It is a highly tumultuous time in retail.
Omni-channel retail, unified commerce, converged commerce – these are all discussed incessantly. We started the year with what many called retail Armageddon. Within the first two months of 2017, about 3,500 stores were expected to be shuttered. Headlines continue to scream of mall closings, overabundance of retail floor space, and the growing adoption of online shopping. Add to it the recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, and Bonobos by Walmart, and we have a wildly brewing industry.
What are retailers to do? Keep reading to find out.
To survive, retailers need to find ways to cater to their customers that increase brand and store loyalty. That’s where omni-channel retail comes in. Omni-channel retail means a customer can buy and fulfill their purchase order through any channel available from that retailer. It means buying goods online, and either having them delivered to your door, or having the product readied for pickup at a nearby physical store within an hour or two. It blends digital and physical worlds. In fact, it blends the best of both worlds. It gives shoppers the convenience of online shopping, yet can still blend in a strong service experience when that consumer comes into a store to pickup an order.
Nirvana is too strong a term for it, but omni-channel is about giving your consumers convenience, ease, and most importantly a seamless brand experience – regardless of how they want to purchase. To make this happen retail technology vendors offer unified commerce or converge commerce solutions. This means that the technology is integrated together to be able to work together. The warehouse management system (WMS) needs to provide inventory information to the order management system (OMS) in real-time, the point of sale (POS) system needs to update the OMS of sales, inventory depletion statistics – all this has to be fed to the eCommerce platform (eCP), and so on. Unified commerce basically means all these systems work together seamlessly.
Unified Commerce Options
Many large Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vendors argue that the only way to have a unified commerce system – it to buy their full package. Just reading that sentence you can hear the cash-register go ‘cha-ching’. You guessed it, this means a BIG price tag for the retailer, not to mention a massive painful implementation, integration and deployment project that averages out to over 21 months. Worse yet, you can’t be sure about what you are getting. Sure the system all works together, but you can’t be sure that the systems like the OMS are robust or powerful enough for your needs.
Your Real Options
Middleware gives you new options. The truth is that unified commerce or converge commerce systems can be built with truly best-of-breed and best-in-class technologies. These don’t come from single ERP vendors who distribute their development efforts across many sub-systems, rather than focusing and providing the best possible solution for any particular system.
Retailers are better served by working with best-of-breed, focused vendors that provide much more robust, rich, and capable solutions. Historically the challenge with best-of-breed solutions was that you had to stitch them all together yourself. That was technologically challenging. However, middleware takes away this pain, makes the integration a known process. It contains your costs while reducing your time to market with the solution. By using middleware connectors, retailers can focus on finding the best possible point solutions, and tying them all together into a unified commerce solution – without getting tied to one single vendor.
Well constructed middleware allows IT teams to select the best technologies, tie them together, and ensures they are NOT bound to one partner with excessive leverage. In fact, if things change and one solution provider does not work out, it can be singularly removed from the unified commerce system and replaced with another best-of-breed solution. This keeps each vendor on their toes, to ensure their technology is performing at its best, while also making sure they are continually evolving their product to meet and exceed customer needs.
Delivering the Retail Promise
A tumultuous, and dynamic market means retailers need to move fast to adopt omni-channel strategies. That means retailers need converged commerce solutions. However, they also need the flexibility to maneuver, change and adjust as the markets meander. Getting tied to one single monolithic system or old-school vendor is not a viable option. Well built and well performing middleware means retailers can use effective and scalable data integration to create the ideal unified commerce solution that can distantly outperform competitors. Retail customers are demanding. They want options, flexibility, delivery and a great service experience. Your retail brand makes this promise. Middleware lets you put together the best system to deliver on your promise.
About the Author
Charles Dimov is Director of Marketing at OrderDynamics. Charles has 21+ years experience in Marketing, Sales and Management across various IT and Technology businesses. Previous roles include Chief of Staff, Director Product Marketing, and Director Sales. Charles has held roles in brand name firms like IBM, Ericsson, HP, ADP, and OrderDynamics.
OrderDynamics is the world’s leading SaaS Order Management Systems provider. Focused on powering retail fulfillment, OrderDynamics helps clients in omnichannel retail markets. Our OMS systems give clients capabilities like order orchestration, enterprise-wide inventory visibility, returns management, customer service, and store driven fulfillment. OrderDynamics enables customer options like click and collect, and ship-from-store, creating exceptional shopping experiences. For more information, visit www.orderdynamics.com.