The process of retailing across different customer channels has gradually shifted from being called “multichannel” to being called “omnichannel.” This is not a mere semantic change; evolving customer expectations require retailers to not only offer a linked customer experience across different channels, but a seamlessly identical one. Calgary, Alberta-based specialty sporting apparel/merchandise retailer Jersey City found itself facing the need to switch from providing a multichannel customer experience to providing an omnichannel customer experience a couple of years ago.
“A big issue was that we had two systems, one for the Web and one for the stores,” said Ron Pratt, IT director of Jersey City. “All along it has been an issue, but not one worth pursuing until our site got so busy we couldn’t run two separate systems anymore. If we made a change to the back end, it needed to automatically get to the site.”
The company, which in addition to 39 brick-and-mortar stores runs three e-commerce sites (the main company site, as well as a specialty headgear site and a site dedicated to licensed apparel for the Canadian Football League), decided to look for a different way of doing things. In late 2011, it began researching options to rectify what was becoming a serious situation.
“We had two basic options,” Pratt said. “Either find a different retail software provider or find something we could integrate with our existing systems.”
In fall 2012, Jersey City selected CAM Commerce Retail Star, a Java-based platform that supports omnichannel areas of the business, including POS, back office, inventory management, warehouse, distribution center, allocation, e-commerce/ kiosk, and data mining in a single integrated system. The most crucial feature of the CAM Commerce system that drove the selection was its real-time inventory management capabilities, according to Pratt.
“It gave us the ability to use current store inventory for the site,” he explained. “If an item was out of stock at the store, we could remove it from the site. We fill less popular items from the store and more common goods from the warehouse.”
Following a step-by-step implementation plan from CAM Commerce, Jersey City was able to go live with RetailStar, as well as the iCelerant e-commerce hosting solution from Celerant Technology, on its Canadian Football League site.
In addition to allowing store fulfillment of online orders, Jersey City also selected solution features, including a “floating shopping cart” drop-down menu that hovers over a cart at the click of a mouse, customer product reviews, Google and PayPal checkout, and the ability to check the actual shipping rate in real time. Jersey City also leveraged the solution to extend its omnichannel capabilities a little further.
“Stores can use the website as a catalog,” Pratt said. “Associates can show customers items on the site using fixed terminals.”
Pratt said that since going live with RetailStar and iCelerant in June, Jersey City has had better sales on its CFL site, and has also integrated the solution’s functionality into its store on Amazon.com. Other benefits include streamlined back-end operations and improved site usability and navigability for customers.
“We’ll begin rolling out the solution to our next two sites after the holidays,” Pratt said in a final vote of confidence.