Preparing for 2017: The Year of Omni-Channel
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2017 will be the year of omni-channel, according to Anoop Kulshreshtha, director of e-commerce and Web development for The Vitamin Shoppe. The retailer is one of few organizations that have made the effort and investments necessary to become a true omni-channel retailer. In fact, many have rushed to deliver customer-facing capabilities without matching the effort on back-end systems.
Kulshreshtha explained how retailers can plan and execute an omni-channel strategy without the risk of losing shoppers in the demanding retail environment of 2017 at the RIS News Cross-Channel Retail Executive Summit in San Antonio, TX last week. Omni-channel today has three aspects: buy online pick-up in-store, buy online and return to store, and the endless aisle. To build toward an omni-channel foundation for 2017, retailers must include several key components.
Single customer view. Begin with customer data deduplication and defining duplication. Is this same e-mail, phone and address or a variation of these. Find a data model to define the customer on all levels, including who they are, where they’re from, the shopping frequency, what they buy, where they shop. This single view will then integrate with the POS, CRM, Web/mobile, customer service and e-mail campaigns through the Enterprise Service Bus.
Order management system (OMS). The order management system will act as a multiplex of information, connecting the financial systems, inventory visibility and enterprise order history. This will also connect back to the single customer view. The OMS will integrate with the POS, Web/mobile, additional order sources and customer service through the Enterprise Service Bus.
Product information management system (PIMS). Merchants add and manage the product information to the PIMS to keep all the information rather than gathering in silos. The PIMS integrates with the merchandising systems, POS, Web/mobile, enterprise content management, catalogs and other store fronts through the Enterprise Service Bus.
Enterprise content and digital asset management (Web vs. mobile). The PIMS integrates into the enterprise content management system, which creates workflows for flagging content and organizing content to be published to relevant channels. The system integrates with the Web, mobile Web and mobile apps, and other store fronts – which create the digital asset management system – through the Enterprise Service Bus.
Service oriented architecture (SOA). The common thread has been the Enterprise Service Bus, which serves as the heart of SOA, designing in a modular way instead of point to point services. The SOA adds fault tolerance and increases reliability by providing message control and security, simplifies data flow for critical information such as order, inventory, catalog and the customer. It also reduces long term development costs and adds flexibility by high service re-use factor. The model driven architecture and virtualization enables complex project implementation as well as can increase or decrease the capacity of systems based on its needs. People, platforms, processes and applications come together in the SOA.
Omni-channel aligned IT strategy. IT solutions should not be project specific, but should be validated against a five year omni-channel plan. Invest in architecture that is most capable of supporting future omni-channel solutions in the most effective way, there is a high failure rate but when executed properly will improve omni-channel greatly. Treat enterprise class data with respect and develop processes that maintain its integrity. Encourage channel agnostic integrations and track it by year-over-year how many interfaces are channel agnostic, if the number increases, there is omni-channel success.
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