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Improving Retail Customer Experiences with ERP Systems

Enabling Great Customer Experiences through ERP Software Solutions

The Retailer’s Blueprint for Success

Enabling great customer experiences is becoming increasingly difficult for retailers today as they confront challenges that are unprecidented in other industries. In fact, there’s a case to be made that retailers have experienced more change in the past few years than in the previous 100 years combined. As a result of these changes and the rise of the cloud, retailers must adapt to deliver on changing customer expectations. Those who succeed are able to differentiate themselves, while those that fail become irrelevant.

The blueprint for improving retail customer experience starts with a technology foundation built upon an ERP system that links an organization’s front- and back-ends, provides a single view of the customer, enables delivery of consistently outstanding customer experience, and is flexible and scalable.

Disruptions in Retail and Improving Customer Experiences

In just the past few years, retail has gone through massive disruption, and the rate of change continues to accelerate due largely to the influence of the internet and cloud, which provides consumers easy access to retailers with broad product assortments and transparent prices.

Today, the consumer is in the driver’s seat. They expect information and products at any time from any location, and no longer follow a linear purchasing path. Consumers expect a fast, seamless process.

As a result, retail and commerce have become “omnichannel,” combining physical stores, ecommerce, digital marketing and mobile in an interconnected experience. And, business models are shifting as product companies become service companies and service companies become product companies. Some retailers have been unable to adapt and have become extinct, while others have made dramatic changes to stay relevant, like adopting cloud ERP solutions.

This disruption is forcing retailers to rethink business processes, business models and business systems. Point solutions built for specific needs, such as inventory, financials or customer data are ill-suited to facilitate these sorts of transformations, while systems built before the internet even existed are unable to take advantage of the economies of scale and agility of the cloud.

Retail Challenges that ERP Software Solutions Help Solve

Amid these disruptions in retail, challenges holding retailers back include:

  • Aging, disconnected IT systems – Retailers can have as many as six to 12 on-premise legacy point systems, which are heavily customized and have to be integrated. The result is a big hairball, with each system providing different data, and high costs to constantly update and integrate these disparate systems. Traditional ERP systems have contributed to an IT deficit. ERP systems have historically been for the back-end. When a front-end solution was needed – like an ecommerce solution or mobile site – it was simply bolted on.
  • Inconsistent data – Data has to be consistent across all customer touchpoints to ensure a seamless experience.
  • Employee impediments – Without the tools and data to provide personalized, relevant experiences, employees aren’t empowered to provide experiences that stand out to customers.

Faced with disruptions in the market, many retailers are limited in their ability to complete by aging systems, inconsistent data and employee impediments. Retailers need to transform themselves with a connected ERP software solution (like NetSuite ERP or Microsoft Dynamics) that enables the delivery of improved retail customer experiences.

 

“These legacy systems are boat anchors holding retailers back on delivering more engaging experiences.”
Branden Jenkins, General Manager, Global Retail, NetSuite

 

NetSuite ERP: A Modern Business System for Improving Retail Customer Experiences

Customer-Focused Commerce Musts

In this hyper-competitive environment, NetSuite ERP has identified five pillars to building a unified customer experience based on the experiences of its strong base of retail customers.

  • 360* customer view – This requires having all customer data in one place, including purchase history, returns, and preferences.
  • Innovative experiences – Flexible platforms enable innovative new experiences that go beyond traditional ecommerce.
  • Intelligent order orchestration – Retailers need to be able to orchestrate orders intelligently and use inventory more efficiently to better serve customers.
  • Unlimited expansion – Retailers need scalable platforms that allow for unlimited expansion across the globe, as well as into new products and services cost effectively.
  • Single cloud platform – Because change is so fast, cobbling together and constantly upgrading on-premise systems is prohibitive. Outstanding customer experiences require a cloud platform.

Retailers face a choice of continuing to use multiple point solutions, using a traditional back-end ERP and bolting on front-end pieces or adopting a modern, cloud ERP solution.

NetSuite ERP Tools

As an ERP software solution, NetSuite provides multiple tools for retailers to navigate complex scenarios, all with the goal of delivering an outstanding customer experience. These include:

SuiteCommerce Advanced Site Management Tools – These tools enable retailers to easily prepare and manage web content across all device types. NetSuite makes the tasks of creating and updating retail websites simple

Bronto is a set of tools to help retailers engage customers through targeted messages and personalized campaigns. Bronto also has a Coupon Manager app. Bronto enables the building and automating of customized workflows to engage customers based on their behaviors and actions.

Cart Recovery – A workflow can be built to engage people who don’t complete a purchase after putting an item in their cart. Steps can include sending an individual an email that recommends items similar to those in the cart and providing a promotional offer. Also, a person can be encouraged to visit a local store where they can be assisted in person. Traditionally cart recovery has been an e-commerce function but can be an engagement tool.

Point of Sale – NetSuite’s point of sale solution provides full visibility into a customer’s shopping and purchase history across all channels. When a customer abandons an online order and then visits a store, the sales associate can see this information, as well as the customer’s previous transactions. This visibility of a customer’s history helps improve customer experience.

Intelligent Order Management – This produces a unified commerce experience and prevents fracture points. For orders, NetSuite’s order management tools use easily configured rules and preferences. Capabilities provided include the ability to split orders, see and manage exceptions, and have full visibility throughout all steps of the ordering and fulfillment process.

The workflow can also include a follow-up email after an order arrives to thank a customer, remind them of return policies, and provide contact information for questions. Simple interactions like this can greatly improve customer experiences.

Verticalization: Fashion Apparel

NetSuite is also investing to go even deeper into specific retail sub-segments, with the first sub-segment being fashion apparel. NetSuite is creating a Retail Apparel Edition with specific features and functionality tailored to this space. The retail apparel edition includes:

  • Unified online and in-store shopping
  • Optimized Inventory Allocation
  • Retail Business Operations
  • Enriched Online Experience
  • Merchandise Management

Partner With An Expert ERP Solutions Provider

In implementing NetSuite ERP, a best practice is looking holistically at the needs of customers and involving partners to provide the best solution. This may mean identifying the best partners in areas like strategic services or complementary products, such as website design or loyalty marketing. Another leading practice is to replace systems through a phased “stairway” approach. The steps include:

  • Remediate – This is getting the house in order by fixing broken processes, and can involve standardizing on a cloud platform. In the short term, retailers may keep and leverage third-party applications, while beginning on a path of consolidation.
  • Unify – The goal is to create a unified foundation, providing a single version of the truth in real-time.
  • Enhance – This continues the theme of unifying by connecting all channels in the shopping experience.
  • Innovate – Once consolidation has occurred and the shopping experience is connected, retailers can think more creatively and leverage technology to enhance the customer experience through personalized, targeted email campaigns or loyalty programs.
  • Disrupt – Gone are the days of technology inhibiting the customer experience. Now technology can differentiate the brand and the experience.

Conclusion

With the retail industry going through massive disruption, delivering consistently great customer experiences is now the basis of competition. Technology in retail can either deliver a fractured, impersonal experience because of disconnected systems or can enable a great experience by providing a 360° view of the customer to all parts of the organization.

NetSuite ERP has the technology, capabilities, and focus that retailers need. Retail is a strategic priority for NetSuite, with a particular focus on fashion apparel. NetSuite is continuing to invest in and improve its retail solution, is developing and sharing leading practices, and is working with retailers as true partners—all with a goal of improving retail customer experiences.

Please contact a member of our ERP consulting services team online or by filling out the form below for further questions or assistance. 

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