Maximising convenience for consumersBY Australian Retailers Association
In such a fast-paced industry, retailers need to optimise their business operations to stay relevant
In a battle to win the hearts, minds, and indeed wallets of Australian consumers, the fight is on to maximise customer experience and to out-convenience your competitors. To win and retain consumers in 2018, you won’t have to be the cheapest, but you will need to be faster and easier to shop with than your competitors.
Similar to comparable markets around the world, Australian consumers will ditch their favourite brands if they are disappointed. This is particularly true if the customer experience is poor.
How to out-convenience the competition
Any multi-channel retailer with physical store locations should be able to beat any retailer with fewer stores and distribution centres in terms of convenience. In today’s retail landscape stores can become a combination of a shop front, a warehouse and a distribution centre. When a customer orders a product, it can be shipped or collected from a local store. Retailers that can optimise store operations, delivery networks and streamline order processes can offer consumers a range of fulfilment options and convenience that even Amazon and other international players will struggle to compete with.
This customer convenience starts with having enterprise wide inventory availability that not only show consumers what is available and where, but also makes it easy for staff to know what products are available, in what quantity and in what locations. Issues usually arise in omni-channel retail or ‘unified commerce’ when customers come to pick up goods, make exchanges and bring returns. It’s crucial in-house staff have simple tools to oversee all inventory in real-time, otherwise the customer experience will be poor.
For example, a customer may have chosen to buy a product online and then collect it from the nearest store to their home in a few days’ time, only to get a call or message from the store the following day to tell them the item isn’t available. Therefore, there needs to be a robust and reliable distribution network that can be utilised at low cost. It is critical for retailers to understand exactly how long and at what cost any item can be shipped from one location to any other - be it a warehouse, store, pick-up point or house. This is where Distributed Order Management (DOM) systems come in handy. These distribution systems can assist retailers in understanding what options are both cost effective and optimally efficient when delivering items.
Providing a more personalised customer experience
Ideally any system aiming to improve customer experience through greater efficiency should also have an element of personalisation. At the very least the retailer should be able to offer an enhanced or reduced cost service to loyalty program members. All these elements have traditionally been handled by technology solutions after an order has been placed to ensure processing and delivery. But cloud native software architecture makes it possible to make these calculations live, on the checkout page before a customer hits the ‘Buy’ button, thereby offering the most convenient, cost effective, personalised options for the customer to choose from.
Until recently, Australian retailers have had to either buy a large, inflexible system from one of the software giants, or customise other systems to assist in this area. Today DOM systems (flexible and agile native cloud solutions) are available for businesses to use alongside legacy systems, taking care of difficult omni-channel operations quickly.
Graham Jackson is the CEO of Fluent Commerce and has more than 23 years’ experience in sales, retail and technology. Fluent Commerce helps out-convenience the competition with cloud native distributed order management. Learn more at fluentcommerce.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australian Retailers Association
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.