Posted by Yukte Oberoi, Product Manager for Ecommerce, NetSuite
Customers expect great service no matter what channel they use to shop. They don’t understand why there are inconsistencies between channels, such as why a retail store won’t issue a refund on a product bought online, or why store associates can't tell them when inventory will be replenished. Consumers expect your company to behave as a single operation, not as separate, dysfunctional channels and are frustrated when that is their experience. Unfortunately, most retailers lack the systems and data needed to provide a seamless, consistent, and high quality customer experience across all of their channels.
Here’s an example: A customer buys a pair of shoes online and the ecommerce software generates a follow up email asking the buyer to review the purchase online. What the ecommerce system doesn't know is that the customer called customer support to complain about poor quality and, later, exchanged them at a local store. She was happy she could exchange them, but not with the original product.
Another example: A shopper browsing lamps online puts one in his shopping cart, but leaves without buying it. Later, he purchases the same model lamp at a local store. The ecommerce system only has access to the online cart and current product pricing, so it sends the customer a reminder about it, with a note that it's now discounted 50%. The customer is irritated that he missed a sale, which was not offered at the retail store.
And one more: A customer needs 10 copies of a certain book and calls a book store chain hoping to track them down. Alas, the chain's inventory product information system lacks real-time data on the number of the titles at each location. Either a clerk or the customer has to physically contact each store for their inventory.
These situations happen when retailers don’t have consolidated data and a strategy for the omnichannel customer experience. Retailers must consolidate all of their silos -- their ecommerce, CRM, product information and retail systems into a single platform to ensure a 360-degree picture of their business and their customers. Then they can leverage that information to create higher quality customer experiences across all channels, which could include but not restricted to the following:
- Inventory look up
- Returns/exchanges across channels
- Product feedback based on interactions across channels
- Access to one cart from any channel – website or app or retail store
- Ability to use loyalty points and get rewards across any channel
The use of commercial adapters or hand-coded integrations can help systems to share data. But that takes time and requires constant updating whenever one of the systems changes. As the video below explains, many older, standalone systems weren’t built to share data and may use proprietary formats. Even after retailers spend a significant amount of investment to integrate these silos, the data is not real time and suffers from a lag.
The bottom line: With a unified commerce platform and a single set of enterprise and customer data, retailers can provide more accurate and up-to-date customer service and overall higher quality customer experiences.
Be sure to look out for Part 2 of this topic: Leveraging Omnichannel Data to Personalize the Customer Experience in the coming weeks.