Retailing and the Impact of Social Commerce (Part 3)

Written by Nick SanchezApril 20, 2011

Part 3: Performance-Minded Solutions for Multiple Channels

In part two of this three-part series, Social Technology Review examined the ecommerce opportunities and organizational inhibitors RSR has uncovered in its latest annual survey of retailers.

Increasingly aware that a successful future will depend on both the physical and virtual channels, retailers are seeking out the best blueprints for crossing and steering the two.

In the final sections of its report, RSR has identified that one of the biggest organizational inhibitors facing fledgling multi-channel retailers is a lack of executive leadership in regard to the online side of business. Because the customer experience in a multi-channel world has an increasing amount of online touchpoints, companies that have pushed into online before many of their peers report that it has become more difficult to keep track of whether or not the customer is having a positive experience across the channels. Consequently, RSR’s 2010 survey showed that companies are seeing more and more value in an executive tasked with overseeing and steering that customer experience.

Unpacking this valuation, RSR determined that this management position is valuable because such an executive could concentrate on clearly articulating both a vision and strategy for the cross-channel experience. Thus, RSR recommends that this executive would also need to have enough knowledge and pull with store operations and merchandising to ensure that the online channel syncs with brick-and-mortar (and vice versa).

In addition to the power to enforce cross-channel vision and strategy, top-performing companies (“winners plus”) report that the customer experience executive and their team also needs an infrastructure that can provide metrics on customer activity.

Figure 19 of RSR’s report shows the Key Performance Indicators that companies value the most. It also contrasts these valuations with what companies actually have in use today.

Note that the second most highly valued metric, “cross-channel performance trends,” also shows the highest contrast in actual implementation. This shows that a great number of retailers, both pure-play online retailers and pure brick-and-mortar stores, have their work set out for them in building and uniting a well-coordinated cross-channel customer experience.

New for the FY2010 survey, RSR asked retailers to identify the multiple roles their ecommerce platform will or already does cover. These are roles that would further fall under the purview of a robust customer experience team. Seeing as more companies have plans for rather than current implementations of these expanded uses, it would clearly make sense for any such team to keep these uses in mind during any platform building or renovating even if such uses are a few years away from implementation.

As companies get further away from the strictures of the recession, RSR says that the number of companies with budgets and plans for a diversified ecommerce platform reflects a collective, mainstream belief that now is the time for an updated retail experience. (RSR also notes that for brick-and-mortar retailers the store multiplier factor has made a point of sale update especially overdue.)

The modern customer is a customer that comes to the point of sale after navigating a complex and well-researched shopping experience. This means that with each passing day it becomes increasingly valuable to make multiple channels available to the customer, and to make sure those channels are properly unified.

RSR has shown, empirically, that winning companies are those facing the technology tidal wave head on.

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