Posted by Branden Jenkins, GM of Retail, NetSuite

The New Year is now upon us and forward-thinking retailers had better address the challenge of the omnichannel model quickly if they haven’t already. Customers expect to interact with brands through any channel, at any time, without sacrificing experience or service, yet many retailers are ill-prepared to provide it with inflexible, outdated processes and systems unable to adjust to change. However, meeting the demands of an omnichannel customer is more than a singular challenge; it requires commitment to four crucial principles: seamless commerce, order orchestration, new business models and future-proofing.

1. Seamless commerce. The customer must be empowered to transact across all touchpoints and channels, whether mobile, online, or in-store, retailers must offer equally accurate and immediate access to products. Retailers need to provide a shopping experience built around the new reality that most consumers make their browsing and purchasing commitments online, often before they ever see the product in person. Customers are coming to the store to transact, and that means they must be able to quickly locate a nearby store with the products they choose, quickly locate the product and complete the transaction.

A truly seamless, omnichannel organization will recognize its customers across all channels equally, and provide relationship history and informed product recommendations. Customers expect more than full shelves and competitive prices. They expect retailers to understand their purchases, have an accurate, up-to-date picture of preferred purchase methods and contact details, and to provide offers, order updates, and shipping notifications to the device of their choice.

2. Order orchestration. Fulfilling the orders of the omnichannel customer demands every warehouse, distribution center and retail location become a component of a single, tightly integrated, enterprise-wide inventory. Offering online purchasing, but convenient in-store pickup, is just part of the equation. Store inventories can be used to reduce fulfillment time and costs, or to reduce overstock and avoid markdowns.

3. New business models. Hybrid business models offer exciting opportunities. Modern retailers can now act as a link in a complex B2B2C chain or take part in C2B and C2C transactions. Unfortunately, new channels, lines of business and innovative product offerings are too often rushed to market in silos, with little consideration of integrating with the rest of the business. Meanwhile, digital services are becoming increasingly relevant to retailers of all shapes and sizes. Fulfilling both digital and physical product with subscription-based services is a fast-growing opportunity. Retailers are even finding themselves turning into light manufacturers with the emergence of 3D printing kiosks. Retailers who offer access to these innovative services will win the omnichannel customer and earn loyalty over competitors whose siloed approach guarantees a disconnect between brand and buyer. Each of these new improvements should be developed in the spirit of omnichannel commerce, giving the customer the freedom to browse, buy, return and manage the relationship through any channel, at any time.

4. Future-proofing. No one knows exactly what the next major trend for retail will be, or even what form it will take. It could be a channel, touchpoint, device or business model. Too many retailers continue to operate on narrowly designed, purpose-built systems which make it impossible to seamlessly embrace these emerging opportunities. Doing business the way customers demand it -- today -- is of primary importance.
Future-proofing requires agility, flexibility, and scalability, and the assurance that the technology behind each transaction will never grow stale. Those capabilities are found in cloud solutions, which also provide the architecture needed to break down data silos and provide a comprehensive view of products and customers, wherever they are and whenever your business needs the insights.

Adapting to customer requirements is the key principle of omnichannel retailing and will be a top characteristic of 2014's top retailers.

Learn More at The NRF – Retail’s Big Show!

If you are attending NRF, “Retail’s Big Show” next week, be sure to stop by our booth #4047 or schedule a meeting with us to learn how forward-thinking retailers are adapting to an omnichannel environment by leveraging NetSuite, the only cloud commerce platform to link every step of a multi-channel, multi-location retail business from ecommerce, POS and order management to marketing, inventory, CRM, analytics and financials.