6 Steps to Reaching Omni-Channel Excellence

Omni-Channel initiatives are now standard practice for retailers. A majority of customers have come to expect a good, seamless experience across all channels.

Unfortunately, retailers are struggling to meet these expectations. For example, according to Cognizant’s RIS News 2015 Shopper Survey, 30% of shoppers use “Buy Online, Pick Up in Store” (BOPIS) more than once a month. But more than 60% reported some type of service failure. Not to mention that when we examined both BOPIS and “Buy Online, Return to Store” (BORIS) at 27 retailers, we identified a wide gap in standardization of processes.

So what should retailers do to close the gap of providing what customers expect and eventually experience?

As the retail experience continues to transform with technology, consider these six recommendations to create a more seamless multi-channel customer experiences:

  1. Labor standard and labor budgeting: Retailers should take an activity-based approach and allocate appropriate labor budget based on labor standards. Retailers need to track data and run predictive analytics regarding the proper number and skill set of employees in their stores to accurately address customer needs. The end game is to engage the consumer with proper resources for the particular time of the day.
  2. Omni-Channel-related KPIs: Productivity and customer service-level KPIs are proving to be effective. Productivity and customer satisfaction KPIs are extremely important regardless of channel and should be used for timely detection of process flaws.
  3. Equip associates with the right tools: The Cognizant/RIS shopper study made it clear that store associates need to do a better job of leveraging mobile devices to provide product information. Specifically, a tablet device is considered a better choice than a mobile phone because the screen is bigger, it’s easier to use, and it looks more professional. Store managers can use tablets to monitor performance KPIs, respond to real-time notifications and alerts, and for task management and labor operations. Mobility vastly improves customer engagement by enabling access to customers’ past purchases, preferences and loyalty information.
  4. Real-time alerts for a seamless shopping experience: Mobile devices can also help provide a better omni-channel customer experience. Instead of having to go into the back of the store to view the latest Buy Online, Pickup in Store and Ship from Store orders, managers and associates can view them on mobile devices such as tablets. Picking and shipping processes become faster and more efficient and customer service improves. For example, stores can be notified when a customer “checks in” to a store and will be arriving to pick up items ordered online.
  5. Enhanced task management system: Task management systems enable associates to perform omni-channel tasks side by side with traditional store tasks, such as restocking shelves. Linking workforce management systems with other enterprise apps such as customer relationship management (CRM) and content management systems can enable highly personalized experiences.
  6. Training and compliance: Well-trained, well-informed employees can reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve customer engagement. Retailers should opt for engaging, intuitive and just-in-time training rather than the conventional approach. Training should be augmented with targeted audits and compliance checks to identify process improvement opportunities.

Omni-Channel retailing is here to stay. Retailers who want to be leaders need to examine their business processes and leverage the right tools and technology.