All channel retail: Overcoming the challenges of integration

Abel Correa, Head of IT – Strategy and Project Governance, Arvind Ltd.

Ananth Padmanabhan, Head – Asia Business, Sonata

Anil Shankar, VP Solutions & Technology, Shopper Stop Ltd

Lee Gill, Group Vice President, Global Retail Industry Strategy JDA Software

Pankaj More, CIO, Walmart India Private Limited

Moderator Ranjit Satyanath

All channel retail is surely the need of the hour and it’s what pulls customers to a brand and help them being loyal to it. However, being omni-channel requires a lot of integration across platforms incurring heavy costs.

It is a call which needs to be taken from the point of view of how and when such integration can be monetised to achieve higher returns. This was the crux of the discussion All channel retail: Overcoming the Challenges of Integration at ReTechCon 206.

Being omni-channel has different meanings from different points of view. From a customer point of view, it means an ability to do seamless shopping at any time any place, anywhere. For a brand, the challenge is how to establish all the channels together at the same time to give the customer that seamless experience.

Highlighting this view point, Anil Shankar, VP Solutions & Technology, Shopper Stop Ltd admitted that the entire traits of loyalty is changing in the digital scenario and hence continuous engagement is necessary. Having said that, the opportunities keep growing.

Agreeing to the fact that being all channel surely has its challenges, Lee Gill, Group Vice President, Global Retail Industry Strategy JDA Software, pointed out that the most important aspect of being omni-channel is the need to be customer centric. He added that the most advanced market in omni-channel like UK has regrouped its strategy by collecting customer data and is trying to re-engineer its supply chain.

Ananth Padmanabhan, Head – Asia Business, Sonata added that it is necessary to make an assessment of the requirement of the customer in real time. This requires changing the existing infrastructure and building components around it.

Every customer is looking for “Any-time any-where”. In addition, they want just relevant information and not just junk data. Shankar feels that it is not indifferent messages, but consistent and relevant messages, which is the key to connecting with the customers. According to Abel Correa, Head of IT – Strategy and Project Governance, Arvind Ltd. it is therefore important to understand the customer experience and then deliver it.

Customers need their problems solved right away. Towards that there is a need to empower the front-end, and not loop it through the back office, which requires the customer to wait, affecting customer experience.

According to More, it what will really make for a good experience is making it easy for the customer to do business with you. Even while doing the inventory calculation, the logic in the algorithms needs to be changed according to the season. These external factors need to be detected to be able to reach out to the customer. Technology should be used to drive this. Customers are aware of technology changes and would like to be part of it.

One of the challenges in going omni-channel is to have a single view of the inventory. While discussing on how it can be done, Abel said that data is pulled from the stores, come to the HQ and then integrated with the website. This integration is possible only at a smaller level but as the stores increase, it may not be cost effective.

The discussion clearly highlighted the fact that changes need to be made in the infrastructure and systems to enable true omni-channel. Changes may be required to be done both at the point-of-sale as well as the warehouse level.

The discussion concluded with the view that integration should not be just for the sake of doing it, but only if the business really requires it.  If the all-channel requirement is to be adopted, then it is absolutely necessary to get online at all levels or else the cost of holding specific inventory only for online shopping will not be feasible.

By Sanjay Thampy
www.yesteethatsme.com

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