Adapting IT to Meet Omnichannel Demand

Mike Webster, senior VP and general manager, Oracle Retail

The emergence of omnichannel commerce is dramatically changing the retail equation, both in how customers travel the path to purchase and how retailers anticipate and meet customer demand. Mike Webster, senior VP and general manager of Oracle Retail, offered Chain Store Age his perspective on how retailers must alter their approach to both systems and business processes to ensure they deliver a seamless experience across all customer touchpoints, one that both converts sales and builds long-term satisfaction and loyalty.   

How are retailers realigning their operations to deliver an omnichannel (or ubiquitous) shopping experience?

There have been changes in both business process and organizational design. In terms of process, retailers are aligning their business processes with the customer, not the four walls of the store. Putting the customer at the center requires centralizing promotions, view of price, inventory and view of order. It also requires connecting digital and physical stores and ‘fulfill anywhere’ capabilities.

In terms of organizational design, companies are evolving positions like chief customer officer and chief marketer. Not just to manage customer acquisition, but also to manage things like customer loyalty and service.

What kind of technologies support omnichannel commerce, on both the front and back ends?

On the front end, retailers need to use digital platforms, and not just for transparent search and promotional capabilities. They also need to provide customer-facing mobile devices for both customer and associate use. The scale and raw processing power of mobile devices put massive capabilities in the hands of the consumer; it gives them access to information on products.

On the back end, it’s not that much different except there needs to be a connection to analytics. Computing power now moves at the speed of thought, so for example, tablets you give to an associate to assist selling can include real-time analytics for targeted offers.

How are retailers ensuring they touch customers on each step of the “consumer journey”?

First, they need to acknowledge the customer — their purchase history and buying preferences — and tailor the individual customer experience to that profile and also to their location. Engaging them through the journey means remembering the journey is not just a sale. The journey includes anywhere the customer buys, picks up, returns or ships a product, and retailers must engage at each step.

How is Oracle supporting retailers in their omnichannel retail efforts?

Oracle is unique in our ability to offer retailers a full range of software and services as part of our Commerce Anywhere strategy. We offer a breadth and depth that is unmatched. There are four specific big areas where we are focusing our new Oracle Retail Release 14 offering.

One is the consumer journey. No matter where a customer picks up, interacts with or ships a product, we enable retailers to connect with them. We’re configuring dashboards to help retailers manage the consumer journey and have developed 25 new dashboards. Another area is targeted assortment. How do retailers deliver more choice to customers, with a tailored experience across all consumer touchpoints with a shared assortment? Oracle provides features like store clustering, customer demand transference and space optimization.

Most critical is inventory transparency. We have aligned all planning decisions to demand. Oracle drives good plans and execution of those plans. There is a new franchise function that extends warehouse management functionality and task management functionality to franchises.

And fourth is right-time integration. How do we help connect different platforms? It requires we help some of our customers on the back end. Integrated architecture takes silos out and lets retailers move very quickly. We have a breadth and depth of capabilities and subject matter expertise to help retailers compete in today’s modern retail economy.

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