30/06/2021 | Christophe Raschetti, Consultant, Hardis Group

The digitization of retail has grown well beyond the confines of e-commerce. As today’s brands seek to offer customers a smooth, total experience across all physical and digital channels, they need to scale up a digital strategy that, in many cases, is the product of trial and error.

Total experience: We’re not there (yet)

For brands, the “total experience” concept means delivering a fully personalized, immersive, seamless experience for customers and employees alike. In other words, it’s about treating a sales and marketing strategy not as a set of standalone components but as a constituent whole.

For customers, this approach guarantees a unique, fluid, uniform experience across every brand touch point—and at every stage of the purchase and post-purchase journey. This horizontal consistency is what sets a genuine omnichannel strategy apart from multichannel marketing. 

Many brands haven’t reached this point yet. But many are making the “customer experience” a central plank of their thinking. While that’s a good place to start, lots of brands neglect something equally important: the “employee experience”. And that matters, because it’s the foundation on which things like customer service and in-store experience are built.

An omnichannel-ready information system 

Breaking down existing system silos is a key part of shifting digital retail up a gear. That’s because brands that want to deliver a truly unified customer and employee experience—across all channels and right through to the post-purchase phase—need to have the right information at hand all along the value chain. Put simply, scaling up digital retail is first and foremost about data.

In practice, this means rolling out new technologies and tools to generate real-time value from customer and employee data held in disparate system components: both back-office (ERP, CRM, DAM, OMS, WMS, BI, and more) and front-office (web, apps, and phygital environments). An omnichannel-ready information system is one that has data at its core.

For IT departments, this model delivers added agility by allowing features and interfaces to added or modified quickly and easily. And it brings IT timescales (typically long) in line with sales and marketing timescales (typically short).

Deep organizational change

It’s clear that omnichannel (in its fully fledged sense) isn’t merely a question of the growing use of digital technology in retail. In fact, it’s not far short of a revolution—one that will bring with it a major shift in business culture and deep organizational change.

Gone are the days of marketing, digital, distribution, and e-commerce teams and networks operating as standalone entities. Now, it’s about having a single team focused on delivering a unified customer and employee experience. A team working in unison across every available channel, selling environment, and touch point—from stores, dark stores, and drive-through collection points, to websites, mobile apps, marketplaces, and more. 

And that’s not all: because this is a genuine paradigm shift that extends beyond sales and marketing teams. It reaches every part of an organization—logistics and IT departments included. But it can’t happen at the snap of a finger: achieving omnichannel retail quickly and at scale requires training, change management, transition management—and even the re-insourcing of previously outsourced functions.