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Retailers that manage to offer a seamless shopping experience will stand strong, but keeping up with the pace of change has never been harder.

It’s happening everywhere in retail – the blend of digital and physical. Digital presence now drives in-store traffic, smartphones are used as in-store shopping assistants, and in-store pickup and return are offered for items bought online directly in the store.

Retailers that manage to offer a seamless shopping experience will stand strong, but keeping up with the pace of change has never been harder. That’s exactly why omni-channel capabilities need to be built into your foundational platform.

Omni-channel has been on every retailer’s mind for quite some time now: our new shopping habits affect everyone in the ecosystem. The consumer’s ability to choose how, when and where to do research and make purchases is almost endless; add to that continuous new payment models, and ways to deliver the goods and handle ‘the last mile connection’ with the consumer.

Modern commerce, with its myriad ‘consumer journeys’, starts to diminish any meaningful discussion on channels.

Lowering the thresholds

While digital and in-store shopping enrich each other—the IDC FutureScape study suggest shoppers who buy from in-store and online have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than those who only use one channel—it also places high demands on the retailer’s underlying processes and technology.

Where does this leave you? According to me, your overall aim should be to lower the thresholds between the different worlds of commerce to the greatest extent possible. I’ve seen several interesting examples where digital and physical successfully merges and seamless shopping becomes a central part of the experience:

  • The shop-in-shop concept where a physical store takes advantage of digital possibilities with screens showing the full collection, demonstrating part of the collection virtually, while combining it with the physical world and online ordering separated from the store’s check out.
  • E-business that uses the brick and mortar store to drive digital sales, like when Norwegian e-retailer Komplett bought the physical retail chain Webhallen to strengthen its offering within electronics and to better understand the physical world of its consumers while also more effectively sourcing its products.
  • Swedish sporting goods retailer Stadium recently launched its new online store, focusing on an improved shopping experience as part of the company’s overall omni-channel strategy, where IFS supports management of the entire supply chain.

No fast track to omni

Many predict that in 2016, omni-channel success will be determined by the customer experience. The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper customer experience study published earlier this year talks about the demanding “flex-shopper” who will make it essential for retailers to offer near-perfect shopping experiences across every channel and device.

Some businesses believe they can provide that omni-channel experience by simply adding eCommerce layers to their existing solution. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to deliver a consistent customer experience—this is why:

  • A relevant and consistent customer experience requires interconnected real-time data across every touchpoint, and the number of touchpoints keeps increasing.
  • Even if it’s possible to connect siloed systems and applications manually, it makes the solution complex, costly, and difficult to maintain.
  • The much-needed ability to quickly adapt and meet rising customer expectations is entirely dependent on an agile, coherent solution.

Retail specific support

With built in omni-channel capabilities, an ERP solution will enable omni-channel and modern commerce and make it profitable.

It’s no secret that IFS Applications for Retail will fulfill all the above: a component-based, integrated solution that provides full visibility across all channels.

In addition, I’d like to mention a few specific strengths with IFS Applications:

  • Handling of returns. 90 percent of shoppers will review a retailer’s returns policy according to the UPS study I mentioned earlier—and an efficient management of eCommerce returns is essential since around every third item is returned. IFS Applications 9 includes new, strengthened return processes for multi-site scenarios—buy in one channel, and return in another—with defaults for execution and multi-site integration/visibility.
  • Customer order. In IFS Applications, it doesn’t matter from what channel an order is derived (eg, you can place and pay an online order in-store, and get it delivered to your doorstep). Thanks to the unbroken integration with warehouse and POS, IFS Applications allows you to use in-store terminals to provide real-time information on availability, the location of items, promotions, and special offers.
  • IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI). Via the IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution you enable an enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy, thereby securing effective ‘masterdata management’ while exchanging legacy of the past to allow for modern ERP.

Together with our retail partners—Nordic-based Ateles, developing high-quality solutions for eCommerce, PIM and omni-channel; and Dutch Centric, providing best-of-breed retail-specific solutions in-store incorporated with IFS Applications—IFS can help you create the foundational platform needed to act on emerging opportunities, and to deliver a compelling, seamless omni-channel customer experience across all channels.

Read more about the IFS retail offering in the brochure: free download. Also, if you’re in New York in January, come and meet us and our partners at NRF 2016 – you will find us at booth 1054, where our experts will be ready to tell you much more about our solutions for the retail industry.

Do you see the same picture I do regarding omni-channel in retail? Or something different?

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