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How to improve omnichannel profitability


Omnichannel retailing — or as it is increasingly known, “retailing” — is complex and can increase costs for retailers. Here are a few ways retailers can improve store-level fulfillment to increase both profits and customer service.

Retail has changed forever. Customer purchases follow an almost infinite number of paths that include bouncing among online, stores, social media, mobile devices, shopping apps, maybe back to online, maybe back to the stores, and so on. Retailers with stores have expanded their offerings to shoppers, such as free shipping, extended discounts, and free in-store returns.

While these tactics can help capture market share, they also increase overall costs and can reduce profits. A recent KPMG study showed that shoppers encountered slow or unavailable websites, were resistant to paying shipping charges, increased returns, and experienced problems with in-store pickup.

KPMG’s survey found that many shoppers had unhappy omnichannel fulfillment experiences. One-third of click & collect customers had issues when collecting their order including limited staff during peak trading to find the package in high density stockrooms, with customers facing long queues as a result.

This may not be surprising, since many retailers still attempt to fulfill omnichannel demands in stores using obsolete processes and technologies:

·Retailers still budget labor using basic calculations such as labor to stores sales ratios. These methods do not account for new omnichannel demands such as picking and shipping online orders, processing returns, and bringing orders to service desk.

·Poor labor allocation methods result in stores not having enough labor to help customers and fulfill omnichannel requirements during peak sales times.

·Retailers still use manual processes, such as viewing online orders in back office terminals and then inefficiently farming out fulfillment to store associates using paper pick lists.

·Most lack a single, easy-to-use dashboard to view alerts from multiple store systems on mobile devices and respond to changing conditions following best practices.

·Many do not take information from an order management system to provide a network-wide view of inventory to counter store stock-outs using ship to home.

While retailers still need to surmount challenges in shipping, inventory, marketing, and pricing, luckily there is an easy solution to address their store operations challenges: a real-time store execution and workforce management platform. Here’s how technology enables retailers to reach their in-store omnichannel service goals:

·A workforce management solution that uses retail-centric advanced mathematics to optimize schedules to include all work that has to be done, such as customer service, omnichannel, and corporate tasks.

·A simplified, intelligent front end that recommends right-time best practice actions in response to shifting customer demand patterns, sick callouts, overs/shorts, and other workforce matters. The right amount of labor is scheduled, including to fulfill omnichannel orders. Time to finish labor operations duties is minimal. Team members spend more time helping customers.

·Real-time store execution platforms can take orders from an order management system, send them to the right role in-store at the right time so team members can fulfill omnichannel efficiently from the sales floor.

·Real-time store execution platforms provide a single, easy to use dashboard to view alerts from multiple store systems on mobile devices and respond to changing conditions following the retailer’s best practices.

Real time store execution platforms integrate with order management systems, POS, Internet of Things, sensors, social media, and any other store-facing system. Store team members interact with and update multiple systems and receive best practice direction on how to respond to changes and surprises. As such, real-time store execution platforms ensure that all the strategies your marketing, e-commerce, supply chain, and merchandising teams develop are efficiently executed to provide a better in-store shopping experience.

Dave Andrews is director of marketing communications for Reflexis Systems Inc.

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