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Beware of 'fomni': How can you tell fake omnichannel from the real deal?

8th Sep 2015
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Retailers today are in a constant search for the industry’s Holy Grail – delivering an omnichannel brand experience across all touchpoints. Unfortunately, this journey to deliver on the promise of the omnichannel experience has given rise to a troublesome and pervasive problem known as fake omnichannel or "fomni".

Amidst their search, retailers confront a wide array of commerce-related software solutions masquerading as omnichannel, promising to provide the type of seamless experiences shoppers now expect. Fomni is often a collection of disparate systems stitched together that never truly communicate with each other in real time or with the high level of accuracy needed to execute an omnichannel experience. Fomni systems can’t produce a single system of record for customer, inventory or order information. These breaks in the customer experience put retailers at a severe disadvantage.

Determining whether a retailer’s solution is truly omnichannel or merely fomni is simple. Look out for these clear signs of fomni.

  • Your IT team needs to work closely with marketing to implement new ways to engage with shoppers.
  • Shoppers are frustrated with the lack of visibility into inventory on your ecommerce site or when they are in-store.
  • Your prices are inconsistent amongst your channels.
  • You don’t have visibility into every customer interaction.
  • You’re sending out marketing emails advertising products that aren’t in stock.
  • Your sales are declining and you are ceding market share to more digitally adept competitors.

Most consumers will have already experienced fomni in a retail environment. A prime example of fomni in action is miscommunication between the online and in-store retailers. 

Recently, I found a light fixture on the website of a major indoor lighting chain. However, ordering it online meant it would take over a week to arrive so instead I sourced the lighting fixture from the retailer’s local shop and bought it there instead. I later went back to the retailer’s website and ordered a matching accessory. A few days after the accessory arrived I received an email promotion offering a mammoth 50% off the original light fitting I bought in-store. This in itself is a prime example of how fomni can frustrate consumers.

In this example, the ecommerce system had no visibility into in-store purchases. What’s worse, when I called to explain the problem, the call centre I reached only handled online orders and had no visibility into any in-store transactions. I was now a frustrated customer. I returned the light fixture and then bought it again for half the price, which meant additional operational costs for the retailer. This is the dark side of fomni for both consumers and retailers. To avoid fomni and ensure the customer receives a seamless shopping experience, retailers must reexamine the foundational systems that are used to run their business.

Retailers will never deliver a true omnichannel experience if they just get a new POS or ecommerce system. To enable a true omnichannel brand experience, retailers must ensure the business has a foundation in place which seamlessly unifies customer, inventory, financial and order data with their customer-facing systems. Unfortunately, most businesses have point solutions which are loosely integrated with data spread across CRM, ecommerce, store operations and financial systems.  

In addition, fomni can result in significant expenditures in IT time and resources as retailers struggle to manage multiple licenses and integrations and grapple with the ripple effect a change to one application can wreak across the entire business. Today’s customers have little sympathy for the limitations of retailers’ existing systems. Consumers expect the company they’re doing business with to have real-time access to the same customer, inventory and order data no matter the channel they’re interacting with.

Don't be fooled by fomni solutions. True omnichannel allows retailers to serve the needs of customers across every touchpoint. If your current systems can’t do that, then it’s time to reassess your business needs.

Andy Lloyd is general manager of commerce products at NetSuite.

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