The Journey to an Omni-Channel E-Commerce Approach

By Shanu Singh, SGM & Head- eCommerce & Digital Transformation, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd

Everything- from the way we communicate to the way we shop- has transformed and how! Customers are becoming channel-agnostic, and interact with the brand. This is why it becomes vital for brands to provide a seamless, omni-channel experience to the customer across all touch-points - physical or digital.

The Customer Purchase Journey

For any brand or business, there are multiple customer touch-points, which provide opportunities to delight the customer. This can be done in an efficient and cost-effective manner by unlocking the digital value. The customer purchase journey, especially for large ticket items is no longer linear. During the purchase cycle stages, customers experience the brand across various channels-mobile device, desktop, the physical store and call center, and research about the brand’s offerings before making a decision.

A Consistent Brand Experience

Any brand or business embarking upon an omni-channel, digital journey has to plan a large transformational exercise keeping the key aspects- technology, process, people and infrastructure in mind. Any organization taking up such a large transformation exercise has to address its internal dynamics and add people with the right management skill and attitude.

An omni-channel e-commerce initiative is not just about adding another channel for incremental sales. It involves transforming the way traditional channels function, and enabling them to provide superior customer experience in the increasingly connected world. Businesses should prioritize to use the same technology across various online and offline platforms. Using the same technology across channels gives a single view of the customer to the brand and provides a unified customer experience.

Selecting the Right Technology

Technology is one of the most significant aspects, which needs to be evaluated and implemented to offer an omni-channel experience. There are various technologies available in the market, with a choice between acquiring, building, and buying a technology solution.

Acquisition

Any mid to large sized enterprise could look at acquiring a smaller firm with a digital technology infrastructure, and build on top of it. The advantage of acquisition is getting a readymade technology infrastructure, to build on top of, without reinventing the wheel. However an existing company could come with its own nuances and cultural differences which could pose as a hurdle.

Building

Companies could also consider building an in-house technical infrastructure from scratch. This way business can build the functionality as per their business dynamics and requirements, while the technology control and copyright remains with them. But this could prove to be a longer process, taking one-two years’ time. Also once, the product is built, majority of the team becomes redundant in the succeeding phases, leading to overheads.

In the light of the aforementioned points, organizations should focus on their core competencies rather than technology, especially when there are ready offerings available in the market.

Buying

The third option is buying an off-the-shelf feature-rich technology platform and using it for your own pro­cesses with customization. The robustness and richness of the technology platform depends on the price. Vary­ing from a small scale to an enterprise-level technology platform, one can start e-commerce which could take a few weeks to almost a year. The time-to-market de­pends upon the complexity, scale of operations and the integration with the set of legacy systems involved. There are options to go for an open-source one to a li­censed technology. It, however, is rec­ommended for mid-to-large organizations to go for licensed plat­forms, given the complex­ity, security and scalability of their operations, where they require performance at scale.

However, if you take up a special technology with lesser integrators, then there will be lesser flexibility available for integration, in case there are challenges with one partner. It is therefore advisable to opt for a larger ecosystem of integrators. A midsized to larger enterprise should go with an enterprise solution for e-commerce and digital marketing automation. IBM, SAP, and Oracle are among the leading technology solutions providers. Smaller companies with less appetite of investment could look at Cloud/SAAS based offerings, with a plenty of them being available in the market.

The Importance of Creative Web Design

Enterprises also need to invest in creative design for their digital channels’ UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience). Based on a company’s brand strategy, customer segment, and value propositions for the segments, they need to invest in good design. In the design phase, all the relevant stakeholders should be involved for their creative and technical inputs. The same should be followed for designing a business process.

Heading – for conclusion

If the e-commerce/digital transformation is for a large enterprise which has large scale traditional channels, then a well thought-through change management pro­gram, designed internally or with the help of an outside digital partner should be en­visaged. Building technol­ogy, creating design and pro­cess is one thing, but getting your organization and em­ployees to adopt it and provide a superior customer experience by using it is another.

Omni channel is the right approach for a business operating across multi­ple channels. However, this calls large transfor­mational exercise when going digital with the involvement of all cross-functional teams, and a clear buy-in from the top management.

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