CIOs and other executives must get past the idea that digital and physical sales channels are separate and distinct entities. They must connect them seamlessly.
One of the problems of modern commerce is how incompletely most companies integrate business activities across conventional and digital channels. The public Internet is now about two decades old, and smartphones have been around for nearly a decade. Yet, it's difficult to get a consistent and highly connected experience in both stores and on Websites, or to receive seamless service and support across different communication tools and channels.
At the heart of the problem is the way companies—particularly retailers—view business and IT systems. Too often, notes Jeriad Zoghby, global lead for Personalization and Media Optimization at Accenture Digital, CIOs and their organizations view digital delivery as a discreet entity. Moreover, because a digital storefront accounts for perhaps 5 or 10 percent of overall sales activity, it's afforded secondhand status.
"Whereas a brick-and-mortar store is refreshed every couple of years—everything from paint to signage undergoes an update—the digital channel winds up neglected," Zoghby points out. The result? Sites, services and apps aren't properly synced with the business. Not surprisingly, these tools impose usability challenges, as well as severe limitations for the enterprise.
Business and IT executives must recast their thinking. Ironically, a digital storefront is often the single biggest and most visible store a business offers, and it's the place where people turn for product information, pricing and commerce, Zoghby says.
It's also a valuable tool for driving brick-and-mortar commerce. POS (point of sale) data, when combined with online clickstream, geolocation, social listening and Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) data, can power a retail business in ways that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. Tying together online tools and physical assets the right way—with shopping lists, preference lists, in-flight tools and more—can unleash greater stickiness, next-gen marketing capabilities and superior results.
In the end, a high level of data integration leads to more granular insights into consumer behavior, along with the ability to act and react to wide-ranging events in real time. CIOs and other executives must get past the idea that digital and physical sales channels are separate and distinct entities. They must connect them seamlessly.
Otherwise, it's like designing and building a different TV set for every channel and somehow hoping everyone can watch every show.
Samuel Greengard, a contributing writer for CIO Insights, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.