The omni-channel approach is the business strategy that fills today’s retail landscape. With strategies that specifically affect the retail sector, the buzzword of “omni-channel” is becoming more and more popular in press articles nationwide. Many talk as if omni-channel is the only strategy needed to be successful today as a retailer.
Having the right omni-channel strategy is not only important, but essential when competing with high-volume, low-margin sectors. Home improvement retailer, Lowes, attributed much of its financial success in a recent quarterly earnings report to their omni-channel approach, integrating online, in-store and order fulfillment or any combination of the two. The company said online purchases delivered from one store saw sales growth of 33% during the quarter.
According to market research firm, Euromonitor International, total U.S. stores decreased by 0.1% in 2017 from a year earlier, the first downturn since 2009. This only shows that even though physical store locations remain a vital aspect of omni-channel, the increased proliferation of e-commerce has had a profound effect on the shift in store processes and procedures.
Retail stores are constantly looking for new ways to enhance the customer experience not only online, but in store in the most technologically advanced way. Tools like facial recognition technology and screen technology are becoming more and more present to help identify loyalty program members to retailers, as well as to assist the customers themselves during the buying process. All of these changes mean that the back-end processes and employee processes change as well.
It should be noted that no omni-channel strategy would ever work without an effective Business Process Management (BPM) solution at work behind the scenes, integrating corporate processes and multi-faceted procedures that touch both the back-end functionality as well as the consumer-facing user experience.
BPM is truly the center of today’s retail business model, tying everything together on a technical level.
Retail outfits today are significantly more complex than what a single-roof mom-and-pop local store looked like several decades ago. Customer relationships must be built, sales and enterprise resourcing must be planned, accounting must be managed, and the business must run efficiently on the logistics and fulfillment end as well. All of this is run by an integrated data-driven technology system.
BPM is what keeps each of these systems running interdependently, efficiently, and continuously. As a result, the customer never sees BPM up close, but they experience its benefits. When a customer researches, shops, purchases, receives their order or makes contact with customer service, they are in the BPM experience. When that process runs smoothly, and the customer walks away with a satisfied experience, while BPM was at the center of it all enabling that retailer’s success.
Behind the scenes, BPM also helps retailers with transformation as their businesses evolve. This technology helps retailers see their entire operations in an effort to identify competitive opportunities, establish actionable processes for employees, and deliver a seamless experience behind the scenes and in front of the customer, producing an environment for lower costs, greater transparency, reduced risk, increased agility, and innovation expedited.
As an example, CITTI Group, a large German-based grocery supplier, recently leveraged BPM to reign in operational tasks, processes and complex procedures that were difficult to document and manage during the company’s rapid growth. The technology has resulted in better documentation for decision-making, as well as more integration between IT and other departments.
BPM works with all retail organizations, and can work for businesses of any size. The process works in two major steps. First, the technology helps create a model that outlines the right process for each of the retailer’s moving parts; and second, it enables the creation of workflows that pull employees, processes, decisions, and technology into a seamless, transformed system.
Beyond incorporating BPM, retailers should consider adding several key areas into their organization that can help them identify where and how to implement successfully, as well as structure the system in a way that they can identify key metrics and return-on-investments (ROI). These include steps such as discovery and benchmarking to identify key areas within the organization where BPM can offer the greatest impact, as well as the ability to simplify and standardize certain workflows.
About The Author: In his role as COO, Mark Holenstein is responsible for the Sales, Customer Service and Marketing departments at Signavio, a leading provider of Business Process Management solutions for retailers. For more information download Signavio’s seven-step guide to operational excellence for retailers. For more information please visit www.signavio.com.