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Transforming your omnichannel retail strategy: A 4-point plan for ecommerce leaders

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The way we shop should influence the way retailers think and act. Unfortunately, many retailers fall short of delivering customer experiences that keep shoppers engaged. Omnichannel retail is the reality for today’s consumer: the shopper who wants to buy anything at any time, anywhere. Ecommerce businesses who can’t keep up get left behind.

A poorly executed omnichannel strategy can alienate your customers and drive them to Amazon. They know what to expect on the giant ecommerce platform: reliable shipping and a mind-boggling stock of products from around the world.

The bottom line? If you can’t give your customers what they want, when they want it, then Amazon will pick up the slack.

How Siloed Legacy Processes Push Your Buyers to Amazon

How Siloed Legacy Processes Push Your Buyers to Amazon

Ecommerce is changing at breakneck speed. Omnichannel retailers need to be ready for consumers who expect to buy what they want, when they want it and on the device they want to use to purchase it. Our recent e-book looks at the ways retailers can break out of bad practices driven by siloed data and operations and serve 21st century consumers, including tips on mobile, social, personalization and making better use of the data available. Download the free e-book and start your transformation.

It’s time to knock down silos and reboot your outdated systems. Here are four strategies to help you reprogram your ecommerce business for omnichannel success:

  • Connect with customers on mobile and social media
  • Adopt personalization strategies to retain customers
  • Diagnose your data to boost your customer intelligence
  • Pull it all together with an internal and external team

Make customer connections through mobile and social media

Mobile devices are rapidly changing the customer shopping experience, particularly among millennials. In 2017, U.S. consumers spent $153 billion on retail products using their mobile devices, and are forecasted to generate $209 billion in 2022, per a recent Forrester report.

Retailers building their mobile strategies can look to Sephora for examples. The cosmetics giant merged its in-store, digital and customer service teams in October 2017. They’re setting the standard for omnichannel success.

“By focusing on the user experience first and foremost, Sephora has been able to separate themselves from the majority of retailers who spend too much time inside the box or are too focused on having a mobile experience for the sake of having one,” Ryan Grogman, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP Consulting, told us by email.

Grogman listed a few creative techniques Sephora employs in its mobile experience:

  • A mobile “swipe it” feature offers a fun way to shop for Sephora products that appeal to each customer.
  • A three-step questionnaire that helps consumers find the right makeup and tools.
  • A Kik chatbot that offers Sephora customers “conversational commerce” by providing a one-on-one mobile chat experience to present ideas on new makeup looks and identify products in tutorials.

A great mobile strategy includes social media integration. Many forward-thinking retailers use advanced information gathering and consumer segmentation through social media interactions. “Outside of transacting on social platforms, consumers are using that medium to discuss preferences, provide reviews, and seek input from their connections,” Grogman said.

The ads you see on your Instagram feed are the result of carefully crafted algorithms designed to sell you the things you want. Start thinking of how your audience interacts with social media. Mobile and social media experiences can provide some of the most organic and actionable retail insights.

Make shopping personal again through personalization

Amazon, Apple and Facebook have trained consumers to expect personalization in their buying experience. A recent Evergage and Researchscape International survey found 87 percent of marketers experienced success with personalization yet think their organizations have significant room for improvement.

Presenting her annual Internet Trends report at Code 2018, legendary venture capitalist Mary Meeker pointed to Stitch Fix as one of the best examples for personalized commerce. Founded in 2011, the online styling subscription box service has a higher-than-average retention rate of over 30 percent, and it grew revenue to a reported $1.2 billion last year.

Stitch Fix’s success lies in its ability to leverage data and algorithms with human judgement. When a new client signs up for the service, she fills out a style profile, providing over 85 meaningful data points up front. This data combined with machine-learning systems and human expert stylists provides a highly personalized customer experience.

Diagnose your data to identify intelligence gaps

Data is a crucial piece of your omnichannel strategy. Many ecommerce leaders face legacy data systems that house old, fragmented or just plain bad data. Or maybe you’re looking for a more efficient way to capture the data that really matters to your organization. Whatever data issue you’re facing, know that you’re not alone.

Data lacking in quality and management breeds distrust both internally and at the customer level. KPMG International’s 2016 Global CEO Outlook found that 84 percent of CEOs are concerned about the quality of the data they’re basing decisions on. Gartner’s recent Data Quality Market Survey estimates that poor data quality costs businesses on average $15 million a year.

Business intelligence projects often fail because they’re utilizing dirty data, generally a result of the underlying structure of their data. The results are only as good as the input. If your inputs are bad, expect poor returns.

The above suggestions likely sound overwhelming for the ecommerce executive already stretching to cover other blindspots in the organization. That’s where your greatest asset can help: your team, made up of internal and external stakeholders.

Complete your omnichannel team with internal and external support

Trying to orchestrate an enterprise alone while using internal and external data can be a headache. Building the right team means staffing up to meet the needs of each function or business line: operations, marketing, sales, customer service, finance, and human resources. Each function has its own data requirements and requires strong leadership to pull the right interdisciplinary working group together, with support from senior executives to prioritize and execute the data strategy.

The first step is determining the key roles to staff your working group. Forrester Research has provided a good starting point for defining these roles:

  • Chief Data Officer: This executive works closely with the C-suite and is capable of leading data and technology governance while bearing in mind overall business objectives. The person in this role should work closely with the CIO. Depending on the size of your organization or the level of change you’re looking for, you might need to designate co-leaders.
  • Data Analyst: The data analyst finds, collects, cleans and organizes data. An analyst will prepare trusted data sets and interpret analytics for data consumers.
  • Business Data Architect: This role is responsible for conducting enterprise analysis. They plan, design, develop and implement a data management structure equipped for automation. Depending on the needs of your operation, this role is responsible for merging legacy systems into new data system architectures, which facilitate enterprise-wide accessibility.
  • Data Governance Leader: This role is responsible for securing data assets, ensuring compliance and establishing principles, policies, processes and controls.
  • Data Steward: The steward acts as the gatekeeper between the working group and your lines of business. This is a business role that promotes data governance policies. Their responsibilities may be grouped by subject area (such as customer or product) or by function (such as supply chain).

Ease some of the burden and extend data and analytics abilities by turning to trusted partners who can execute your strategies. It may be a cheaper alternative to building out capabilities in-house, plus strong partnerships can speed up development goals.

David Marimon, founder and CEO of Barcelona-based Catchoom, a visual technology company for retail, says legacy retailers are catching up with digital natives—and it has to do with accessing talented partners. “The first and foremost advantage is trying things fast, iterating a lot,” Marimon said. “I think that in order to become agile, any company needs to partner with companies that have already put into the market a certain solution, and therefore those partners with things like software as a service, APIs, all of these things facilitate a lot of trying, going for a pilot, seeing if it works, then engaging into a commercial agreement.”

Our ebook contains more strategies on how to pitch your organization on creating key data roles, how to structure your team around these new responsibilities and quotes from data leaders working in the field on why these roles matter in ecommerce retail.

Meet your customers where they are

You can no longer blame ignorance for an outdated omnichannel retail strategy. Guiding your organization through change of this scale is a massive undertaking. You can make it happen with the strategies and advice we share in our ebook: How Siloed Legacy Processes Push Your Buyers to Amazon.

You invested all that time and money into bringing your customers into the fold. Don’t let them down by sticking with the same tired processes that no longer work in today’s interconnected omnichannel-first retail world. Give your customers the experience they want—or someone else (like Amazon) will.

Chris Martinez

Chris Martinez

Chris is a content strategist at Signifyd.