How Blurred Lines Can Actually Bring Clarity to Retail
We sat down with Gil Roth, Executive Vice President at NCR, to discuss the omnichannel changes currently taking place in retail commerce. We specifically focused on the blurred lines between online and offline retailing. Mr. Roth offered his insights on where the industry is going and how retailers can formulate a new commerce strategy for their businesses.
Q: At the current rate of technology change, how can retailers ever be sure their existing commerce platforms adequately addresses market trends?
A: As a technology executive working day in, day out with retailers around the world, I understand the complex issues facing our clients around the strategic and practical implementation of commerce platforms, whether they are store, mobile or Web-based. It is a constant whirr and it can quickly overwhelm even the most tech-savvy retailer. One of the key starting points for any retailer is to seamlessly and successfully connect the off-line and online commerce experience so they can deliver better consistency, drive greater loyalty and enhance brand value, no matter how and where the shopper is engaging with them.
Q: Do you feel the first step is to execute individual e-commerce, mobile commerce and store commerce strategies?
A: For me, we need to shift the conversation from mobile commerce, e-commerce or even store commerce and talk about commerce, pure and simple. Retailers need a unified approach that presents a clear transactional roadmap. They need a commerce platform that exceeds customer expectations regardless of the entry or exit point. One example would be allowing a shopper to add a forgotten item at checkout, which then can be shipped or available in the store the very next day.
Q: Why the importance now? Are customers driving any of these changes?
A: The new empowered shopper definitely is a catalyst for the shift in retail commerce. Last year, we interviewed hundreds of customers from around the world and they made their commerce needs clear. Nearly three out of four customers indicated they wanted to order items online and pick them up in or return them to the store. No hurdles, no impediments in their way. For them, it should be one easy, breezy continuum. They want it to make sense and they want it to be more convenient, easier and faster. That’s why the parameters between offline and online need to disappear.
Q: Will retailers need to rethink how they invest in their commerce platforms?
A: I believe so because by looking at how they invest in products, technology and resources, they can determine how best to allocate those funds for future growth. For example, instead of spending 80 percent of resources investing in business as usual (e.g., integrating promotion and pricing at the point of sale or constructing isolated commerce platforms), retailers may want to spend the same 80 percent in enhancing their commerce platform. This will include leveraging a cost-effective, easily deployed portfolio of mobile, store and e-applications to meet the changing demands of the marketplace. I feel this will allow them to deliver a unique, consistent consumer experience each and every time.
Q: One final question. Do you think this blurring of lines will enhance the retail brand?
A: I can’t stress enough how important retail clarity is for any retailer today. Just as retailers are focused on building a single view of the customer, shoppers desire a consistent brand experience from the retailers they frequent. They want a distinct voice that understands them and continues to adjust to their needs, whether that is with product selection or price. By delivering this consistently, retailers can eliminate the parallel online and offline universes that sometimes can polarize their retail commerce strategies.”