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The Six Steps: Step 1: Executive Engagement

The Six Steps To Follow For Cross Channel Commerce Evolution: Step 1: Executive Engagement: Heidi Chapnick Customer Care, CEO, Channalysis, LLC
Posted: Feb 12, 2010 |- published in seven marketing trade magazines subsequently

Ebusiness and cross channel content and commerce grew by 18% in 2009? Did your brick and mortar grow by that rate?

These articles outline the six steps that are the components pivoting you towards being able achieve ultimate success for content or commerce driven websites and other channels of engagement:

• Executive engagement
• Needs Assessment/Analytics and the Science of ROI
• IT Engagement Modeling
• Marketing
• Operational Execution/Employee Engagement
• Customer Centricity

With new technology coming out at an exponentially growing rate, retailers are forcefully thrust into a swirling dynamic and volatile euniverse, scrambling to understand which technologies will help and across which channels and with the best ROI. Success factors and expected profit have been plugged numbers, with little ability (in the past) to really guesstimate with andy degree of accuracy. Why? Because there was a lack of successful models and also a lack of understanding the factors that will either limit or facilitate success, causing retailers to make strategic decisions without all of the necessary information; expending thousands of shared IT hours on hit or miss solutions. But hold on! We are still missing something. What about what the customer needs and desires? Will your customers be fully and completely satisfied with what you are offering? Have you considered this in your plans? Have you seen the five -year roadmap for this piece of the business? If so, who is creating it and who is driving it? Are your cross channel priorities being defined by the ultimate stakeholders – you and your customers? Make no bones about it, it is about the customer. They are the single tipping point, the guide of the puck and our final redemption, or lack thereof (pun intended). It’s very easy to succeed when you start with the customer and then walk 360 degrees around them.
These are some of the questions to ask yourself if you offer supporting channels of engagement:

How do we deploy solutions that are both customer centric, ‘the cost of doing business’ and yet balanced with those initiatives that are profitable while catching up to and surpassing competitors?

Who is providing the foundation for the ship, steering the ship and guiding and governing its course?

Do our enterprise pillars of operation acknowledge other channels of sales besides the brick and mortar?

With vendors touting their many and robust solutions, where do you start? You start with the customer and move back from there. It’s that simple. What is the experience we desire to offer the customer? Instead of asking what the customer can do for us in the long run, what can we do for the customer? Simply, instead of asking how to get our customers to be loyal to us, how do we show our loyalty to our customers? How do we show consistency and integration of efforts to provide the ultimate experience. Who is making these decisions? Is your infrastructure set up to foster and facilitate collaboration, or are you building silos by not integrating your other channels with your core business? Look at your internal company landscape carefully…and read on.

For hundreds of years we have used science to explain methodically and with evidence, the many unexplained phenomena of the universe. So it is not a far stretch to use science to understand the parallel universe of the internet and digital space, now that it exists. Espace is a whole new universe, ripe with the potential for earnings, revenue and happy and informed customers that will rival and probably supersede any brick and mortar enterprise on this planet. We now have the easy answers for the less knowledgeable and the tough answers to the most complex challenges through science.

The idea of using the hard sciences (biology and chemistry) has always been a fundamental strategy in providing evidence and proof of hypothesis. The idea of using the soft sciences, psychology and psychiatry (the psychodynamics of retail customer centric behavior and subsequent solutioning) has only been internalized over the past ten years as an integral and pivotal touchpoint for proof of concept. But the available rewards of using this approach are reaped with viewing and analyzing hard science metrics…customer satisfaction indexes, increased trust and loyalty, increased basket size and frequency, increased retention and increased revenue.
In relation to all digital media, commerce, and content espace, hard science implies using ROI analytics for needs assessments, prioritization and planning . Soft/social’ sciences are used for the development and subsequent deployment of customer centric solutions to devise and deploy strategic business plans and roadmaps and in building interactive empires, just as we have built brick empires for hundreds of years. Although this enterprise may be different in offerings and services, it must be the same in value. And although this enterprise may have different competitors than the complementary retail brick competitors, integration is a pivotal and mandatory part of the retailer business, especially in this environment and economy. Finally, although the website or other channels may be for information and content, rather than transactions, unless you are willing to fully integrate all of your channels for content and commerce with your core business philosophy, and support and engage at the executive level, you will not likely enjoy the fruits of a successful future enterprise or ebusiness, whether transactional or content/informationally driven. Nor will your customers be fully and completely satisfied with what you are offering. Think about it like raising children. We don’t, as parents, leave our newborns alone to fend for themselves. We care for them, guide them and assist in their assimilation and growth. The guiding principle is the same.
So, again, where do you start? You start where the customer is standing and walk a circle around them.

Whether you have a commerce or a content website, or one that combines both, it is imperative that you have a full understanding of and are setting the guidelines and positioning for your website and other channels of engagement. Channels besides the retail store need to be properly directed, integrated and led by the people who have built your successful brick and mortar empire or at the very least, collaborated with. Use the other channels to support enterprise initiatives but using collaborative methods so that people are not working in silos with their own set of priorities. Your channels need to be consistent and provide the customer an experience that is of the same value and with the same positioning as your stores. Otherwise, your message will be confusing and your levels of functionality and enhancement will be based upon what the other channel leaders want, not thinking holistically about the enterprise and causing conflicting priorities. Customers should be able to use all channels in an interoperable manner. For example, if you have a loyalty card, its use and value must be the same across all channels. The experience online or on mobile must offer the customer the same value, because if it doesn’t, a customer will utilize the method that yields the highest value and become frustrated with your other channel(s). Example: I was once in a Company that didn’t have the necessary guidance and governance. The online channel actually decided to separate out photo and other services that were part of the enterprise. Although caught in time when it went for final review, the amount of work and resources (IT, marketing, etc.) spent to isolate and separate out these core services from the enterprise could have had disastrous results for the customer and the messaging. The collaboration and direction needs to be set prior to a final review. They need to be set by the executive team.

Siloed work efforts are caused by not setting executive level pillars of operation that clearly define these new channels and not hold accountable the leaders in the company that have spent their lives becoming experts in their fields. Cross channel merchandising can be a subset of the general merchandising department, but be housed in the general merchandising department for the silos to be broken down. Why are so many retailers not using our subject matter experts to evolve? The merchandisers are not responsible for their categories in any other channel, only the brick and mortar store. Yes, they will need training. Even though in five years, the customers will be the same, using each channel differently for convenience, the customer is not necessarily the same at this point in time. Online strategies for example, with respect to assortment, can be quite different at this point in the evolution. Ok, so they need training. But they also need P&L responsibility to truly be involved. Pricing strategies are pricing strategies. And although again, they might be different on line, they are still strategies for which there are experts within your organization who have made their careers by focusing on this. If they are not studying industry trending for other channels, they should be. Otherwise, you now have a different pricing strategy for other channels which may be discordant from your enterprise strategy. Yes, you may need to deploy different tactics and strategies for other channels, but these decisions need to be fully researched and understood by the experts within your organization, and they need ultimate accountability and facilitated integration. This is what looking at the internal landscape and infrastructure will tell you – are you set up for silos or collaboration?

Six steps outline the major areas in which focus and commitment is mandatory to not only integrate your commerce (or content) site and other channels, but to really excel and succeed in a turbulent economy. Below is a description of Step 1:

l. Executive Engagement –As outlined above, the fundamental pillar of pivoting towards success is to have people, directors and managers running a business that should get its guidance filtered down from the executive team.
Start with your pillars for the enterprise. Is there a pillar for the customer? Is there a pillar for channels of sales not inclusive of the brick and mortar?
All channels must have the same value (which does not necessarily mean the same exact offering) and YOU decide how to do that. For example; if the customer can’t use their loyalty card online, purchase and redeem gift cards, they will go elsewhere. Moreover, your loyalty leader probably doesn’t even know about the disjoints in functionality across channels. Email management is another example. How many databases do you have for your business? Do you have a separate database for email for your online customer and your in- store customer? How many emails are you sending a week? Is there governance over the process? How can there be if each area is working in their own silo? Do you have a single view of the customer across all shopping and engagement channels, content and commerce related interactions? And if your online business is used just to push customers to the store, then your focus should be on a content website because you don’t’ have a strong value proposition to be offering a cross channel experience.

We are sending a confusing internal and external message, or no message at all, about the importance of these channels. This avoidance of embracing or even acknowledging these other channels that are a part of your core business ends up with a confusing message to our customers as well , because the same care isn’t taken with other channels as being important and they are that important for the customer, whose main concern is convenience and convenience equals choice and choice creates value. Below are some final recommendations for serious review:

• Acknowledge other channels in company pillars- other channels, particularly the online space, have a much higher exposure rate for customers than the store. They need attention. You might also want to put in a customer experience pillar because then you will be automatically working towards a single view of the customer which will allow the ultimate personalization we are all striving for.

• Lead by example – Are YOU using your available channels regularly to show support? Are your employees? Donate to your own business. Shop across all channels and make it a company mandate for employees to do the same.

• Invest in the future- Executive committee commits to capital expenditure and resources with a full vision and a mission that will not change every year, but will be sustainable with small modifications.

• Lose it! – the segregated P&L- sure, keep it for tracking, but hold accountable your experts within the organization. Have one marketing department, one merchandising department, one pricing department. Once the P&L is integrated, all of the time, money and energy spent on showing the store lift (the necessary ‘Aha’ for engagement) will be spent on personalizing the relationships with customers across channels for the holistic growth of the company as a whole. Wouldn’t it be great not to have to spend hours negotiating as to which pot the funding is coming from and which it is going into? There are solid ways to facilitate integration that will benefit all. Don’t be afraid that you will be cannibalizing your retail empire- the multi channel customer is over 2x more valuable. Period. (Forrester)

• Look at your infrastructure and be prepared to make changes – are you set up to break down silos? If you keep segregated, you never break down the silos. moreover, you end up with renegade programs, conflicting solutions and haphazard deployments. Your end result will be poor customer service, band-aid solutions and a failing cross channel business. I worked once with a company, building a commerce website. The team wanted exposure in the circular. We thought this would just be a matter of planning. Instead, we were given a bill for $200,000 for a few inserts…to advertise with our own company!

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