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Seamless Retail: Back-end capabilities and omnichannel retailing

Read Accenture’s report about developing the key back-end capabilities to drive Omnichannel Retailing.

Overview

Consumers have an insatiable appetite for seamless retail experiences, demanding access to more shopping channels and formats. Many retailers are not ready for this omnichannel era and lack the complete functionality consumers crave.

In an omnichannel environment, retailers may need to overhaul their operations from all angles. In our experience, retailers need to link up the front and back ends to create seamless experiences across the customer journey.

This report examines the key back-end strategies retailers need to become omnichannel operators. Drawing on Accenture’s global experience, we have identified five key factors organisations should develop.

Background

Organisations in Australia and New Zealand have been slow to provide online shopping options. As a result, they have been ambushed by online-only retailers, as well as fast-fashion outlets such as H&M and Zara setting up in their backyards.

Accenture have extensively examined how organisations can develop omnichannel capabilities. We’ve established that many retailers’ omnichannel dreams are impeded by a lack of integration across the supply chain.

In our earlier report, Don’t get left behind: Six ways to transform your company into a seamless omnichannel success, we explored how companies can transform the front end of their operations through strategies such as becoming customer-centric organisations and scaling for seamless delivery. In this report, we have turned our attention to the back-end operations that drive seamless retail activities. In our experience, retailers need to link up the front and back ends to create seamless experiences across the customer journey.

Analysis

From Accenture's global experience, retailers should adapt to the omnichannel environment by developing the following five key capabilities:

  1. Real-time and accurate inventory awareness—As seamless retailers, companies need to view inventory across all channels, distribution centres and stores. This will allow retailers to coordinate the movement of goods to efficiently and effectively fill customer orders.

  2. Effective order management and fulfilment—Companies also need to fulfil orders in the way consumers want, offering a connected experience linked to other retail channels. This requires retailers to refine their inventory and order management arrangements.

  3. Sales and operations planning—Capabilities to assess where – by geography and channel – consumer demand is coming from and how that might change over time. Organisations should integrate their planning capabilities across stores and the whole supply chain.

  4. Sophisticated data analytics—Data analytics is giving companies actionable insights in operations, customers and future trends.

  5. Shared supply chain operations—Retailers must develop integrated functionalities encompassing inventory, sales and technology, to enable companies a single view of their customers by getting their channels and facilities to work together.

Recommendations

With customers demanding omnichannel capabilities, now’s the time for retailers to act. But the move to an omnichannel environment requires a substantial shift in thinking. Retailers may need to overhaul their operations from all angles.

In an omnichannel environment, the concept of delivering goods and services through a single channel, or multiple disconnected channels, is antiquated. Retailers must put the customer first by designing shopping experiences where the seams are invisible and the benefits are significant.

In our experience, retailers need to link up the front and back ends to create seamless experiences across the customer journey. This may require companies realigning processes, revising key performance indicators and creating new job functions. Retailers may need to dedicate a substantial amount of effort to deliver painless shopping experiences across a variety of channels.

One important thing to note with demanding customers—if you don’t respond, they’re unlikely to show much patience.