Creating a Hub for Commerce

Our position is to do away with superfluous adjectives when describing retail strategy, such as “omnichannel.” It is simply retail. For retailers to be able to deliver such a seamlessly integrated experience however, they need three core enabling capabilities: 1. An aligned organizational structure and culture, 2. Pervasive customer analytics, and 3. The ability to accept and orchestrate customer orders across channels.

With disparate transaction and inventory systems across various channels, most retailers are missing two key ingredients required to deliver a seamless retail experience – the ability to transact with customers consistently, regardless of where or when and the ability to fulfill demand optimally by tapping into inventory wherever it may be in the system.

In our view, a unified order management and commerce platform consists of the following key components:
  • A Single Enterprise Order Entry System that enables visibility across the entire order-to-fulfillment cycle and gives retailers the ability to split orders across channels and affiliates. More retailers in 2013 (46%) are using a shared Order Management Platform across channels compared to 2012 (34%).
  • A Unified Commerce Platform that can support all orders and channels. Retailers are rapidly moving away from multiple channel-specific commerce platforms, from 66% of retailers in 2011 to 44% in 2013. For instance, Whole Foods moved to a unified POS platform to yield a more holistic view of the customer and drive greater loyalty.
  • A Common Inventory System to enable omnichannel sales and fulfillment processes. This is the next logical step in the “order anywhere, deliver anywhere” movement. Retailers won’t be able to achieve this unless they are able to integrate inventory (down to a store, aisle and shelf level) and provide customers the ability to split orders within a channel. For example, on a shopping trip a customer may choose to pick up two items instantly and have another item shipped home if a particular SKU is unavailable at that particular store. Two in three retailers currently share inventory applications across their store and online channels – and 68% of retailers intend to have shared inventory across channels in the next year.
Whether a retailer chooses to integrate existing systems as tightly as it can or undertake an exercise to extend or custom develop a solution, we expect increased activity in this area in 2014 and beyond.

A unified order and commerce platform has the potential to be the glue that binds customer transactions at the front-end and order fulfillment at the back-end of an integrated customer engagement strategy. The architecture of the platform will dictate how easy or difficult it is for future APIs and services to integrate into this hub of commerce.

Certainly this is easier said than done. However, without such a move, the vision of seamlessly integrated retail that is so often spoken of in the industry will remain a mirage, or at best a patched together version of a fundamentally broken experience.
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