Managing performance in a multichannel world

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By Michael Allen, Solutions VP, Dynatrace.

When cut back to its rawest roots, the key goal for any retailer is to generate more sales and deliver stronger margins. A number of factors combine to enable this to happen: repeat custom generated by loyal customers, innovative products that solve genuine problems, demand created through creative campaigns, the list goes on. Yet the most important factors underpinning all this is access, payment and delivery. Essentially, if a retailer wants to make more sales, they have to make it as appealing and hassle-free as possible for customers to buy.

The buyer journey has been completely transformed over recent years, which has added complexity. The new tech savvy shopper is equipped not only with a laptop, but a smartphone, tablet, maybe even a pair of Google glasses; this explosion of technology creates new lucrative revenue streams for canny retailers to exploit. In fact, according to a report from analyst firm Retail Systems Research, consumers that connect with retailers via multiple selling channels are more profitable than ones who don't.

It is no surprise, therefore, that a further report from analysts at Forrester Consulting, found that retailers view omni-channel maturity as a key brand differentiator. The report also found that improving their ability to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels is a top priority. Effectively, there is no question about whether retailers should sell across multiple channels. The big question is: how can they execute this effectively? This is where the big challenge lies.

Added Choice is Creating Challenging Complexity

Consistently maintaining a seamless, omni-channel experience throughout multiple regions and across different digital platforms, in particular during times of high demand, is no mean feat. Retailers are fighting a war on all sides and every innovation adds a new layer of complexity. First online shifted focus from store fronts to websites, then onto mobile devices. Retailers have therefore had to find ways to ensure that these apps and websites not only integrate seamlessly with legacy inventory and supply chain applications, but also provide a first-class user experience as customer expectations soar.

The Retail Systems Research report found that 71 percent of shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50 percent expect to buy online and pick up their purchase in a physical store. Yet only one third (36 percent) of retailers are actually able to provide these services, and 40 percent are struggling to integrate back-office technology across all of their channels. Added to this, many retailers are now using a mix of on-premise and cloud solutions, as well as integrating with third party services. In this environment, it is easy to see why IT is struggling.

As a result of these changes, the service delivery chain is becoming increasingly convoluted. This increases the risk that something will go wrong, and when problems do occur, they are harder to identify and isolate as there are so many different hot spots to check. Added to this, IT teams are often working in silos with little visibility outside of their direct sphere of influence: the mobile development team operates separately from the infrastructure team or the mobile team, so inefficiencies slip through the cracks and problems are passed from department to department like a hot potato. All the while, the customer is experiencing the problem first hand, unable to complete their shopping requests and becoming increasingly frustrated. This is resulting in weakened loyalty, lost sales and damaged reputations. Retailers therefore need to find a more effective means of managing performance if they are to realise the multichannel promise.

Better Visibility enabling Multichannel Success!

If retailers are to reap the benefits that multichannel can bring, they need to develop solutions that provide an excellent experience for the end-user customer. In order to do this, they need complete visibility across all platforms and devices so that they can ensure services run smoothly, and if problems do occur, they can be identified and fixed speedily.

Synthetic monitoring and lifecycle performance management can help to enhance the delivery of multi-channel digital customer experiences across web, mobile and digital commerce. By monitoring performance from the perspective that counts (the customer's) in real-time, retailers can identify where problems are occurring and take steps to remedy the situation, as well as continuously optimising the customer experience. As such, retailers can achieve a higher level of quality and diagnostics that ensure optimised customer experiences and faster response time through precise and actionable end-user experience insight for all users, browsers and devices.

Yet monitoring alone is not enough. Retailers need a solution that captures and tracks every single user interaction for web and native mobile applications, with the ability to replay transactions and drill down to the root cause of performance problems, errors or crashes. By having full visibility into application codes and insight into how performance is impacting customer satisfaction, conversions and revenue – by region, browser and device – they can use this data to make further enhancements that will delight customers, improve efficiency and deliver a good return on investment.

Performance Matters

Having an effective multichannel strategy is no longer a "nice to have", it's a must have. Yet in order to maximise revenues across multiple channels, performance needs to be baked into each solution to ensure a positive user experience. Retailers need to be focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences, and to do so they need to know how their services are being received at the consumer's side; having visibility of the end-user experience is therefore essential to multichannel success.

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