Connected stores are the future. In the race to enhance human interactions in the brick and mortar space, empower store associates with digital tools, and gather and utilise big data, a transition to unified commerce is essential.
But for any CIO embarking on this game-changing Information System overhaul, the pressure will be intense – to achieve a smooth transition, and a fast ROI. Failing could lead to major operational problems internally, damage to brand reputation, and dissatisfied customers.
Making the transition from disparate legacy systems to unified commerce can be an extensive and stressful process that requires buy-in from the top, and careful execution, with all stakeholders committed to the cause.
Here are four recommendations retail CIOs should keep in mind to ensure an effective and successful transition:
1. Set your goals – be realistic
Start by considering the core aim of unified commerce. Delivering a seamless unified consumer shopping journey across channels, online and in-store will require a centralised and totally robust information system. This goes beyond ensuring the stability and security of your retail operations. It implies a need to bring retail solutions to brand stakeholders that will increase revenue, improve the customer experience, and pave the way for scaling internationally, all while keeping stock and order management tightly controlled and highly visible.
Plan a realistic timeframe so that these goals are plotted out logically, with the appropriate resourcing to implement stage-by-stage. Enlisting the help of an IT supplier that provides consultative guidance and ongoing support during implementation will be key to this process.
2. Respect company culture
Each retail company is different. Where one apparel chain may be committed to future-proofing the organisation with the latest tech, another may be cautious and conservative in its approach to innovation. Choose a unified commerce system that suits the culture of your particular organisation and its long-term vision. Identifying organisational characteristics, and liaising closely with a retail-specific technology supplier will help ensure that the selected system is aligned with company goals and structure.
3. Consider all necessary touchpoints
A big challenge is understanding and integrating all necessary touchpoints to facilitate the flow of information securely. A unified commerce application needs to take into account supply chain/inventory data, CRM data and sales data from across multiple channels and international reasons. Project managers and wider stakeholders must fully appreciate the scope of front-end customer service elements, as well as the back office internal processes elements. In-house expertise combined with specialist IT support is likely to ensure the best outcome.
4. Communicate clearly
Transitioning to unified commerce requires all parties within a retail group to adapt and adjust their ways of working. Many people within the business will need to change how they work day-to-day, so it helps to give them a full picture from day one of why change is happening and what the long-term outcomes will be. Cascading down updates throughout the implementation process will keep teams at every level engaged in the process. Openly communicating with and respecting the concerns of store managers and sales associates will not only help to create a team-oriented environment but will aid in their support of the project.
You’ll be future ready
Brands that digitise their stores and equip their sales associates with innovative, digital and mobile tools, are better positioned to offer full omnichannel services. Making the leap to unified commerce may take courage, but the end result of offering frictionless ways for customers to interact and pay for their purchases, is well worth the effort.