Omnichannel or omnichallenge?

In this white paper we explore:

  • What are the four main challenges in connecting store to omnichannel journeys?
  • Which customer journeys are impacted by the store?
  • What are the considerations for frictionless commerce?
  • How can customer journeys be influenced by a retailer’s solution landscape?

The retail and hospitality sectors are continually challenged to raise the bar yet higher, and to provide easy and engaging experiences for their consumers.

Consequently, retailers are offering omnichannel services to their customers. But while retailers strive for a seamless experience for the customer, the reality in the back end may be a spaghetti of band-aided legacy systems, which defy a single view of order, stock, customer and basket. This means a community of customer-facing colleagues determined to provide excellent personal service are often instead consumed with resolving undelivered omnichannel promises to customers.

Omnichallenges lie hidden in many places

  • Systems that don’t talk to one another in a timely way
  • Colleagues who don’t have access to key information
  • Customers who are not kept informed
  • Insight that does not address issues developing in real time

With the in-store channel still representing 65% to 99% of revenue to most omnichannel retailers, but growth still prominent in eCommerce and emerging channels such as social – it is critical that omnichannel is easy and engaging for the consumer and retail colleagues.

Understanding how omnichannel impacts your customer journeys is the first step to addressing omnichallenges.

And from there, defining the data touchpoints between systems and the blurred edges between solutions (often provided by world-first best of breed partners) is the key to frictionless commerce.

Customer journeys impacted by omnichannel

Most retailers now know that most customer journeys are touched by multiple channels. Consumer behaviour such as browse, discover, build a basket, reflect on referrals and recommendations, and then to finally purchase – has evolved to occur via many channels. In-store plays a role across all those behaviours – however, what are the key customer journeys where in-store plays a major role in the omnichannel journeys? In a nutshell, although variations exist such as reserve rather than buy online, they are:

BOPIS: Buy Online Pick up In-Store, with fulfilment by central warehouse, pick up in-store, or fulfil from another store

BORIS: Buy Online Return In-Store

STS or OIS: Save The Sale or Order In-store, with delivery to home or store

In all of the above journeys, understanding where challenges could arise, and how frictionless can be enabled, is key to engaged colleagues and customers.

Key considerations for frictionless commerce

  • Must the store colleague access multiple devices in order to execute one or all of the above omnichannel journeys?
  • Is access to data such as single view of order, stock and customer basket, complicated and time-consuming for the store colleague?
  • Can the store colleague access data offline if your retail estate has connectivity issues?
  • Can your in-store processes and solutions easily accommodate fulfilment from store?
  • Can your fulfilment and collection processes in-store deliver to date/time collections and brand promises such as Click and Collect turnaround within a two hour window?
  • Is the experience frictionless for the customer – where an item is collected in-store and multiple in-store products purchased at the same time?
  • Where a purchase is made in-store and an order created for items not in stock – is this ‘order in-store’ an informed and fluid experience completed in one transaction flow?
  • Do price and promotion always reflect what the customer expects when moving cross-channel?
  • What about returns and refunds – must this be done through multiple devices or a flip between multiple views on a tethered till?
  • And importantly, upstream – does your team know what was purchased in-store at the time a collection was made? Or indeed orders placed in-store at the time a purchase was made? Such KPIs are critical to companies strategically investing in omnichannel.

Here we illustrate the nuances of implementing one customer Journey – BOPIS. The end result very much depends upon the retailer’s solution landscape.

With an order originating online, and the collection completed in-store – the opportunities for omnichallenges are plentiful.

eCommerce and in-store BOPIS scenario: Depending upon the retailer’s system landscape, BOPIS can be executed in several ways. For retailers with less complex fulfilment needs or opportunities, who stock relatively deep and replenish frequently, BOPIS could be executed with a clean handshake between eCommerce and Store. This would require a good picking solution in-store, perhaps on the same handheld terminal that stock and inventory is tracked. As well, with customer collection, the order should be visible on the same mobile tablet or tethered POS that ring up a mixed basket when a customer both collects and purchases items in-store. In this scenario, the order is managed as part of the eCommerce solution and fulfilled by the store.

In order for the handshake between eCommerce and Store to be fluid and precise, open microservices should exist to share the order data and status at all points. Customer communication on order status, even in-store picking, should be routed from the same point so that customer service issues can be easily addressed.

Omnichannel Commerce Services – for Store and eCommerce: Furthermore, for retailers who have complex commerce calculations, such as basket building, price and promotions already defined instore, leveraging these same commerce services and making them available online can provide a unified experience to the customer. Retail eCommerce sites generate rich brand content and personalised experiences – and create demand, prospect and customer acquisition. Depending upon a retailer’s requirement – eCommerce can complete the sale, and indeed omnichannel commerce services can play this role too.

eCommerce, Order Management Systems (OMS) and in-store BOPIS scenario: Many retailers face complex business realities when trying to meet customer expectations for a BOPIS journey. It may be that given the product range, picking from store is not possible and a warehouse delivery must be made; or indeed picking from another, close-range store and shipping to the collection store is more cost-effective. In today’s world of high customer expectations and free shipping offered by newer entrants, it becomes ever more important to offer service levels to customers at costs affordable to business. OMS or Distributed Order Management (DOM) solutions can calculate the best match between customer collection expectations and business cost through optimised algorithms.

For sophisticated fulfilment scenarios, in-store processes must enable complex picking functionality, as well as delivery. And this should be a blended solution with store and OMS systems collaborating to provide easy store colleague processes and tools for multi-tasking.

Real-time Store Inventory: Retailer in-store systems should be able to access single view of order in OMS, as well as enable the optimised fulfilment path. Real-time in-store inventory data that can be visible to eCommerce or OMS will help ensure customer expectations are met. It may be that the eCommerce requires real-time access to store inventory, or indeed, that the OMS requires this for optimised fulfilment calculations. In some cases, if the brand promise includes collection within so many hours from an order, then immediate in-store inventory availability online will be the driving consideration for where the customer can collect.

And of course, where the customer is concerned, collecting an item on time, and purchasing other items in-store, should be a simple and easy experience – with a store colleague who works fluidly through the transaction flow. The colleague’s focus should be on enhanced customer service, and not on trying to switch between systems or explain a local store promotion on the item that was just collected, yet purchased online at a higher price.

Understanding the options for delivering omnichannel customer journeys, and the omnichallenges that come with each option, is key to meeting customer expectations. Collaborating with solution partners across eCommerce, OMS, store and commerce platform to map out the options and choose what is best for your brand and customer is the first step to success. Having the confidence that your solution partners provide open, and flexible integration points that allow blurring of solution edges to optimise experience, is truly driving omnichannel.

After all, omnichannel is about frictionless commerce – for the customer, for the store colleague and for the retailer trying to implement it.

Tanya Bowen is Chief Digital Officer at PCMS. If you’d like to contact Tanya, email

About PCMS Digital

PCMS, a leader in retail technology solutions and services, powers the commerce capabilities of more than 140 global retailers including Walgreens, Waitrose, John Lewis,  Pick n Pay, Bass Pro Shops, Laura Ashley and Shoppers Drug Mart. PCMS provides pioneering retail solutions, 24/7 managed services and support, and trusted strategic advice across all verticals and sectors. PCMS specialties include point-of-sale (POS) software, cloud solutions, and mobile retail, including customer shopping apps, mobile POS and personalised customer engagement tools. Operating in 57 countries and across more than 300,000 selling points, PCMS has earned retailers’ trust with its agility, ability to scale fast and innovative customer engagement solutions for long-term growth.