Omnichannel is the new black. That’s the buzz we’re hearing from the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) BIG Show in the BIG Apple this week.
But the chatter is not just about omnichannel. It’s also about the wins that integrating brick and mortar and digital can create, like guiding a customer to the store that has — in stock — the exact product (even the right size) he has been checking out online. In other words, it’s getting the right products and the right offers to the right people before they abandon their virtual and/or physical shopping carts, change their minds or look for something else to buy someplace else.
To do this you need to know what a customer is doing on each channel. And not just that: You also need to know what’s happening with your goods and services. This kind of data is best gleaned from customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Without the latter, you may not be able to deliver what the customer wants to buy and is willing to pay for. And when that happens, you not only miss a sale, but risk losing a customer as well.
It’s to avoid these kinds of problems and to create experiences that engage customers that Sitecore introduced Sitecore Commerce 8 powered by Microsoft Dynamics yesterday. The new solution bridges the gap between in-store and digital experiences.
Sitecore, which provides the web experience, is tied to Microsoft Dynamics, which manages orders. When solutions like these work together, retailers can better serve customers and gain orders, explained R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst, founder and chairman at Constellation Research.
“Creating cohesion between stores and online is the tough part,” Wang said. “This (the Microsoft Dynamics/Sitecore integration) is the cleanest we’ve seen in the market.”
While integrations like this have been built in the past, they often required thousands or tens of thousands of hours of work, explained Ryan Donavan, vice president of commerce at Sitecore.
This need not be the case anymore … at least if you use Sitecore Commerce 8 powered by Microsoft Dynamics, Donovan boasted, adding, “It seamlessly integrates in-store and digital experiences."
If you’re a retailer, the new solution makes it easy to offer customers the ability to do things like buy things online and, if necessary, return the products to stores and vice versa. Not only that, but customers who belong to loyalty programs can also become known by merchants and get the same treatment as if they were working with a personal shopper.
How has the integration been received at the BIG show? By the sound of Donovan’s hoarse voice, it has generated a lot of interest.
Robert White, chief information officer of Ashley Furniture, got an early look at the solution. "We look forward to leveraging the integrated and sophisticated online and offline commerce features to connect the dots between e-commerce and in-store transactions," he said.
If all goes as planned, White will be able to do a whole more, some of which is already built into Sitecore, like providing salespeople with the information they need to productively engage a customer in a conversation according to his interests versus awkwardly fishing for something to talk about.
Less Showrooming, Fewer Returns?
Darren Guarnaccia, Sitecore’s chief strategy officer, pointed to a handful of other likely wins such as less showrooming because “customers who have a better in-store experience make purchases instead of reflexively looking for a lower price.” Less retail returns fraud is likely to be a desirable outcome as well because purchasers of specific items will be able to be more readily identified.
Each platform already provides analytical capabilities. Sitecore, for example, offers the ability to leverage both buyer and browser behavior. “At the end of the day retailers just want to get from campaign to commerce,” said Wang.