Retailers are expanding the role of the physical store by using technology to enable omnichannel order fulfillment.

Today’s ecommerce environment is more competitive than ever. As online shoppers’ expectations continue to rise, many retailers are struggling to address their demands. To discuss these challenges and how retailers can leverage technology to meet or exceed customer expectations, Internet Retailer recently sat down with Chris Brenner, senior industry principal at Oracle NetSuite, an ecommerce software provider.

IR: What are some common ways retailers are succeeding in today’s challenging ecommerce market?

CB: More retailers are expanding the traditional role of the physical store by modernizing the technology in stores and enabling omnichannel order fulfillment in stores. They are introducing technology platforms like mobile devices in stores to deliver the modern experiences consumers expect. And they’re leveraging their stores by offering buy online, pickup in store and/or shipping consumers online purchases from their stores.

Chris Brenner, Oracle NetSuite

Chris Brenner, senior industry principal, Oracle NetSuite

IR: What challenges do they face?

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CB: Retailers have historically treated their stores like islands that are disconnected from the rest of their business processes. Now they are struggling to transform their stores from islands into an “always on” ecommerce-like experience. This is even more difficult when the systems running business processes are disparate, which can result in bad data that can affect their stores. These problems are amplified when consumers expect to see accurate information, like inventory availability, when shopping.

IR: How does this affect customer experiences?

CB: With constantly improving technology and an on-demand economy, consumers expect to buy what they want, when they want it and to receive it quickly. It’s a huge challenge for retailers to keep up with this expectation. Whether it’s providing visibility into customer reviews or inventory availability across locations, consumers expect this information to be available anywhere they’re shopping. Delivering this visibility to consumers through any channel can be extremely difficult if the retailer’s back-end systems don’t have good data.

IR: How can retailers overcome these challenges?

CB: Retailers should look at the problem holistically. The only thing worse than not being able to meet your customers’ expectations is to try—and fail to do so. This is why the data in the back-end system is so important for retailers trying to solve these customer-facing challenges. When trying to deliver a modern omnichannel strategy, it is vital that the core ERP system is modern; and the data is accurate.

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For example, if a customer is shopping for an item in a store, but the item is not available in that store, how can the retailer save that sale and satisfy the customer? The retailer needs to have accurate visibility into inventory across all locations—preferably in real time. Retailers also need to give customers flexible fulfillment options, whether they’re shopping in a store or online. The store system needs to be able to satisfy customer demand no matter where the inventory is located.

IR: How can technology help retailers?

CB: Ecommerce software providers, such as NetSuite, take a unified platform approach to omnichannel sales. For example, NetSuite’s ecommerce and in-store POS systems use the same unified system as our core ERP solution, which means all the data is stored in the same location. It can deliver an ecommerce-like experience in the store—for both the store associate and the customer—because it provides store associates with all of the item, customer and inventory data that is available in the back-end.

A unified system gives customers the option to: buy online and ship anywhere, buy online and pickup in a store, or buy anywhere and have the order shipped from the closest store or warehouse. The platform takes away all barriers to satisfying customer demand, no matter how the consumer is shopping.

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