Omnichannel Operations, Rising Costs, Customer Experience, Innovation and More

Over 700 direct-to-customer and omnichannel operations, distribution executives and managers, and industry vendors, came together at the annual Operations Summit in Louisville, KY.

The keynote “power panel,” moderated by industry veteran Bill Kuipers of Spaide, Kuipers & Company, set the tone and the most important topics for the event.  Included in the panel, were senior operations executives from Gardner’s Supply, QVC, Gilt, Fairytale Brownies, and Belk.

The keynote panel quickly agreed that meeting growing consumer expectations, while costs are rising, has made for a challenging year.  Customer’s growing demands – especially around quick shipping time, lower pricing for merchandise and shipping, and better communication and choices throughout the order fulfillment process have merchant’s looking for more innovative solutions.

Some of the most talked-about topics included omnichannel, distributed inventory and multiple points of distribution, the rising costs, combatting the effect of the changes in DIM weight, global operations, the more complex customer contact center, finding a balance in the need for delivery speed and the cost to do so,  the need for more and better negotiation,  the increased difficulty in workforce management,  how to better manage the compressed peak season,  selecting and integrating technology,  protecting against fraud, and better managing returns.

Classroom sessions and roundtables covering how to manage, set best practices, select distribution methods and sites, and improve technology for great omnichannel customer experience were well attended. Senior operations executives from omnichannel leaders Macy’s, Kohl’s, Tory Burch, and PVH Corporation (holding company for iconic lifestyle apparel brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) shared their experiences with omnichannel customer experience management.  They answered many questions from the audience around the specifics of how to manage ship-from-store, ship-to-store, “click and collect,” and how to avoid channel conflict.  All agreed on the need to take omnichannel slow, due to the enormous complexities – with Kevin Gardiner’s of Macy’s suggesting a “crawl, walk and run approach.”

Most senior executives agree that the industry is entering a new phase out of necessity to serve customers and to continue to grow ecommerce.  While merchants need to continue to use historic best practices – the need for new innovations, partnerships and models is growing – especially for smaller companies that don’t have the resources and distribution options that larger companies do.

Facility tours, always a highlight at the Operations Summit, provided attendees a look at the best retail operations in the world – and an opportunity to talk to some of the key operations executives in those facilities.  Facilities included this year were UPS, Gilt, eBay, Guess?, Amazon, and Ann, Inc.

Introduced this year at the summit, were the “Excellence in Customer Experience” awards for retailers that were scored and ranked on 95 data points through Innotrac’s SmartHub study data.  The Retail Innovator of the Year Award was given based on the data points AND evaluated by the Multichannel Merchant content staff.  Awards went to:

Best Packaging – Bath & Body Works

Best Shipping & Delivery Experience – BCBG

Excellence in Brand Communication – L.L. Bean

Best Customer Returns – Bonobos

Customer Experience Leader – Bonobos

Retail Innovator of the Year – Amazon

Top sponsors of the Operations Summit were UPS, Newgistics, Pitney Bowes, and Tension Packaging & Automation.  Sponsors of the awards were Innotrac SmartHub, Global Response and Norton Shopping.

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