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Shortening the click-to-customer cycle through smart technologies

By Contributor
Mon 23 May 2022

Article by Manhattan Associates A/NZ managing director, Raghav Sibal.

The race to shorten click-to-customer cycle times is perhaps the greatest challenge for today's retailers operating in an omnichannel environment. However, speed of delivery without accuracy of execution is the fundamental 'dealbreaker' for consumers who expect their goods to arrive promptly and get what they ordered in the first place.

Initiating a digital-first, omnichannel process through smart technology solutions is necessary for the accurate and swift execution of orders to be achieved.

Below are three key areas to balance the challenge of order promising in a world where exceptional customer service is paramount.

Consumers expect speed, flexibility, and control

For an efficient flow of retail operations, full visibility of shipments is necessary, including control over how, when and where goods are delivered. The consumerisation of supply chains is well underway, with buyers increasingly expecting this same level of visibility, regardless of whether a brand is a B2B or B2C label.

Today, even before consumers decide to buy something, they want to know if stock is available to fulfil their order and when it can be delivered. 

Once the order is placed, consumers then want to stay in control by checking the order, adding or removing items and having the option to change a delivery address or method without having to speak to a call centre operator for hours upon end.

The pandemic showed us that customers like to have different options, and it's becoming increasingly vital that brands offer them just that. Be it home delivery, office delivery, at a parcel pickup point, or click and collect, brands need the agility and flexibility within their supply chains to accommodate these delivery demands.

The 360-degree view of customers

Traditional point of sale (POS) systems are often too inflexible to accommodate the new capabilities required for new online-to-offline shopping journeys, such as curbside pickup or accurate two-way customer communications.  

Unified commerce in 2022 means having not only a single view of inventory and orders, but also customers. Today, transactions equal orders plus sales, meaning retailers must increasingly be capable of seamlessly processing purchases that combine orders and sales from physical and online stores and warehouse transactions.

This trend is having a profound and transformational impact on legacy retail systems while placing future-ready POS and order management technology squarely at the intersection of the speed, accuracy, and pursuit of an exceptional customer experience. 

Minimising the number of places data is processed, supported by centralised customer and inventory visibility, is one of the first steps to future-ready store systems and a retailer's ability to extend the customer experience beyond just the transaction.

Building a customer-focused roadmap that includes efficiently retiring existing technical debt, often accumulated over decades, is key to ushering in a cloud-native, microservices-based retail future. 

Moving from placement to fulfilment theory

Speed doesn't automatically deliver success when it comes to retail. Instead it needs to be harnessed and controlled. When it comes to omnichannel retail fulfilment, a 'reverse engineering' approach is often the best way to tackle the challenge; starting at the end of the journey with the consumer and working back through the processes to the actual software architecture that underpins it all. 

By doing it this way, when rapid consumer shifts occur, supply chain networks, in-store systems and people will have the strong IT foundations in place, enabling them to speed up, slow down, and realign with minimal impact regardless of the channel. 

Today, retailers need to rethink traditionally held ideas around assets and operations or speed and delivery. It's not simply a matter of digital vs. physical anymore or even speed vs. precision – but instead, it's about how a brand can leverage its entire network, as well as all the stock and channels at its disposal, to deliver that truly remarkable customer experience journey. 

The key is not being distracted by intricacies of order placement, but concentrating on order fulfilment – which can be achieved through modern, future-ready store technology solutions.

Micro-fulfilment will help drive supply chain efficiencies 

As eCommerce and 'store-to-door' delivery continues to grow, many retailers are struggling to turn a profit from online sales. The challenges of the last two years didn't just fast-track eCommerce uptake; they also accelerated advances in technology, pushed businesses to revaluate traditional models, and forced many to rethink relationships between retailers, disruptive start-ups, and automation; setting the scene for a radical shake-up of fulfilment strategies.
  
One of these fulfilment strategies and one of the most cost-effective trends retailers and supply chains are adopting, is micro-fulfilment. Micro-fulfilment involves moving from large singular DCs to smaller, more local and convenient hubs.

By expediting the fulfilment process, micro-fulfilment allows brands to get goods to their customers quickly; whilst also providing convenient collection points for consumers. With this kind of smart fulfilment method, retailers can get their goods to consumers faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. 

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