CRM Is Getting a Foothold in Retail
Retailers are beginning to focus more on customer-centric fulfillment strategies, as well as creating support systems for all types of sales channels, according to a recent report, "Fulfilling the Retail Value Chain," published by consulting firm Aberdeen Group last week.
The report claims that retailers are looking for IT solutions that can streamline online and offline sales processes. But they must be aware that e-commerce is only part of a multichannel sales structure, and that many traditional forms of service and support are involved in both online and offline sales channels, says Kent Allen, research director at Aberdeen and author of the report.
"Potentially overlooked by some during e-commerce's return to prominence is the importance of telesales and call centers--a crucial component of an off-store sales channel strategy," Allen writes. "During a session at the National Retail Federation conference, venerable multichannel retailer Sears mentioned that 10 to 15 percent of its online sales start online, but end up in the customer call center."
Allen also writes that while off-store sales are surging, traditional brick-and-mortar sales are dropping, due to what he dubs the stale store syndrome. "A lack of unique merchandise is a key contributor to the loss of interest among once loyal customers," Allan says. "An overemphasized, at times desperate, attempt to generate profits also translates into less innovative approaches to merchandising strategies--and an over dependence by retail chains on the same group of product suppliers."
Retailers need to see the importance of investing in emerging technologies and of creating a sense of competitive differentiation in order to survive in a continuing down economy, Allen writes.
Allen did note, however, that the retail sector is on the cutting edge when it comes to the adoption of CRM solutions that integrate with supply chain applications. "The successful multichannel retail organizations of tomorrow will include those organizations that can align their investments with the shifting preferences of their customers, regardless of whether those customers prefer in-store or off-store channels, or both," Allen says. "The trick, however, will lie in understanding how best to balance future investments in technology across the sometimes conflicting needs of the different retail sales channels."