It has been over a decade since retailers had to deal with the shock of “showrooming.” Customers were visiting a store to evaluate merchandise, and then leaving to hunt for better prices online and buying there. Brick-and-mortar stores had to quickly build eCommerce websites so customers could buy online if they prefer.
They have had to break the notion that there are eCommerce businesses and online businesses. Retailers have had to become omnichannel businesses because that is the customer expectation: they don’t want to feel forced to buy in one or the other.
Retailers have taken steps to blend these two shopping experiences. Most retailers (outside grocery) have live product counts on their website for stores in the customer’s locale. Customers can order online and pick-up in store.
Retailers are also beginning to blend in-store and online promotion. Many retailers have a policy that online-only or in-store only promotions are not allowed. The customer is entitled to the same price no matter where they buy.
Internal Silos in Retail Organizations
But there are disconnects between the people running the store and the people running the website. Customers are buying online and coming to pick up at the store to find they do not have the product stocked. Customers are emailed promotions that the stores are unaware of and do not have the capacity to honour.
“It’s hard to generalize, but sometimes there’s real conflicts [between in-store and online teams],” says John Torella, marketing advisor at J.C. Williams Group. “That comes out of not being aligned. Those that get it, there’s a real sense they’re a team, and integration on everything they do—particularly the seamless experience online and in-store.”
Many times this comes down to corporate policies, particularly with sales attribution. Often the website is credited with the sale when a customer chooses to purchase online and pick up in-store.
The store not receiving any sales attribution means that they cannot recoup their costs associated with merchandising, customer service, and storage space. Online orders take resources away from in-store priorities; often, managers are not very motivated to service the business from online.
Customers don’t care about corporate squabbles when their order is messed up.
The customer does not care about any of this when they are experiencing a fumbled order. All they see is a disorganized company and a bad customer experience. They will be less inclined to make purchases with the brand, both online and in-store.
“The pillars are always people, processes, and technology,” says Nith Nadarajah, retail consultant and founder of Helios. “They have to all work together to execute a seamless customer experience. You always want to keep the customer in the centre of your focus and make staff experiences as important as customer experiences.”
Everyone, rally around the customer!
Retailers need to rally around the customer experience and not their silo: online, or in-store. If a sale is made and a customers is properly services, then the brand wins and everybody win as a result.
It is up the executives to break down internal divisions both in the corporate structure and in the hearts and minds of employees.
“[Retailers need a] centralized chief customer officer,” says Sandra Duff, SVP, Activation, and Operations at Jackman. “We want a robust understanding of the customer, and a unified view of the brand.”
Read the conversation that inspired this article on the Retail Council of Canada.