Home Enterprise Solutions Omni-channel approach best to fight Amazon, retailers told

Omni-channel approach best to fight Amazon, retailers told

As the countdown continues for Amazon's entry into the Australian market, a senior official at a global enterprise software company has suggested that adopting an omni-channel approach might be the best way for Australian online retailers to maintain their appeal to consumers.

But Helen Masters, vice-president and managing director of Infor South Asia – Pacific and ASEAN, told iTWire that embracing such an approach was not easy.

"One of the biggest barriers for retailers is not knowing where to start," she said. "The success of retail marketers will depend on being able to recognise and take advantage of synergistic relationships across all the sales channels currently in play."

Masters is in charge of a region that comprises Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

In her role, she maintains new product lines with a focus on customer and partnership management and setting strategy to grow business in Infor’s micro-verticals in the South Asia region.

The first step that Masters advocates is to be the best of both worlds. She cited the example of Top Shop Australia, a company that had recognised the potential of having online and offline worlds work together.

Helen Masters.

Helen Masters: "Retail outlets should be specific about their area of focus."

"With plans to launch its own Australian online store, this UK fashion chain will use its existing shopfronts as distribution centres, providing greater access to products and offering shopping services such as click-and-collect, free express delivery offers, and the option to book an in-store session with a personal stylist online,," she said.

Secondly, she advocates being specific about one's area of focus. "The traditional idea of a 'one-size-fits-all manufacturing' solution has given way to a specific ‘retail-specific ERP solution’ with optional modules to address unique industry requirements," she said.

"This includes industry needs for supply chain visibility, new product introductions, complex scheduling and a myriad of other modern challenges. In order to increase profitability and maintain growth, brands need to adopt these tools into their omni-channel strategy to ensure they don’t miss the next trend that rides in on the consumer wave."

Then, Masters said, retail outlets should ensure that they were connected.

"For brand owners, the goal should be to move from a traditional supply chain, to a collaborative value chain relationship by sharing information and risk in order to align more responsively with consumer demand," she said.

"Ensuring there is constant communication between networks will help retailers achieve better quality and results, respond faster to change, and allow them to replenish their supply in a matter of days rather than weeks."

With millennial consumers being a generation that was driven by speed, this would have profound impacts on customer satisfaction, she added.

Masters advised retail outlets to listen to consumers' comments. "In today’s retail environment, the consumer determines what you’re doing, not the other way around," she pointed out.

"When customers interact with your brand they are communicating with you; telling you what they want to buy and how they like to make their purchase – so it is important to listen.

"With the technology to capture and analyse this engagement, as well as social media feedback, your customers can lead you to better designs. Retailers who use this data to their advantage adjust their manufacturing processes in real time to satisfy new demands and get closer to the consumer. After all, it all comes down to not only knowing what your customers want, but how to get it to them."

Finally, Masters said merchandise should be there to meet customer demand.

"To supply all of the right channels, you must look beyond the traditional notions of fulfilment. Make-to-stock or make-to-forecast aren’t going to cut it when consumers want so much more," she said.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.