Omnichannel Retailer, Watch Out For These Customer Experience Hurdles


Enabling omnichannel retail experiences can help you forge closer relationships with customers, and 48% of retailers say that customers who shop using multiple channels are more profitable. Even with these benefits, increasing the number of engagement points between the customer and your brand can create hurdles you need to clear to win the customer experience race.

if you’re an omnichannel retailer, consider these three stops along the customer journey:

  • Pre-purchase – browsing and selecting items along with value-added services, such as gift wrapping
  • Purchase – choosing shipping options, adding valued-added services and collecting payment
  • Post-purchase – fulfillment of orders and handling returns and exchanges

Let’s look at each stop.

Meet the customer

Rebecca runs a small business and does a lot of shopping online to save time. She and her team are set to staff a booth at a tradeshow in two weeks, and she needs to order slacks and shirts for 20 people. While she’s online, she remembers to buy a birthday gift for her friend Jeff, whose birthday is tomorrow.

She goes online to browse. Everything that she wants shows as in stock and ready to ship.

What could possibly go wrong?

Pre-purchase – When visibility doesn’t equal availability

Rebecca will submit what amounts to a multi-line, multi-part order, including several items, value-added services (gift wrapping) and something that has to go next-day shipping.

Rebecca selects the quantities and sizes for her team, and chooses a pair of ski boots for Jeff’s birthday, and selects your gift wrapping service to save time. What she doesn’t know is that the boots are sitting in a store in Alaska, the only place they’re available – and that store doesn’t do gift wrapping.

Make no mistake – having a single view of inventory is no small task. But that alone falls short when it comes to meeting customer expectations and keeping you in the black.

How can you clear this hurdle? An order management system (OMS) that takes into account the nuances of ecommerce along with value-added services you offer is required. An omnichannel retailer’s inventory availability picture should adjust dynamically as the customer chooses purchase, service and fulfillment options – not just subtract one item from inventory when it is added to a cart.

Just because stock levels at every store and distribution center can be seen, you need to be certain that stock is available to fulfill sales.

Rebecca clicks the checkout button.

Purchase – Value-added services add fulfillment complexity

Many retailers distinguish themselves by offering services like monogramming, tailoring and gift wrapping. Now the distribution center that is shipping the item isn’t equipped to handle the value-added service – another hurdle.

Even with an advanced OMS, Rebecca would not have been able to choose gift wrapping for the item. It would have been a better experience had the gift wrap option not been offered at all rather than leaving her disappointed that you did not meet expectations.

Leap over this hurdle by making sure orders get sent to DCs equipped to provide value-added services. Otherwise, you risk disappointing the customer by delaying fulfillment or not delivering the promised service.

Post-Sale – Returns and uneven exchanges: hurdle or opportunity?

Upon receiving the order, Rebecca notices that two pairs of slacks need to be returned. She calls customer service to initiate an exchange.

The customer service representative tells her the size she needs is on backorder and offers to check local stores, placing a call while Rebecca is on hold. She then tells Rebecca the pants are waiting to be picked up. Great, right?

It would be – if Rebecca could drop off the pants she’s returning when she goes to pick up the new ones. Instead, the rep tells her she needs to ship them back since they were purchased online. Adding more inconvenience to an already unsatisfying experience, the funds will not be credited back until the return is received.

Remove this hurdle by bringing together your OMS and POS systems, and make customer service a differentiator for your brand. In this way, she’ll enjoy a uniform experience whether calling customer service or visiting a store to return an item.

Hassle-free, channel-agnostic returns and exchanges are worth striving for. UPS found that when making an in-store return, 70% of consumers purchase an additional item.

A modern OMS also needs to allow funds to be carried all the way to a new exchange or order. This enables the speed and transparency the customer wants as well as the financial accountability the merchant requires.

Be prepared for the intricacies of omnichannel

At a high level, the path to seamless omnichannel commerce is easy to envision. At the ground level, it’s paved with nuance and intricacy that when not orchestrated well can cause a customer to have a bad experience. If you feel stuck, you are not alone.  Forty-six percent of retailers say that legacy technology/infrastructure is preventing them from moving forward (RSR). As retailers evaluate their inventory and order management solution options, it is important to know about possible hurdles. That way, they can be removed from the path to delivering experiences that customers value and keep them coming back.

Karthik Marudur is Director of Product Management for Manhattan Associates

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