Making the Right Organizational Changes to Embrace Multichannel eCommerce

Omnichannel Commerce

As is the case with many other industries, the retail sector is changing to keep up with current economic and business conditions. Customers are driving this change for merchants as they are no longer buying products exclusively at brick-and-mortar stores. They are shopping through a variety of channels, ranging from the web, mobile and physical locations.

Merchants must respond and make the appropriate organizational shifts to keep up with changing customer behaviors. The retail organization of the future is a common topic of discussion among industry luminaries and there is much debate over the direction the sector is going.

…consumers are becoming “omnivores” – shoppers who frequently engage merchants through a variety of channels and multiple touchpoints at any given moment.

However, if there is one common thread, it’s the importance of multichannel shopping as the growth of eCommerce continues.

Data from Forrester Research found that eCommerce sales are accounting for a greater portion of total retail revenue and is expected to jump from 7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2017. A separate study from the National Retail Federation’s digital arm, Shop.org, suggests that consumers are becoming “omnivores” – shoppers who frequently engage merchants through a variety of channels and multiple touchpoints at any given moment.

For retailers, the omnichannel approach is something that many retailers are not familiar with. As such, merchants may need to make radical changes to the way they run their businesses, from both philosophical and operational perspectives. At Shop.org’s March webinar, REI Senior Vice President for Digital Retail Brad Brown and Okamura Consulting’s Jim Okamura offered merchants some guidance for making the necessary changes.

1. Get everyone on board

Operating a truly crosschannel retail business is quite different than managing a conventional business. Everyone from sales associates to C-suite executives need to understand the goals and objectives of an omnichannel retail operation. Delivering this type of retail experience means different things to both employees and customers, so it’s critical that everyone is on-board as the shift is made.

2. Establishing a place for eCommerce

In conventional retail organizations, eCommerce and traditional brick-and-mortar operations may run completely independent of each other. In others, eCommerce may even fall under traditional retail, so the head of web operations reported to the head of brick-and-mortar, rather than the CEO of the company.

In the multichannel retail environment, each platform must work together and all must be treated as equal.

In the customer’s mind, there is no divide when it comes to shopping – it is one fluid process.

The goal is to create a universal shopping experience across multiple channels and that can only be done when mobile, web and brick-and-mortar are all viewed as important facets of retail operations.

Consumers use multiple channels to shop – they might look at items in store, compare prices on their phones and then order a product online later that day. In the customer’s mind, there is no divide – it is one fluid process. When it comes to company organization, the same approach needs to be taken. The different channels can not be managed in silos or hierarchies, they need to be treated as one.

3. Using technology to manage eCommerce operations

Running a true multichannel retail organization can be difficult. It requires a lot of oversight across a number of different areas, and this data must be consolidated so it can be acted on in a timely fashion. Everything from product management and inventory optimization to customer service and shipping logistics must be taken into account.

ECommerce software such as SalesWarp can make the consolidation of various data sources much easier, enabling retailers to better observe patterns and address challenges.

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