Ensuring a customer-centric approach across e-commerce operations is critical. But legacy systems can prove challenging to achieving success in this area.
The Australian retail market has seen dramatic changes in the behaviour and expectations of both B2C and B2B consumers in recent years. It’s clear that business success increasingly depends on the ability of retailers to meet the expectations of discriminating customers empowered by mobile devices, social media and ubiquitous information.
As consumers become increasingly connected and empowered, they demand convenience – to be able to shop when and how they please, using their channel of choice — and they want a great experience every time.
For some consumers, that means viewing in-store inventory online, while others want to buy online and pick up in-store. In the B2B market, business buyers increasingly expect the same high calibre online experience that they enjoy on the best retail sites, but also need functionality for business buying, such as easy bulk and replenishment ordering.
Most businesses, however, are struggling to keep pace with rising customer expectations because each department—e-commerce, store operations, sales, call centres and marketing—uses technology specific to its individual needs. With incompatible legacy systems across departments, customer and back-end data is marooned on data islands.
While businesses have tried to stitch this siloed data together, it’s a piecemeal solution that requires continual upgrades to ensure compatibility as new features are added to each platform.
Reorienting Your Business
Customer-centric commerce means reorienting your business from its traditional focus on sales channels to designing your business around your customers, including the systems, processes and organisational structure. Done right, it drives sales and customer loyalty, while maximising the lifetime value of customer relationships.
Springfree Trampolines is a great example of a business that has recognised this. Last year, it embarked on bringing its four separate business entities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US together on a single cloud-based omnichannel commerce platform to provide a consistent and seamless customer experience on a global scale. Having different systems, processes and challenges in each of its core markets meant that a customer in the US, for example, might have had a very different experience than a customer in Australia.
At the end of the day, each Springfree entity sells the same product, so the company wanted to be able to treat its customers in a consistent manner and to be more effective as a global brand. To gain much deeper visibility into each of its customers and the ability to respond to them in exactly the same way across all markets, Springfree moved to a single cloud-based commerce platform for financials, CRM, multi-site and multi-currency management, order management, inventory management, marketing, e-commerce and point-of-sale (POS) at its experience centres.
The payoff from a modern commerce infrastructure is that companies can build their business around the customer and seamlessly deliver a personalised and consistent experience through every channel. Customer-centric commerce is based on the following core tenets:
Comprehensive customer insights – Customers demand that companies understand who they are, recognise their history with the company and fully support all prior transactions anytime they engage with the brand. They no longer tolerate merchants that don’t fully serve their needs across every channel. Meeting these expectations requires deep customer insights that span the full customer lifecycle.
A 360-degree view is a win-win for both customers and the business. By creating a consolidated view of each customer, businesses gain new insights into their activities and value. Merchants that have comprehensive insights into a customer’s behaviour, transaction history, purchasing frequency and product preferences in each channel, can create personalised cross-sell and upsell recommendations and offers.
Inventory visibility and intelligent order orchestration – Most customers recognise that a product won’t always be available in every location. However, they expect websites, in-store associates and phone support reps to be able to tell them where the product is available, when they can get it and at what cost, to help them to make the best decision about whether to buy it.
To support this expectation to buy, fulfil and return anywhere, businesses must be able to profitably execute on a wide variety of fulfillment options, such as direct ship from warehouse, split shipment, store fulfilment, drop ship and continuity/subscription programs. It no longer matters where a product is located, or if it is owned by the company selling it. It does matter if it can be routed to a location of the customer’s choosing in a cost-effective and timely manner.
Real-time enterprise-wide data visibility – For decades, merchants got by with outdated data and informed guesswork in managing inventory and pursuing sales channels. This lack of visibility meant undetected costs, operational inefficiencies and missed opportunities. With a unified commerce platform, merchants are monitoring the business across multiple dimensions to improve performance and profitability.
For instance, merchants can now understand the true cost of a product, including shipping, warehousing and cost reductions resulting from promotions or volume discounts. They have new visibility into the cost to acquire a customer divided by the number of transactions per customer, and can report on the profitability of a given order, customer or product line.
The stakes for customer-centric commerce will continue to rise. Already, the gap is widening between those winning merchants that are embedding customer-centric principles across their operations and the companies that labour ahead with the status quo. With a single commerce platform, organisations are ideally positioned to help drive the ongoing evolution toward customer-centric commerce.