The Customer in Focus
Customers are mobile, sophisticated and diverse.
They don’t limit themselves to a single distribution channel, and they want individualized, targeted communications and reliable service – whenever and wherever they choose. Opting for an omnichannel approach is a challenge; it requires tailoring logistics, IT, marketing and workforce to each customer.
A carefully thought-out omnichannel-concept is designed to meet consumer-expectations in terms of brand perception and service across all channels.
Dr. Armand Farsi, former Director E-Commerce Competence Center - Arvato Supply Chain Solutions was a guest at business talk "The Business Debate" and discussed chances and challenges of omnichannel with moderator Ralph Szepanski.
Investing in the future
The omnichannel strategy involves more than just using various distribution channels, such as retail sales, online shops and telephone hotlines. Processes are integrated in a way that allows customers to experience a uniform brand identity and networked services. This omnichannel definition implies that, in addition to all product, customer and marketing information, stock information is also available for each channel at any time. This enables cross-channel transparency.
Omnichannel means communicating your brand promise and USP consistently and everywhere – no matter how your customers establish contact with you.
A successful omnichannel strategy requires a careful analysis of processes, products, structures and company organization, as well as customer needs. This allows you to identify the requirements for your company’s omnichannel retailing and determine what areas needed to be reorganized and what processes have to be redesigned. Investments are needed not only in IT and logistics, but also in work organization.
Opting for the omni-channel approach often requires substantial investments, but they pay off.
With the right omnichannel strategy, companies will
- win over customers and bind them on a long-term basis,
- increase sales,
- strengthen their brand image across all channels,
- improve internal workflows,
- save money over the long term,
- expand customer communications, and
- reap the benefits of digitalization.
Companies that take an omnichannel approach enjoy a competitive advantage and avoid customer disappointment and frustration, which often result from the simpler multi-channel approach.
Experts report on cross-industrial growth
How does transport management handle the new challenges that are aligned with omnichannel? An interview with Berthold Reinke, Director Transportation Management - Arvato Supply Chain Solutions.
The path to omnichannel retailing
Multi-channel or omnichannel?
When companies choose a multi-channel distribution strategy, they make their products and services available across several different channels. All of those channels are regularly stocked and harmonized as much as possible. The omnichannel approach, however, goes a significant step further: While making a transaction, such as a purchase, customers can switch back and forth from one channel to another. The customer’s history and data as well as stock data are centrally stored and managed in real time, so the company is able to provide comprehensive customer service. Vice versa, omnichannel can make a switch of channels redundant, as goods can be made available across all channels through processes such as ship from store and instore ordering.
The channel chosen for the initial contact differs from one customer to another and from product to product. Depending on the timing and external factors, the customer may change channels even while making a purchase, and can expect outstanding service, consistent purchase terms and a uniform brand experience.
The omnichannel framework
Coordinated B2B and B2C logistics are part of an omni-channel strategy. They are the basis for ensuring that customer communications and sales are uniform across all channels and geared to the needs of the respective target group. To ensure smooth implementation, we recommend working with a service provider that has international experience, offers end-to-end solutions and oversees and coordinates inventory, delivery and management. This also increases efficiency in transport and warehouse management.
At the heart of this approach is an integrated order-management system that provides centralized access to inventory, product information, order transactions, payment status and customer data.
Implementing the omnichannel approach
Note that lean and efficient IT is the backbone of any omnichannel strategy. This ensures that all necessary information is available at all times and that processes run smoothly.
From the information-gathering stage to after-sales service, all points of interaction are linked via software. You are able to maintain an overview of products, prices and inventory and can access all customer data. By collecting user data from every channel and analyzing customer behavior, you gain valuable information for optimizing individual channels.
The proper IT solution allows you to expand your customer communications, thereby strengthening your brand. Optimize touchpoints that are part of the customer journey with the help of data integration and the centralized management of essential processes. Additional services and a smooth shopping experience lead to loyal customers.
Branding and omnichannel marketing
IT facilitates uniform branding and centralized communications with target groups, which are essential when using the omni-channel approach. Make sure that your omnichannel strategy and IT are closely coordinated with each other.
- What are the requirements for your business? What channels, target groups and lines of communications do you need?
- Where will product data be uniformly and centrally managed?
- Is your internal infrastructure linked to the channels’ systems?
- Will you be able to further optimize and expand the systems of individual channels?
In order to integrate the various channels within an omnichannel system, numerous processes need to be modified. For example, strategies for lead generation and conversion have to be tailored to the company’s own omnichannel retailing.
Tips for your omnichannel strategy
- Present a uniform brand image, both on- and off-line.
- Update your product range and product descriptions regularly and consistently.
- Product information should be as realistic as possible. Provide high-resolution, professional photos and videos, along with detailed descriptions and technical information.
- Provide consolidated and transparent customer data across your enterprise. So you enable a personal customer's approach and individual advice based on his previous purchases - whether online or offline.
- Guarantee transparency and security. Share information about the measures you take to protect customer data. This creates trust.
- Display your content in an optimized, user-friendly manner on your website and on mobile devices. Applications like Arvato’s own ACAS app (Arvato Commerce App Solution) make it possible to merge online retailing and branch business to provide consistent, customer-oriented service, thanks to cloud computing and beacon technology.
- Make sure that you have a fully integrable, efficient IT platform that allows for links to order-management systems (OMS), as well as to web shops, financial services and transport and warehouse management.
- Create scalable logistics structures. Benefit from the advantages of an international network of automated warehouses, like Arvato’s – this creates optimal conditions for your company’s growth.