Total commerce is here to stay. That means customers will continue to have high expectations about how they shop for goods – from an effortless experience on their mobile devices, to the delivery, pick up or instantly gratifying act of taking an item home from the shelf. All of this needs to happen seamlessly and without interruption so that the customer experience truly meets the definition of total commerce.
This ability to provide that seamless experience throughout the customer’s entire shopping journey is what separates retailers who are succeeding today and those who are struggling to keep up. And the gulf will only continue to grow.
Operational Agility is a Retailer’s First Step
As traditional retailers seek to deliver on the premise of total commerce, they acknowledge they need to change the ways they function internally. Specifically, retailers are looking to increase their operational agility. But building agility into an established organization requires more than a mindset change; it means actually finding the right tools to achieve this. In our admittedly technology-oriented worldview, we believe the key to success in a total commerce world is to gain agility with data.
At the core of this journey towards agility lies the internal IT network of a business. Many retailers recognize that their current IT systems were built for a retail era that no longer exists and this keeps them from being able respond and pivot in today’s terms. But you can’t blame businesses for not always knowing exactly what steps to take next. Based on the latest trends and news, it may seem that success lies in being able to curate the most amazing in-store shopping experiences for customers, with virtual reality displays, AI-assisted shopping, or chatbots. No doubt we will all get to that future state soon. But quite simply, a great customer experience starts with a retailer’s ability to deliver on two fundamental things: product availability and order fulfillment. To do either of these well in the age of total commerce, a retailer should be able to look at sales and inventory data at the most granular level of detail available. This means they need to be able to see data by category, product type, promo family, or variant – at the national, regional or store level. And they must be able to do this for every channel in which they operate.
Access to All Data is the Enabler for Speed
Why is it so important for retailers to be able to see data at the lowest level of detail across all channels? As the lines between physical stores and ecommerce become further and further blurred, it’s imperative for retailers to view all their sales and supply chain data in a complete and cohesive way so they can flex their inventory between channels as needed, at the product level; only then can they compete with retail disruptors who have the analytical muscle to test and learn quickly so they can make data-driven decisions. But legacy IT systems designed for the retail world of yesteryear have resulted in data silos that prevent a combined, cross-channel view of the business. Business users are also often hampered by data aggregated at a higher level than they need. They are unable to access detailed data sets for analysis on the fly, which impedes a retailer’s ability to increase speed in their business operations. Trying to patchwork data silos and legacy technologies with often manual workarounds eats up a lot of resources. This ultimately stifles the collective brainpower necessary to ensure a retailer’s products are available and orders are ready to be fulfilled whenever and wherever they’re most needed.
For success in total commerce, being able to test and learn quickly is key. What that requires in practice is a fast and flexible technology solution in the hands of the business users who will directly benefit. Large volumes of data are not going away, creating an onus on retailers to empower their workforce so they can access and manage data directly and flexibly. Bringing data together under a single and accurate view across all sales channels for any type of analysis at a moment’s notice should not be exclusively reserved for ecommerce disruptors. There’s no reason why traditional retailers can’t directly compete on this front. Some may tell you it’s impossible, but armed with more advanced analytical capabilities, any retailer can support both essential transactional operations and whatever technology-driven innovations may come in the future.