How Target failed the omnichannel customer

Order Management

While many retailers look at solutions such as inventory management and order management software as tools to help them operate behind-the-scenes more effectively, it is just as important to realize these solutions can help them improve customer-facing operations as well. Greg Sterling, a writer for Marketing Land, made it quite apparent how important these tools could be to customer service functions.

To buy a treadmill

Sterling recently went to purchase a treadmill online. The online store with the best price was Target’s eBay shop, which had the equipment for $1,000 less than the standalone Target store. After making the purchase, however, there was some confusion regarding the delivery of the treadmill due to miscommunication and weather conditions. As a result, the machine was sent back to the warehouse.

The problem stemmed from the fact the order management solution did not give the service representatives complete access to order, product, and inventory information across channels.

Along the way, Sterling had a nightmare experience trying to deal with customer service. The problem stemmed from the fact the order management solution did not give the service representatives complete access to order, product, and inventory information across channels. The Target.com service agent could not access information about the sale because it was done via the eBay site, and could not help Sterling as a result.

By the time Sterling got ahold of an employee working for the eBay store, the treadmill had become unavailable. The Target eBay store had sold the item to another customer and because of the back-end structure of the website, the merchant could not simply price match the item from the online store and fulfill the order with Target.com’s inventory.

At the end of the day, Target winds up losing in a number of ways.

At the end of the day, Target winds up losing in a number of ways. First, the firm missed an opportunity to sell a high-value, big-ticket item in the treadmill – a $1,000 purchase. But even more critical, Target has now lost a customer simply because of the archaic setup of Target’s back-end and its┬álack of a solution that could consolidate order and inventory information in an easy fashion. Customer service could have made good on this situation, but they did not have the tools to do so quickly or effectively. As a result, instead of selling a customer a $1,000 item, Target lost a customer for the foreseeable future.

“Notwithstanding my personal involvement, I see this episode as a breathtaking e-commerce and customer service failure,” Sterling said. “It exposes the vast chasm between high-flying retailer rhetoric and typically inept execution.”

Delivering the omnichannel experience on all levels

Many merchants have taken great strides to offer a truly omnichannel shopping experience to customers. They want to allow people to shop how they want, where they want and when they want. It doesn’t matter if it is on a mobile site from a bus, a third-party online marketplace or in an actual store.

Omnichannel extends beyond simply being available everywhere – it also means being able to serve customers adequately across all these channels.

However, omnichannel extends beyond simply being available everywhere – it also means being able to serve customers adequately across all these channels as well. Customer service is a critical aspect of retail success and poor service can result in lost sales opportunities and loyal patrons.

The Target story is a great example of where many merchants are going wrong. They launch mobile apps, make their products available across all sorts of online channels, they open physical stores, but they do not have the solutions required to service customers effectively across all of these avenues.

What retailers need is an eCommerce platform that can consolidate all of this information from numerous channels. That will help them avoid nightmare customer service stories such as the Sterling mishap.

Read Greg Sterling’s account of his experience with Target >

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