1. Express IT Awards: The anchor in the retail story

Express IT Awards: The anchor in the retail story

E-commerce solutions need to be built on a far-sighted strategy as well as a near-sighted one so as to focus on enterprise-wide systems while ensuring an enhanced user experience

Published: November 10, 2016 6:04 AM

Most customers today do their primary online research before making a purchase. They seek inputs from their influencers and check for feedbacks available on various social media platforms. Once shortlisted, they then check these items at a kiosk, mostly in a nearby mall or shopping complex, depending upon their feasibility and if found suitable, then finally place their order online from the e-commerce portal which gives them the most lucrative deal. Owing to this new trend, businesses are now facing the unconventional challenge of omni-channel delivery management to give a consistent and seamless experience across all channels to their customers.

The key challenges around distribution include the ability of the distributors to cater only to 20-50% of the entire retail universe directly, which is also dependent majorly on the brand, product pull and geography. Further, the cost of managing distribution activity is also quite high in such cases.

Moreover, e-commerce solutions today have become an anchor piece in the modern day sales and fulfillment landscape which has multiple complex and critical business solutions around advanced analytics, CRM, ERP and billing systems. Today, an order can be retrieved from the same or another store or through online platforms with cross-channel enablement capabilities such as order online and pick up offline, order online and return at a store or order in one store and pick up at another, to list a few! All these order fulfillment and workflow capabilities have to be enabled with consistent rule driven application of discounts, promotions, prices and taxes.

This channel further has to be strongly integrated for integrated payment processing, aligned to prevailing payment industry standards like PCI–DSS 2.0 and PA-DSS 2.0. And, finally from the user experience perspective at POS, the solution must have strong capability to display order (with view, recall and edit capabilities), provide order summary and multiple parameter based order search capabilities.

We have observed that the typical questions organisations have around the solutions include:

1. Everyone is moving to cloud; so, should we also do that and if so, which model should we go for?

2. Open source systems look quite flexible and agile; do they make sense for our environment? If so, then which solutions?

3. How should we calculate the total cost of ownership for these solutions?

4. Would these solutions cost only what the vendors are claiming they will?

5. Big Data and Internet of Things seems relevant to our business, but how can we use them?

6. We want everything synced on our mobiles, laptops and tablets. Can the tool really provide these features?

7. Would it be better to start with on-premise and move to cloud or it should be the other way around? Which is more appropriate and why? Which is more future-proof?

Organisations should also have a bi-focal selection strategy for such initiatives. This would be a “far sighted strategy” to focus on the enterprise-wide systems which form the core of the organisation’s operations, and, a “near sighted strategy” to focus on the systems with direct customer (internal and external) touch points for enhanced user experience.

Further, organisations should primarily evaluate the applications from their business relevance perspective. Optimisation of efficiency across channels with potential new age solutions like machine learning (for demand forecasting and planning), augmented reality (for customer experience enhancement) and automated guided vehicles (for faster and efficient service fulfillment) is also important.

Therefore, experience management should be evaluated around features for personalisation, content authoring and management, content targeting, etc. Product information management module should have features like product taxonomy and attribute management, speed and ability to add new products and services, workflow, approval, business process support, etc. Also, commerce management capabilities around management of shopping carts, wish lists, registries, promotions at cart/ product level, cross and upsell capabilities, etc., are essential.

Further, the solution suite should be evaluated from a solution architecture perspective as to whether it has an ability to manage your business, access the scalability, security, integration, post implementation support and reporting along with the total cost of ownership for the organisation over the application lifecycle and not just licence and AMC fees.

Finally, after implementation of the e-commerce solution, the company should also regularly evaluate and assess it using an innovation assessment framework for fine-tuning the solution for both the far and near sighted strategies to incorporate changes triggered by the new-age solutions and innovations that come to the market from time to time.

The author is Saunak Ghoshal, partner – technology consulting at PwC.

Shashank Saini, principal consultant from technology consulting also contributed to this article.

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