Online Retail Today

The Challenges with Frankenstein Retail Technology

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“Customers have long stopped thinking about channels. They don’t differentiate experience by online, mobile, social, or store — they have a holistic view of the brand and demand a consistent and seamless experience whenever, wherever, and with whomever they interact.”1

As indicated above, today’s savvy consumer is very demanding. Not only do they require a seamless shopping experience, they also don’t care that the process for the retailer and branded manufacturer to deliver that experience can be a very expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

As brands and retailers seek to accomplish omnichannel initiatives in their retail technology, on the surface it can seem easiest to repurpose current software and systems and bring on board the various missing front and back-end technology to try and build an omnichannel solution.

But over time, this manner of building out your technology set will have executives facing a Frankenstein situation: The bolted together machine has a semblance of true omnichannel, but it doesn’t actually function properly, work smoothly, and can’t be trusted. This frightful mess bogs down your business and prohibits you from merging the online and offline worlds.

The Challenges with Bolted Together Retail Technology

Many different parts make up omnichannel architecture, and at the center of that technology hub is your order management system, tasked with taking care of functionality like order routing, fulfillment workflow, and enterprise inventory available to promise. The other key players in the technology set might include a front-end eCommerce website, point of sale system, logistics, back office, customer care, warehouse, or PIM (to name a few), and these all need to communicate with the order management system.

Typically, this communication happens via APIs. But who maintains these APIs, and how do you make sure they will always work? As a retailer or brand, you rely on those API integrations to provide omnichannel functionality to your customer. But these Frankensteined commerce solutions weren’t built for the omnichannel expectations of today’s consumer.

That means that these multiple integrations require constant maintenance, and that if not attended to, become brittle, and ultimately fail. Additionally, some integrations never play well together and merchants are forced to use a complicated work around, expensive customization or an additional solution. These finicky integrations are error prone and do not provide the level of service expected.

When systems can’t talk to each other (due to brittle integrations or no integrations at all), the result is usually incomplete or duplicated data. For example: inventory is sent to the order management system, but can’t transfer through to the eCommerce site for accurate available to promise inventory visibility. To solve this challenge, retailers participate in the timely process of entering the same data into multiple locations, with the accompanying human entry error problem. Without a unified system that allows data to go between all areas, you will never have a single version of the truth.

To make matters worse, to upgrade any piece of a Frankensteined legacy system can be cumbersome, expensive, time consuming, and ultimately cause more problems. If a retailer or brand’s on-premise technology is customized, it frequently limits their ability to upgrade quickly and easily, even if they wanted to. These fears and inconveniences cause many retailers to avoid upgrades for as long as possible.

And let’s not ignore the customer experience side of this challenge. Customers not only want seamless online-to-offline experiences, but they want similar mobile-to-tablet-to-desktop experiences and disparate technology can prohibit the merging of various online platforms.

For instance, a customer could be shopping on their tablet before bed and add a few things to their cart. Walking into work the next morning, they may want to edit their shopping cart using their mobile device. And then they might complete their purchase on a desktop at lunch. Each and every view needs to be optimized and consistent. Customers recognize when one channel provides a worse experience than another and Frankensteined systems do not provide a consistent view across platforms.

How to Defeat Frankenstein

Remember, systems that can’t communicate with each other, or can’t communicate well, force fragmented and misaligned consumer expectations due to inconsistent customer experiences across platforms, limited customer options, brittle integrations, and incomplete data.

The solution to disparate retail technology is a unified end-to-end omnichannel commerce solution. By investing in a technology platform that is integrated seamlessly from back-end to front-end, you gain a single version of the truth and a powerful ally that allows you to achieve your omnichannel initiatives and delight your customers. Don’t let Frankenstein technology prohibit your omnichannel goals.

1. It’s Time For Retail Stores To Open Their Doors To The Digital Org, Forrester Research, Inc., October 29, 2015

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