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Fear Of Omni-channeling

I started off writing this blog in an Erica Jong state of mind – what I might describe as “Fear of Omni-channelling”. How to bring a fresh perspective on this well-trodden retail path? What is new in the world of retail? What profound insight might I bring that will stop you from drawing the terrible misconception that skipping onto some dreary analyst’s URL will take you to a report that might be just slightly more satisfying?

My research wasn’t very helpful or inspiring. A scan of recent “hot retail topics” resulted in a cold turkey list of “Amazon, Global Trade Management, Control Towers, Localisation, Personalisation and Last Mile”. An alternative review of technology was even less inspiring, “AI, Robots of doom in the warehouse, IOT, Block-Chain and of course Cloud”. In desperation, three espressos, followed by lateral thinking and a quick dose of Googling, I uncovered three of Erica Jong’s best-known quotes. Surprisingly, they did not come over as a hippy feminist retrospective but were refreshingly philosophical and open to triggering ideas and reflections on almost any topic you cared to apply them to – even “retail and omni-channel”.

  1. “And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

    Oh yes! You stick in the mud retailers – the anti-commerce, omni-refusenicks, if its broke don’t fix it denialists, have paid a terrible price over the last few years. Thousands of stores have closed, brands have departed the high street. All because of failing to refresh their customer proposition, required to remain unique and relevant in the eyes of customers.

  2. Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.

    You already knew your business was in trouble, your product assortment stale and generic, that online sales growth was fast outpacing stores, that the best retailers were already moving from online to omni-channel and that Amazon will sell everything that can be sold and If Amazon doesn’t someone in China will.

  3. Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.

    Worse, you know that you are just as intelligent as those executives reaping the rewards of innovation. What was holding you back? Middle-aged men, too old to see the writing on the whiteboard? Old IT systems? Unstable management incapable of leading transformation? Perceived Lack of Budget?

So, I reflected on the winning retailers that I had worked with over the last dozen years. What were the common characteristics? They were companies that truly focussed on the customer and the product. Some were young companies, growing very fast. Other were well known “mature” brands with a profound desire to refresh and reinvent themselves. All had concluded that the success of their great retail/customer/product/service proposition could be accelerated by harnessing new technology. They were the online, omni-channel, store experience evangelists of their generation. All had taken action early and had taken on the common organisational silo challenges that inhibit successful transformation programs.

Why are high quality omni-channel sales and fulfilment process so stubbornly rare outside of tier one retailers? It is obvious that many companies have hashed together basic click & collect and returns processes, with room for improvement. However very few UK and European retailers, even in the tier one, have implemented ship from store. RIS, the US retail research published in their report last year, “Retail’s Surprising Weakness: Omnichannel Fulfillment” By Joe Skorupa.

  • Overall, retailers give themselves high marks (75%) for fulfillment maturity but do so only for the store channel. Digital channels (online and mobile) rank high for just a third (32%) of retailers.
  • The top obstacles that prevent retailers from improving their omni-channel fulfillment functions are DC or warehouse technology is too limited (46%), order management system is too limited (38%) and an inability to manage drop shippers or third-party shippers (25%).

Almost no retailers, even the best in tier one, have implemented cost based sourcing to manage the negative impact of reduced productivity that is caused by omni-channel fulfilment and returns at stores, warehouses and drop-shippers. Historically, Order Management Systems that are used to execute high quality omni-channel processes have been expensive and slow to implement/maintain. There is a need in the market for more agile Order Management Systems that provide the business process improvement that companies want but simpler and cheaper to implement.

To that end, Infor has launched a new generation of Networked Order Management that addresses all of these challenges. The Infor solution makes it feasible to deliver structured omni-channel processes in just a few months, at a fraction of the cost that retailers have historically paid for both the application and the implementation. The solution is simply a no brainer for mid-sized retailers and quite possibly for tier one retailers who find themselves in an on-premise Order Management cul-de-sac. Have a look at and feel free to contact me directly

No more fear please!

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