Nieman Marcus becomes channel agnostic to go omnichannel

Omnichannel Commerce

High-end specialty merchant Nieman Marcus recently announced significant organizational changes designed to help the apparel brand become channel agnostic . The company is in the process of going omni channel and the first step of this transformation, according President Karen Katz, is turning a blind eye to specific channels and treating all of their online and offline locations as one.

“Our customers do not differentiate between channels and now neither will we,” Katz told attendees at the Operations Summit 2014, as cited by Multichannel Merchant.

For a long time, merchants were focused on being available across as many different shopping channels as possible. Merchants would create independent silos for each shopping channel – everything from print catalogs to call centers to mobile websites – that made managing cross-channel eCommerce operations a significant challenge.

Operating siloed shopping channels is not only challenging, it also puts retailers in stark contrast to how the customer perceives the shopping experience. Most retailers would keep in-store inventory completely separate from eCommerce inventory, and often set  prices or offer promotions that were inconsistent across channels. Today, customers expect to receive their orders quickly, whether that means the retailer fulfills orders from the closest retail location or offers in-store pick up. The customer expects to browse online and view the same inventory and prices at their local store. If retailers can’t give the flexibility to customers to leverage different shopping channels as they see fit, the omni channel experience will suffer.

If merchants want to offer a full omni channel experience, they need to have their store and eCommerce inventory in sync, and visible to their online customers and in-store salespeople.

“Personalization and responsive design are omni channel game-changers,” Multichannel Merchant contributor Tim Parry added. “But neither matters if your inventory is not omni channel as well. If merchants want to offer a full omni channel experience, they need to have their store and eCommerce inventory in sync, and visible to their online customers and in-store salespeople. ”

Now merchants are realizing they can’t treat each channel as it’s own entity – they need to become channel agnostic, just like their customers. That is the first step in going omni channel, and retailers such as Nieman Marcus are making sweeping changes to the way they operate to accommodate this view of all shopping channels as one.

Becoming channel agnostic in terms of consumer-facing and behind-the-scenes operations

When retailers think of going omni channel, many immediately think of cross-channel features such as item suggestions that leverage consumer information gathered from all shopping channels. However, the omni channel experience isn’t just something consumers can see – retailers must also make big changes to the behind-the-scene omni channel capabilities as well. This includes the way inventory is managed, orders routed and supply chain synchronized.

However, it should be noted that going omni channel isn’t something that will happen overnight and merchants shouldn’t feel pressure to make radical adjustments and investments in the short-term. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is an omni channel empire. This starts by devising a roadmap that will help guide the journey, addressing everything from the shopping channels that will be used to the different eCommerce software and solutions needed to become channel agnostic.

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