Canadian Retailer Magazine | Digital Retail & Technology | Marketing & Merchandising | National

Equip your information system to meet the challenges of unified commerce

March 6, 2019
Equip your information system to meet the challenges of unified commerce

INTELLIGENT architecture is just as important to IT as it is to construction. With the optimal integration of their information system, eCommerce platform, client database and stock management system, retailers can and should optimize their omnichannel commerce processes.

Any changes in consumer behavior impact the retail sector and the way its information systems operate. These shifts and the need for adoption is the topic of ongoing conversations in the retail industry and media. Today, customers are seeking more personalized experiences in their interactions with their favorite brands, higher-quality service, and the ability to shop across all channels whenever and wherever they want.

Today’s challenge for CIOs is the industrialscale management of online and offline buyer journeys, including omnichannel services such as Click & Collect, Ship-From-Home, and Storeto-Store deliveries.

A Centralized IS to Manage the Omnichannel Data Flow

Achieving seamless commerce can be challenging; organizations and information systems cannot effectively operate in silos. Though consumers still predominantly shop at stores, they are demanding the choice of in-store and online. Soaring Internet traffic and eCommerce transactions are putting a growing strain on information systems. In this context, synchronizing the flows of products, money and documents within the same platform is the best way to tackle the demands of omnichannel.

Centralizing Data…

How do you transform your information system, without disruption in service?

There is no single model that fits all organizations. The maturity of a retailer, its size, the history of its information system, and its differentiation strategy must all be considered when moving forward.

Fortunately, there are common key points to consider ensuring the successful transition of any information system. If we push our earlier architecture metaphor a little further, we take a closer look at the information system in construction terms: the foundation, frame, walls, and roof.

…With Client Information

There are two prerequisites for effectively developing your transformation strategy: the centralized management of your customer data and your inventory. Retailers and brands often choose to create centralized databases, building a solid foundation for accessibility from various sales channels. How can a company claim to deliver reliable omnichannel solutions if their systems are unable to recognize customers irrespective of the channel used, and cannot guarantee product availability?

It is essential that customer information managed in realtime complies with evolving personal data protection rules. Additionally, loyalty points, gift certificates, and credits which can be used online and in-store must always be up-to-date to prevent fraud.

The next step is to decide where to position the client database within the retailer’s IT architecture. There are two main options. The first is to install this invaluable source of information in the Retail system for native integration with promotion and loyalty tools as well as the point-of-sale. The second option is to host the database in a dedicated CRM component bringing the advantage of providing additional resources, particularly for marketing.

…And INVENTORY Information

The rules of customer data can also apply to inventory management. Back in the day, having real-time knowledge of inventory levels in each store was not essential, as customers came to buy items available during their visit; not relying on the availability or accuracy of the IT system. With omnichannel commerce, those days are gone. A centralized, continuous and highly accurate inventory management from the warehouse to the store, and for each omnichannel path offered by the retailer, is crucial.

Omnichannel Scenarios Are Getting More Sophisticated

Once the foundation is in place to ensure access to customer and inventory data is available in real-time, it is time to consider the IT structural framework.

The Order Management System (OMS) is key to omnichannel order processing because it synchronizes the flows of products, money and documents.

Starting with the company’s strategy and applying it across the organization’s various business units will facilitate the OMS selection process. The list of omnichannel scenarios that the company wants to offer its customers will determine the OMS features that the information system will need to support. These features will need to map key information across the different buyer journeys.

Selecting Suitable POS Software AT THE STORE

Lastly, looking at the ‘walls’ and ‘roof’ of your IT infrastructure and considering the retail management and POS software.

Offering a frictionless customer experience and improving sales associate productivity should be the primary drivers in selecting a suitable retail management and POS solution for the business. Centralizing applications to a single device to manage end-to-end omnichannel processes, so a customer only pays once, irrespective of the channel of original order, the make-up of their cart, and the delivery destination, offers the customer the ultimate shopping experience.

How can a company claim to deliver reliable omnichannel solutions if their systems are unable to recognize customers irrespective of the channel used, and cannot guarantee product availability?

The omnichannel buying journeys offered by retailers and brands today are becoming more complex and diversified. Transaction volumes are soaring, and robust, agile retail information systems are needed to support these operations. The quality of customer service and the operational effectiveness of sales associates are at stake. Meet these conditions and you will be ready to build a truly unified commerce experience for your brand.

BY DJAMEL TOUBRINET, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Retail, Americas, Cegid

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