omni-channel experiences that allow customers to engage from wherever they are – brick-and-mortar stores, mobile apps, online, kiosks, catalog and more.

However, simply operating multiple retail channels does not constitute an omni-channel strategy, unless done right. Today, customers may start in one channel and switch to another as they progress to a definite buying decision. Omni-channel implies making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be effortless for the customer.

Omni-channel is not just a mere buzzword. It is essentially a cluster of strategies that need to deliver results. So what do retailers need to know to create a superior omni-channel customer experience?

360° Omni-Channel customer view
Collecting customer information such as shopping preferences, demographics, buying history, preferred modes of payment and so on is absolutely vital for creating a single unified view of the customer no matter which they use to research and purchase. When acquired, consolidated and leveraged fittingly, this analysis can provide a roadmap for retailers to define and deploy more personalised and effective communication and promotions, eliminating much of the guesswork.

Offer consistent and continuous experiences
Today, consumers have instant access to an extensive range of buying options, they will not think twice while letting go of a brand in search of a superior experience. Even if one of the channels is lagging, the retailer will likely see a drop in customer loyalty. Hence, the value of a complete, continuous and consistency is priceless.

Leveraging emerging technologies
The right technology investment is vital to enabling an outstanding omni-channel customer experience. Retailers should equip their business operations with the right mix of emerging and effective technologies to fulfil consumers’ high expectations in this fast and frugal omni-channel age. Brands that can stay on the cutting edge of technology such as mobility, geo-targetting, smart devices for payments, augmented reality and many more are likely to emerge victorious.

While every retailer will bring a distinct omni-channel customer experience strategy to the table, brands will have to strive to provide a seamless, noteworthy customer experience across channels to meet consumer expectations.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

ETP Blog - Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

Disruption through technology has revolutionized many industries and one such industry, perhaps, where the impact has been most visible is retail. At the turn of the millennium, technology has brought about a huge shake-up in retail, in two ways:-
i) By bringing about a change in the perception of retailing and its customers,
ii) By adding more dimensions to the traditional methods of retailing

This disruption could very well prove to be a destruction of many retail businesses if they are unable to innovate and get it right. Every retailer has to think about getting better in a way that is different from the rest and work towards getting it right in this fast changing retail environment.

But what does innovation in retail really look like? Below are a few insightful perceptions;

-    Bridging the offline-online gap: Customers, frankly, don’t care if the retail business operates its brick-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce portal, separately or not. For them, it is only about getting their order fulfilled. It is up to the retailer to figure out the process to make sure they meet the customer expectations on time, budget and quality, no matter what channel they have used to make the purchase. 

-    Predicting the problems in advance: The importance of being proactive cannot be stressed upon more, considering the dynamics at play across the retail business. Retailers need to use the art and science of forecasting not only sales and profits, but also pain points that could surface in the future.

-    Data driven retailing: Any retail business can be successful if it has the required resources to track, collect, measure and analyze data. The outcome of the analysis would definitely equip retailers to take calculated risks rather than simply going by their intuitions. Greater the risk, better would be the returns.

-    Going beyond the customer experience: Great customer experience is no more the ‘be all and end all’ of retailing. It should be a relationship that every customer has with their preferred brand or product, and thus other entities involved. Of course, the service and experience will help build and strengthen this relationship. Hence retailers need to provide a better and distinguishing experience for customers to get hooked on and stay loyal.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Omni-channel fulfilment is the biggest retail challenge

Fulfilling the demands of cross-channel operations is the biggest challenge for retail businesses. According to a recent study that involved 400 retail CEOs across the globe, failing to meet omni-channel demand and being unable to sustain 'brick and mortar' sales was the most significant business impediment, cited by 42 per cent of respondents.

The cost of fulfilling orders across channels has increased for 67 per cent of retailer business.

Fulfilling customer returns from orders in-store and online was the biggest challenge, 76 per cent, with 71 per cent of retailers citing it as the most expensive aspect of fulfilling orders.

The research also showed that only 29 per cent retailers consider themselves to be multi-channel, while 26 per cent say having shipping options was very important to meeting customer expectations.

Globally, meeting omni-channel expectations of customers was the biggest priority for the future. It was also the biggest challenge, with 35 per cent citing failing to meet the demands as the biggest concern, and 84 per cent saying they could not currently fulfil omni-channel demand profitably.

The cost of fulfilment, especially returns, was cited as the most expensive aspect of omni-channel operations.

Chief executives surveyed are investing an average of 29 per cent of capital expenditure this year on improving omni-channel fulfilment capabilities.

Globally, CEOs are more upbeat about long-term growth as opposed to growth in the near-term, with most expressing rising confidence in revenue growth over the next 12 months compared to last year.

Source: http://www.cips.org/supply-management/news/2015/may/omni-channel-fulfilment-is-biggest-retail-challenge/

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Knowing the New Age Consumer

The New Consumer is a values-aspirational, practical purchaser. He or she aspire to purchase with a purpose but is unwilling to make practical trade-offs, especially in a tough economy. By and large the New Consumer represents a younger, female, educated demographic.

ETP Blog - The New Age Consumer

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Helping retail associates sell better

Retail store staff that have the right customer facing skills can prove to be an important asset for the retail business as they are the ones dealing with the customers’ directly, Hence, they need to be the face of the retail business as well as brand ambassadors of the retail brand so that they are able to influence the customers and drive them to making purchases, thus generating sales for the business.

At the end of the day, the aim for a retail store staff is to achieve high sales. However, selling does not mean they have to be ‘salesy’ and pushy. Effective selling is all about their ability to help the customers with the necessary information which they may be seeking, helping them find the desired product, and ensuring that the customers are genuinely happy with their purchase. 

To achieve this, retail businesses need to ensure that their store staff are equipped with 2 important aspects – knowledge and technology:

•    Knowledge – Retail store staff need to be armed with thorough and complete information regarding the products. In fact, it would be of additional value if they possess the information about the competition as well. Importantly, every store staff should know their customers so that they can tackle them accordingly. Hence, it is necessary to have recent and relevant customer data. The store staff also need to be trained and groomed in order to imbibe the values of the business so that the brand attitude may be reflected through the interactions they have with the customers. Also, providing proper training for obvious factors like communication skills and other soft skills will go a long way in the overall grooming of the staff. Having substantial knowledge of the business, its products, customers and also, the competition will allow the store staff to face the customers confidently and deliver the service effectively.

•    Technology – Along with knowledge, it is also essential to equip the store staff with the right softwares and tools. Having the right technology at their disposal will allow them to go about their daily chores efficiently. For example, a POS software at the check-out counter that is able to not only capture customer data but also reflect it during billing will allow the staff to provide the customer with the right offers at the time of purchase. Also, providing store staff with mobile POS devices will help them assist customers during peak hours, thus negating the chances of a walk-out. Having a powerful order management tool that can manage inventory real time will enable the staff to handle situations accordingly, if the desired products are not available at the store.

Certainly, the utilization of a good retail solution will ensure that the retail business as a whole, can reap the benefits through improved performance and profitability. To sum up, the right knowledge and the right technology will help retailers and their store staff to get it right in retail.