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Are you a true omni-channel retailer?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 | By Taskmaster

The other day, Old Taskmaster was on a widget sales call at a shopping centre somewhere in that vast mass of suburbia southeast of Melbourne’s Yarra River.


The meeting took place in the food court of one of those sprawling concrete monstrosities that manage to be surrounded by three levels of parking on all sides and still have no empty parking spaces. This particular shopping centre (we’re not in America – it’s not a mall) had apparently managed to spawn an outdoor food court and a new Target store since the last time Old Taskmaster visited.


During the meeting, amidst the original 1970s plastic ferns, a small business owner mentioned with some pride that their business is now embracing the digital age. Sure enough, a quick look on Google shows this particular specialty store now has an online store and a mobile site, as well as accounts on Facebook and Twitter. There are even plans for some zany YouTube videos.


However, Old Taskmaster couldn’t help but notice the cash register was conspicuously tied up to an early ‘80s PC with a black and fluoro green screen. This box was so ancient that you would need to be a Jedi master in DOS just to get a mouse to work with it – surely this old brick wasn’t hosting their website?


Old Taskmaster was right. The ancient point-of-sale system in the store was not integrated with the online store, and it turns out the mobile site is provided by a third party company with an entirely different system of its own!


This setup means that this particular store has three separate database entries for each item of stock, along with three separate sets of sales records – in effect, they’re trying to run three separate businesses!


In contrast, efficient omni-channel retailers, and a good example of this is Country Road, have just one database and one set of records from which their business is run. A sale in-store ends up being recorded in the same database as a sale from their mobile and online websites. A pair of red shoes is counted in one record in one database for in-store inventory management, the website and the mobile site.


In short, successfully running a true omni-channel business is not just about whacking up a website. Any old dinosaur can do that. Instead, the secret lies in integration.


So how integrated are the online and offline parts of your business? If you’re not sure, it’s worth investigating – there could be some easy efficiency gains you’re missing out on.


Get it done – today!