Most retailers are feeling the pressure to add new physical, online and mobile channels to keep pace with new technologies and changing consumer demands.
But if you’re only adding and not actually integrating these channels with the rest of your organisation, you can end up with silos that frustrate your internal teams and customers.
Instead of letting customers hop between channels in one seamless interaction, silos mean that customers have to deal with inconsistencies and gaps, such as partial sales histories, different tones of voice or having to start conversations afresh in each channel.
Silos inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration, a lack of trust and even a sense that your organisation is dysfunctional and incompetent.
Customers typically have to cope with three types of channel silos:
Sales: Customers interact with many different channels during a buying decision, including stores, web, mobile, email, social, phone and sales partners such as concessions, franchises and dealers.
When over a third of organisations still can’t consolidate data into a single view of the customer, and only 18 percent of retailers have real-time cross-channel inventory management systems, most attempts to coordinate customer engagements across teams are hamstrung.
Service: Customer service and support also spans multiple channels, including phone, website, mobile, chat (web, video and chatbots) and social.
Research shows that most organisations support an average of seven channel types, with numbers set to broaden to 12 channels from the second half of 2019. And as the number of channels grows, many organisations are falling into the trap of silo management: 33.4% continue to manage their customer experience solutions in individual business units, and just 32.8% say separate business units collaborate to design a common experience across interaction types and touch points.
Marketing: Customers receive marketing messages across a wide range of channels, including the web, mobile, email, print publishing and in stores.
However, marketers operate within siloed ecosystems and information isn’t easily shared between teams, offices or regions. Processes aren’t always well thought out and, in some cases, they’re non-existent. That means customers often receive a 'brand promise' that is different from the actual 'brand experience’ delivered.
The silo challenge is growing
Retailers also recognise that the problem of channel silos will only get worse.
Today’s customers are ‘channel agnostic’. They not only want to buy whenever and wherever they want, they also want to experience a single interaction with a single brand – no matter the channel. That means you not only need to be everywhere – with a unified eCommerce, mobile and bricks-and-mortar strategy – but you also have to make it as easy as possible for customers to shop through any of those channels.
While channel hopping has increased, tolerance for poor customer experience has decreased. Today, 67 percent of customers have become 'serial switchers' – they’re willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience. And after experiencing poor service, 39 percent say they would never use the offending company again.
Meanwhile, customers now expect constant innovation. Research found that 84 percent of customers now consider innovative experiences as important as the quality of products. And 73 percent say that a single extraordinary experience with one company raises their expectations of all other companies. That means that today you are in competition with every other company, regardless of industry.
How are retailers responding?
Many retailers are still relying on an omnichannel approach to bring their channels together, but most attempts fall short.
They often create innovation teams isolated from the rest of the organisation in a bid to fast-track solutions, but end up reinventing the wheel and creating customised products using different and duplicate technologies.
Many invest in new customer-facing technologies and self-serve channels, like chatbots, mobile apps, robots and AI, but until they have a single source of truth to manage inventory and customer data, all these investments will be wasted.
Managing inventory still remains most retailers’ biggest challenge and biggest cost – no matter their size. Many retailers don’t have an accurate view of inventory and can only access rudimentary sales and inventory positions. That prevents them from integrating their channels to offer the ‘buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere’ options that are best for customers and most profitable for them.
Retailers also struggle with legacy technologies that have been customised and are infrequently updated and then bolt-on new digital solutions that don’t easily integrate. Often loosely connected with manual processes and complex integrations, these omnichannel systems are fragile, inefficient and costly to maintain.
When you add in ever-evolving channels, slicker supply chains, faster fulfilment and new payment options, most brands can’t keep pace.
Break down those silos!
To get rid of your channel silos, you’ll need to move from a multichannel approach to a unified commerce platform that gives you a single source of truth for all inventory and customer data.
This hub will combine data from every system and platform across your organisation, including store-level point-of-sale, websites, call centre, mobile apps, field staff, DCs and warehouses, and any other channels, such as pop-up stores.
That gives you a stable hub for all your channels, reducing integration, duplication and operating costs, while increasing efficiency and accuracy.
With all your customer engagement points connected in near real time, you can deliver a holistic and personalised customer experience more consistently. That means you can treat each customer as the individual they are all the time – one person with one account, interacting with one unified brand.
Unified commerce is also your springboard for innovation, letting you bring new channels and services to market faster to create frictionless experiences that delight customers, build loyalty and improve profitability.
Want help to fix your channel silos?
For a free assessment of your current systems and a plan to say goodbye to silos and hello to more seamless customer experiences, get in touch.