The Challenges Prevailing in the Omni Retail Space

Dr. Anil Chinnabhandar (D.Litt), Senior Vice President - Planning & Supply Chain, Landmark Group India - Max RetailFounded in 1973, the Landmark Group encourages entrepreneurship which in turn has pioneered leading homegrown brands that are market leaders in their categories and are known to deliver exceptional value to customers

Indian Retail space has been in ‘turbo mode’ ever since the e-commerce companies entered the space. The e-commerce wave has swept the consumers like never-before in India. The Wave of e-commerce has taken the traditional Brick & Mortar retail into a completely different gamut! Traditional retailers who had taken the customer for ‘granted’ hitherto, with service levels, quality and the price, have now been given a harsh dose of their own medicine. The astute customer can easily make a retailer pay hefty penalties on untimely, low quality, dissatisfied goods and services by returning the same and seek an instant refund on the purchase. However smart tech-savvy retailers are servicing such customers smartly, using technology and smart applications!

Smart Retailers are offering their customers alternate solutions, products, ways and means to shop without having to worry about the spend! Technology enables these smart retailers to offer their ‘entire inventories’ in a ’single view’, meaning irrespective of which channel that inventory may reside (brick & mortar stores, warehouse, hub, online bucket), or the physical location, consumer would be able to see the available inventory, across multiple channels (at the stores, kiosks, online, app, market place, own web sites)! This increases the chances of positioning the available inventories for each customer trying to shop! Retailers must wire all their backend systems seamlessly and in ‘real-time’ to be able to offer this Single view inventory.

Larger enablement is demanded in servicing the Omni-retail orders as the serviceability of these ‘Single view inventory’ may
across the region or even far away locations. order management system should be able to intelligently identify the item, location, time & cost to service the specific order. For example, A customer from Ooty, may order a winter jacket from an apparel retailer, who may have inventories residing at various locations across the country. The Order management system should smartly decide the best servicing location based on business rules and ensure the earliest delivery to the customer. Any delay in servicing the orders may lead to cancellation of the order or non-receipt/refusal to receive the order by the customer, which can cost the retailer on processing, logistics including reverse logistics without any sale!

While Omni retail offers a great opportunity to acquire and impress the customer, the same opportunity may exert enormous pressure on the entire value chain demanding highest levels of efficiencies

Omni retail orders demand priority processing at the backend operations too. Locating the right product at the most suitable (cost-effective) location, picking, checking on quality aspects, packaging, manifest, invoicing, routing the delivery through predetermined Logistics partner, to the last-mile delivery requires agile systems/applications support to manage the entire operations. There are retailers now who are using predictive analytics or big data analytics to improve efficiencies and service quality.

While the Omni-Retail perhaps offers the highest levels of opportunity with customer experience and satisfaction, managing Omni environment for a traditional brick and mortar or a pure-play online retailer becomes a huge challenge. Retailers would need highly reliable and real-time systems/tools support the value chain; right from presentation of the single view inventory, merchandise range, assortment plans, demand sensing, storage locations and distribution. Hi-end business intelligence tools with quick to use dashboards enabling faster decision-making for managers and accurate inventory visibility along with the reliable timelines for operations teams would become mandatory. Sourcing & Planners would require intelligent insights into the trends, fashion and ‘saleable’ styles including geo-based demand sensing signals. Supply chain teams would need smart inventory management systems and highly efficient fulfilment systems for both forward and reverse logistics. Though there are various tools, applications, apps and Business intelligence tools available in the market, retailers must closely choose between what works for them best at the shortest time span rather than a ‘perfect’ traditional solution, which can consume months or years of implementation.

While Omni retail offers a great opportunity to acquire and impress the customer, the same opportunity may exert enormous pressure on the entire value chain demanding highest levels of efficiencies. A smart retailer can ensure to ‘touch’ their target audience using digital media effectively across malls, homes, work and even at the social networks and most importantly ‘convert’ that touch into sale and deliver a superior customer experience with the help of suite of intelligent IT systems!