The current pandemic has changed the way retail will be operating in time to come. Retailers are facing the reality of what it means to have no e-commerce operation to revert to when stores are shut. Omnichannel, supported by agile, unified commerce systems can help a retailer adapt to unexpected market forces.
Mukesh Khandelwal, VP Engineering, Ace Turtle, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: Why is it critical for brands to have a unified commerce approach post Covid-19?
Mukesh Khandelwal: Covid-19 has thrown the retail industry out of whack. Everyone, from businesses to customers, are facing a new world where social distancing is the norm – making things psychologically hard. Safe, contact-less commerce has become the new demand from all customers. Customers want to discover products online, and have them delivered at home, or have the choice of going to the store to pick them up. However, the retail industry is not ready to provide this contact-less omni channel experience to the customers.
The primary reason is that most of their systems (POS, order management system, Inventory Management system, CRM, etc) are siloed, legacy systems, built over time. These systems don’t talk to each other. As a result, retailers are unable to fulfil the omni-channel shopping experience that the customers expect from the brands in these times and era.
Another point is that as the governments across the world ease the norms and allow stores to open, customers will still want to shop in a safe environment. Hence, it would become critical for retailers to reach out to their customers via online channels, allow them to view the store catalog online and complete their shopping journey either online or offline. Unified commerce is critical to make this happen.
Unified commerce combines product discovery, order fulfilment, inventory management, customer relationship management, point of sales (PoS) capabilities and more across channels in a single unified platform. A unified commerce platform allows brands to reduce costs and time involved across all the phases – from implementation, to maintenance and upgrades.
Moreover, it provides a single combined view of the brand’s business across online and offline channels. This helps businesses simplify their operations, analyse brand performance across channels and take decisions that will benefit the business in operating faster and more confidently.
DQ: How can omnichannel be a help for retailers?
Mukesh Khandelwal: In the current internet wave, customers want the ability to do product discovery and product research on the web, and complete the purchases either online or offline. The line of distinction between online and offline customers is blurring. Hence, retailers have to take an omnichannel approach to serving their customers.
Omnichannel allows retailers to showcase their products to both online and offline customers. Customers can complete the purchase either in the store or from the comfort of their homes. Retailers can target both the walk-in customers as well as the customers who shop on online channels (webstores and marketplaces).
For retailers, omnichannels break the chains of being tied to a physical location and help them provide their customers the best experience of the online and offline world. Retailers can also take advantage of customers’ online behaviour to recommend the right product and experience when the customer comes to the physical store.
DQ: How will it affect the customers — online and offline?
Mukesh Khandelwal: The expectation of the omnichannel has been around for a long time. However, most brands have a broken experience when it comes to omnichannel. The online and offline systems are siloed and not-connected. It means, all the information about the customer’s interaction with the store or website, is not passed on to the other channels.
However, post-Covid-19, this customer expectation has moved from being a nice-to-have feature to being a must-have feature. The customers would want a consistent experience across channels. They would expect that all the information that they have provided online should be available to the store staff. They would expect the recommended products in the website to be based on their past in-store purchases.
A truly omnichannel platform provides consumers a seamless experience as they access the brand through different channels. A consumer wants to be able to start the shopping experience in one channel and have it remembered when they switch channels. Whether it’s something in a wish list, a shopping cart, or starting research on their desktop when he is in office and then continuing the experience sitting in the couch with their mobile device, the retailer or brand needs to provide an experience that will build a strong long-term relationship with prospective customers
DQ: How is Ace Turtle positioned in all of this?
Mukesh Khandelwal: Order from anywhere, fulfil from anywhere, is something that we believe today has become one of the critical success factors for retail brands. The idea of gratifying customers in creative ways is not new. Brands have been doing that for ages. What customers now expect is much more! A truly omnichannel experience!!
A unified and consistent experience about the brand is utterly desired on both fronts: online and in-store. It applies not just at one level, but at all stages of a buying cycle from becoming aware, taking a decision to actual buying and receiving the support.
Ace Turtle’s unified commerce platform, Rubicon 3.0, provides that and takes the omnichannel experience to one notch higher. It is the ERP of new age commerce. It is future ready and gives the agility to the enterprises to respond to the dynamic and changing market needs. Rubicon 3.0 is much faster, more scalable, and more empowering for users. Clients can themselves configure their use cases as they build their omnichannel journey.
Rubicon 3.0 comes with machine learning capabilities that help brands forecast their sales and manage stocks. The platform provides unified data across channels – brand webstore, marketplaces, social commerce, new digital channels and in-store mobility tech.
The platform also provides a single view of inventory across channels and is completely configurable. It also comes with the added advantages of Unified Commerce Platform such as faster integration and faster go live; shared resources leading to speed of operation, hence, leading to increased margins. As the platform provides visibility of all channels and systems, and flexibility, in terms of integration and product functioning, it leads to increase in efficiency and agility for the brands.
DQ: How can you integrate multiple retail systems?
Mukesh Khandelwal: We follow a simple process. Once, we onboard a brand on to our platform, all we need from them is the inventory data and the channels that they want to operate in. The unified commerce platform, Rubicon 3.0, does all the heavy lifting, starting from integrating with their catalogue management system (PIM), enabling and integrating with sales channels a brand wants to sell through, and integrating with the delivery partners.
Rubicon 3.0 comes pre-integrated with a number of e-commerce marketplaces, including Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, and TataCliq. Brands can start selling on these marketplaces right from day zero of going live on Rubicon.
We have already integrated with a number of last-mile delivery partners, like Bluedart and XpressBees, that allows the orders to be fulfilled with very little effort on integration. Hence, a brand can easily start selling online and become omnichannel with very little effort and time.
Data from all of these systems flows seamlessly across our unified commerce platform, Rubicon 3.0, and enables a brand to have a single view of inventory, order and other details, which they want to observe for their sales operation. It is a completely self-service DIY tool, which does not require any coding. Brands can seamlessly operate and manage their inventory for multiple sales channels through this platform.