4 !{ArticleDetails-ReadTime} 19 Jun 2019
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How to shift the retail culture from channel to consumer

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Andrew Hogenson

EY West Region Advisory CP&R Leader

Thought leader and innovator in the consumer-based industries. Focused on helping clients grow through better customer experiences.

4 !{ArticleDetails-ReadTime} 19 Jun 2019

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Omnichannel. It’s become the standard approach to retail. 

The lines between e-commerce, physical stores and mobile have so blurred that the consumer no longer makes a distinction. But too many retailers focus on the individual “channels” within omnichannel. They treat each as a separate operation and neglect the fact that shoppers will only remain loyal if retailers:

  • Can deliver what they want, when and where they want it
  • Provide an experience, not just a product
  • Actively engage the consumer to build a relationship based on trust

To stay relevant, retailers need to rethink how they attract and keep consumers. It’s time to stop focusing on distinct channels and instead run the total business in a way that puts the consumer first. That means knowing, at a very deep level, what consumers’ tastes and preferences are today and how they evolve, enabling you to provide exactly what your customers want. And it means delivering a seamless experience, regardless of how people interact with your brand.

Retailers must ask themselves: how are we, as a company, set up to be able to quickly adapt and serve the consumer in the way that they expect? This new approach to business will take a culture shift. Those who are slow to pivot risk becoming obsolete.

Start with the consumer

Consumers’ expectations are constantly evolving. Change happens on a daily basis, and the consumer is driving it. But how do you gauge the experience you’re providing today? The right data and analytics can help.

Companies often limit analytics as reporting on sales, finance, supply chain and investments. But a wide spectrum of data – internal and external – can help you understand how you are truly serving your consumers.

  • What are they saying on social networks?
  • How are you tracking customer behavior in-store and online?
  • What identifying factors are you using to identify anonymous online shoppers?
  • What characteristics are you using to personalize product offerings?

Companies need to build a good view of who their consumers are and develop the ability to continue to learn as those consumers’ tastes evolve. Learn who they are and make it part of your organization’s DNA to constantly evaluate and evolve.

Leave your legacy behind

For many companies, omnichannel is a misnomer. They have a go-to-market approach that maintains distinct channels, each with a leader who has different goals and objectives.

Their operations remain siloed, including:

  • Inventory: they segment by channel, whether it’s wholesale, brick-and-mortar or e-commerce.
  • Fulfilment: they use separate distribution channels and capabilities, including outsourcing, depending on where orders originate.
  • Procurement and sourcing: some organizations use different buyers and merchants for each channel.
  • Finance and accounting: they don’t have a method for allocating revenue for transactions with multiple touch points.

There is a legacy around change management and governance that often makes change cumbersome. Instead of being able to capitalize on new ideas and innovation, proposals become mired in approvals and lengthy funding and resourcing processes. The mindset is: “we’ve got time.” But the reality is, you don’t. Leading companies are nimble.

It’s time to create a culture of change. Company leaders must be able to recognize when it’s time for something new, and the organization must be agile enough to pivot and meet those needs.

Shift from good to great

In an increasingly fast-paced environment, the task is much bigger than making sure the right channels are in place. To become more consumer-centric, companies must rethink their total business, from top to bottom. Here are three places to start:

  1. Organization: instead of channel-specific titles, establish a direct-to-consumer position and give him or her authority to make the necessary changes. Orient your organization to the consumer, not your infrastructure.
  2. Culture and governance: embed consumer centricity into the company’s DNA and establish a set of processes that enable swift decision-making and allocation of resources to meet consumer needs.
  3. Operations: source ubiquitously for all channels, pool your inventory and create a single fulfilment capability.

Create an organizational platform that serves consumers in the way they want and expect to be served. And do it in a way that allows you to constantly evolve.

Good retailers are already meeting consumer expectations. The best are innovating and creating new experiences that the consumer doesn’t even know they want. Yet.

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To stay relevant, retailers need to rethink how they attract and keep consumers. It’s time to stop focusing on distinct channels and start actively building holistic relationships.

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Andrew Hogenson

EY West Region Advisory CP&R Leader

Thought leader and innovator in the consumer-based industries. Focused on helping clients grow through better customer experiences.