Why Retailers Should Recruit a Chief Omnichannel Officer Now

13-11-2015
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Thanks to modern technology and digital tools, the opportunities to interact with and buy from a brand today are ubiquitous. Customers want to shop anytime, anywhere. Omnichannel rules, and smart retailers are getting on board.

For the customer, the best of omnichannel creates a consistent and uniform experience across all touch-points — online, brick-and-mortar stores, social media, events, mobile and more — all the time. For the retailer, omnichannel reaches its pinnacle of effectiveness when each channel’s operations are connected at the back end and continuously provide integrated, customer-specific information coming into the organization. This highly valuable data can then be analyzed and acted upon, to build a sound strategy for new — and even more consistent — marketing and sales efforts going forward.

Transforming a multichannel entity into a true omnichannel organization is much easier said than done. It is a job that requires a dedicated, totally focused individual that has the responsibility — and seniority — to integrate multichannel systems (literally and figuratively) across all customer touch points: store operations, marketing, call center, and digital (which includes all forms of non-store-based commerce). This is made all the more difficult because traditionally — and naturally — most of today’s organizational structures have evolved into fairly ingrained silos.

A chief omnichannel officer can help a retailer go from silos to seamless. Here are the specific responsibilities the officer should tackle:

Eliminate silos

Customer touch points today usually exist in the store as point-of-sale systems, online as e-commerce systems and on-the-go as m-commerce platforms, the contact center, and other systems. Up to now, sales and other information has been collected and stored right back within the different system silos.

Retailers still getting used to multichannel efforts have traditionally kept channels independent of one another. This approach is fine, but does it really provide a true picture of how r customer interacts with a brand all the time? A savvy chief omnichannel officer will eliminate silos and integrate all channels at the back end to then take the next step: making the most of data that is generated by the customer.

Get the most out of customer information

To turn customer data into real information assets in aggregate, a central repository that can syndicate useful product information back out to the various channels must be created, and that is one big job. Today, disparate CRM systems are left struggling to get a single, consistent view of the customer. Customer information is one of the most valuable of assets in retail but it in a multi-siloed organization this data is rarely utilized properly.

The lifeline of a truly effective omnichannel experience is data that is integrated in terms of every customer data touch point, and that means integrating existing systems without minimizing each systems’ effectiveness, which is a tricky IT challenge that should be up front and center to a chief omnichannel officer.

Get staff on the same (omnichannel) page

Technical problems apart, siloed skills among staff create their own issues. Disconnects exist between a retailer’s business and technical staff. Open conversations that focus on people, processes and technology are rare between the chief marketing officer and CIO.

Separate heads for all functions — marketing, finance, merchandising, HR, stores, etc. — all report to the CEO or president. As a result, very few people have a holistic understanding of the business, much less what it takes to create an omnichannel presence. What’s more, most high-level, C-suite executives are too tied up with other business issues to commit to the kind of focus necessary to drive the creation of a functioning omnichannel organization.

A key responsibility of an omnichannel officer should be to drive — from a senior level — a commitment to omnichannel throughout the organization, oversee accountability in that commitment, and ingrain omnichannel into the company culture. Change is hard, but breaking silos to achieve synchronization, alignment and ownership among staff is paramount.

The omnichannel chief must encourage active involvement, monitoring, facilitation and support from channel leaders. To do this and communicate effectively with function heads, the officer must have an understanding of all customer touch points, the organization’s holistic business needs, and a direct reporting status to top leadership.

Be interested in revenue generation

Transformation into an omnichannel organization might come faster if, besides managing the development of strategies that integrate the company’s systems, people and activities, the chief omnichannel officer takes on somewhat of a P&L role.

When recruiting for the position, discuss the possibility of responsibility for revenue generation activities along with a reasonable share of the profitability. In the ideal scenario, the chief omnichannel officer will look after the execution of omnichannel and will also be responsible for the ROI on marketing investment. In that way, he or she can inseminate an organic acceptance of omnichannel best practices across all departments, while at the same time encouraging digital growth in such a way that it doesn’t affect current high-performing channels.

No doubt, the idea candidate needs to be one talented and well-rounded individual. Someone with strong digital marketing experience and exposure to other key business functions is a good place to start, and should enable the individual to grow into the role properly in a short period of time.

Simply put, transforming an organization into an omnichannel powerhouse is an exercise in managing change. Placing the right person in charge near the top of your organization will make it clear to all that it is an initiative to be taken seriously. Setting the right tone with all stakeholders will speed sincere acceptance and motivate everyone to deliver. If a retailer can achieve this, the company is on its way to converting your investment in omnichannel into tangible long-term results and strategic market advantage.

Salil Godika is co-founder of Happiest Minds, a next generation digital transformation, infrastructure, security and product engineering services company. With 19 years of experience in the IT industry across global product and services companies, he previously was with Mindtree for four years as the chief strategy officer/M&A and held P&L responsibility of an Industry group. Before Mindtree, Salil gained 12 years’ experience in the United States working for various software product companies large as well as start-ups.



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