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Solving the Two Biggest Omni-Channel Challenges

Posted by Nick D'Alessio

August 7, 2014 at 9:00 AM

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Retail today in large part is driven by the mobile device powered consumers who desire a unified and informed experience across all touch points with a retailer. To that end, brick and mortar retailers are struggling with two primary challenges: sales conversion and product fulfillment.

Sales conversion challenges include being able to identify the customer and know her preferences and engage intelligently enough to cross/up sell products and services. In order to do this, most retailer’s enterprises need a serious upgrade. Sales associates have to be armed with the tools necessary to engage with the customer in the aisle – they need to have the same technology the consumer has in their hand.

Product detail and comparative information are essential elements to help the sophisticated and informed consumer make his purchase decision. Whether this is in the form of product information on the shelf, supplemental information provided via a QR code launched website, or a beacon driven mobile app – all of these elements are becoming important enabling technologies to feed “digital natives” insatiable appetite for personalized interaction during the buying process. However, engaging is not enough. You have to be able deliver the product – the sooner the better for near instant gratification. This is especially critical if you have an omni-channel strategy where customers can order online and pick-up in the store. How well do you trust your inventory accuracy?

Product fulfillment challenges stem from not having the inventory data systems in place to 1.) monitor inventory across an enterprise, and  2.) the ability to have regular inventory counts to true up the database to compensate for accuracy drift due to shrinkage or misplaced items. Some retailers have several disparate database systems that don’t talk to one another, no standardization of item files, and no way to accurately cycle count merchandise and feed that data back into the inventory databases. RFID technology has finally evolved to the point where it can cost effectively solve of these inventory accuracy issues in many cases, especially for large volume, high movement apparel items spread across different stores. Advancements in RFID reader hardware and UHF RFID tags that can yield compounded cycle count accuracies of greater than 95% at a UHF tag cost of just pennies. Affordable RFID solutions have finally arrived for not just the very large tier 1 retailers, but well within the tier 2~3 retail space.

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About the Author: Nick D'Alessio is a global retail practice leader at Zebra and is responsible for the development of the market strategy, priorities and execution of the global Retail vertical tactical approach.

Topics: Retail, APAC, North America, Latin America, EMEA