Coming to grips with omni-channel retailing

Experienced ecommerce and digital strategy chief Larry Promisel outlines the key considerations for retailers bringing together their physical and digital offerings

A successful omni-channel strategy is an organisation-wide change that requires solid technology foundations and a clear strategic roadmap incorporating the ideas and support of the entire business.

How to create such a roadmap was the theme of a presentation by Camuto Group senior vice-president of digital commerce and experienced online retail leader, Larry Promisel, at the recent Online Retailer Conference and Ecommerce Expo in Sydney. He also shared his real-life experiences crafting an ecommerce and digital strategy.

Promisel is currently building Camuto Group’s online digital and ecommerce strategy, and has previously held similar roles with Bloomingdales, Barneys, Coach and BlueFly.

“Ecommerce is a disruptive force within an organisation and that’s a good thing – it shakes things up, but it also integrates and ties things together,” he said.

As a first step, Promisel advised retailers to gather as much data from across the business as they can. “Review and assess the gaps in your current state against future state, competitive benchmarks, and against best practice,” he said.

“You need to have a starting point to then determine where you should be, and what your targets should be.

“Interview as many people throughout the organisation as you can, and become a ‘superactive’ listener. There are a lot of good ideas already resident in organisations and people who know what should be done and how things could be better. Tap into these and create alliances - it will give you more capabilities and grow the business much further and faster.”

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For Promisel, anyone building new capabilities into their business should base decisions on three core questions: Where are we; where do you want to be; and how do you want to get there? The responses to each of these can then be broken up into functional areas and digestible parts, he said.

Retailers should also strive to take a phased, low-term approach and to build solid foundations before a staged deployment, Promisel continued. This will also ensure you have the flexibility to adapt and embrace new trends when you need to.

“Be realistic with your timing, especially when you’re building the foundation,” he added. “You not going to paint the house before you’ve poured the foundation or done the plumbing or electrics. That’s what you’re doing if you don’t have the right technology systems and architectures in place. Those are all the mechanisms and by building that foundation to extend off.”

Camuto is in the process of replacing all of its Web systems, which are expected to come online in October, and is taking a long-term view of omni-channel, Promisel said. But regardless of the approach you take, digital teams need to establish quick wins to cement their authority and trusted position within the organisation, he said.

Promisel then outlined as range of considerations brands should include in their action plans for omni-channel. These include growth management, international ambitions, top-down support and buy-in, timing, money, cross-channel cooperation, evangelising, organisational change, technology platforms, analytics, fulfilment and distribution and mobile devices.

“This requires human and technical capital, marketing, customer service – there are a lot of inputs into doing this right,” he said. “This is about organisational change.”

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