How to boost retail operational efficiency via process management
Photo by iStock.com
By Mark Holenstein, COO at Signavio
Today's retail marketplace is filled with dozens of ideas and strategies that address the omnichannel approach to business. Reporters are constantly covering stories to discuss which retailers are utilizing the omnichannel strategy. Often times, there is a conceptualized idea that omnichannel strategy is the only strategy needed to be successful in retail.
Having the best omnichannel strategy is not only important, but necessary when competing with other high-volume, low-margin sectors. In recent reports, mega-retailers such as Lowes have attributed much of their growth and success to their very own omnichannel strategies. From online integration to in-store and order fulfillment, Lowes noted one store saw a sales growth of over 33 percent during the quarter due to strategy implementation.
Physical stores remain one of the most important aspects of the omnichannel approach, with e-commerce moving forward as a strong component to retail business. The advancement of e-commerce has had a profound effect on the shift of processes and procedures internally. According to market research firm, Euromonitor International, total U.S. stores decreased by 0.1 percent in 2017 from a year earlier, which was the first downturn since 2009.
Not only are physical stores looking for ways to enhance the customer experience, they are implementing the same type of in-store technology that shoppers have access to online. Some of these features might be facial recognition technology, how-to-videos, and even screen technology to show customers what they might look like if wearing a specific type of makeup. All of these changes also mean a change to the back-end process of the store.
No omnichannel strategy would ever work without an effective Business Process Management (BPM) solution at work behind the scenes, integrating corporate processes and multi-faceted procedures that touch both the back-end functionality as well as the consumer-facing user experience. BPM is truly at the center of today's retail business model, tying everything like a technical conductor.
Retail stores today are much more complex than that of a single-roof mom-and-pop shop store as it appeared many years ago. Each aspect must be completely managed through one system. Every area must be integrated. From order fulfillment and logistics, sales and enterprise resource planning, to customer relationship management — all must be run by a web of data-driven technology systems that flow together.
BPM keeps all systems within an organization running independently, efficiently, and continuously. As a result, the customer experiences the benefits when they research, shop, transact, receive an order, and make contact with customer service. However, the customer never actually sees BPM, rather experiences it. When that process runs smoothly, and the customer walks away with a satisfied experience, BPM was at the center of it all enabling that retailer's success.
Behind the scenes, BPM also helps retailers with transformation as their businesses evolve. This technology helps retailers see their entire operations in an effort to identify competitive opportunities, establish actionable processes for employees, and deliver a seamless experience behind the scenes and in front of the customer, producing an environment for lower costs, greater transparency, reduced risk, increased agility, and innovation expedited.
As an example, CITTI Group, a large German-based grocery supplier, recently leveraged BPM to reign in operational tasks, processes and complex procedures that were difficult to document and manage during the company's rapid growth. The technology has resulted in better documentation for decision-making, as well as more integration between IT and other departments.
BPM works in two major steps for all retail organizations, and can work for businesses of any size. First, the technology helps create a model that outlines the correct process for each moving part. Second, it enables the creation of workflows that pull employees, processes, decisions, and technology into one seamless, transformed system.
Additionally, retailers would be wise to incorporate several key areas into their organizations that can help them identify where and how to implement a successful BMP solution, as well as structure the system in a way that they can identify key metrics and return-on-investments. These include steps such as discovery and mile-marking to identify key areas within the organization where BPM can offer the greatest impact, as well as the ability to simplify and standardize certain workflows.