Physical or Virtual? Thriving Retailers Focus on a Unified Customer Experience

When ecommerce was the new, new thing, many technology pundits—who now would probably like to modify their predictions—saw its emergence as the death knell of physical retail. Without a doubt, it had a major impact. But who would’ve thought when launched in 1995 that in November 2016 it would open its first physical bookstore?

As The Guardian points out, “In the last few years, some 20 online companies in the U.S. have launched a physical presence to better market their wares, forge closer customer relations, and, yes, boost online traffic and sales.”

Regardless of whether they start as ecommerce plays or traditional brick and mortar outlets, businesses that sell through both channels need to be masters of data integration to reap the full benefits of operating in the physical and virtual worlds.

Synergy Doesn’t Just Happen

In 2001 Professor Charles Steinfield and two colleagues from Michigan State University authored a paper, “Integrating Brick and Mortar Locations with E-Commerce: Understanding Synergy Opportunities.”

Not surprisingly, some of the concerns the paper raises have disappeared. For example, it’s no longer necessary for a company that operates an ecommerce store to also have physical stores so that customers “trust” that the business is stable.

And the development of sophisticated and affordable ecommerce software suites have eliminated most of the cost and technical savvy required to launch an ecommerce website.

But despite advances in information technology that were barely dreams in 2001, the paper calls out an issue that’s still a problem 16 years later: integration.

Retailers with physical stores and ecommerce sites continue to struggle to integrate the data of these separate operations. In fact, the volume and variety of data these hybrid retailers must integrate and manage has only become more complex.

Back then, relatively little software existed to run ecommerce sites. Now there are hundreds of applications for both SaaS and on premise. Many of these new tools promise to integrate with retail point-of-sale (PoS), inventory tracking, and customer management, among other systems.

But there’s usually a catch: you need to get these applications the data they need. In the past, the only way to do that was through custom coding, usually requiring specialized consultants and their very expensive development teams.

Blackbird Vineyards Focuses on Brand Experience

Growth often pushes retailers with physical and virtual stores to improve integration between them. Manual processes sustainable at a certain sales level start to break down as sales volume increases.

Blackbird Vineyards presents a good example. At its retail location, the MA(i)SONRY tasting gallery, Blackbird uses Salesforce for its CRM and the Microsoft Retail Management System (RMS) for its PoS system. For its ecommerce operation, Blackbird uses eWinery Solutions’ WebLink.

Tracking sales and combining data from these three systems initially took the Blackbird staff hours of manual work. It also limited the winery’s ability to create a more engaging customer experience across both venues.

A Painless Path to Retail Integration

After assessing the situation, Blackbird technology partner Echo Lane recommended Dell Boomi’s cloud-native integration platform to connect the systems and automate the data exchange. With Boomi in place, it only took Echo Lane four weeks to complete the project to tie together Blackbird’s Salesforce, Microsoft RMS, and WebLink systems.

As a cloud-based integration platform, Boomi makes it easy to connect and manage applications and data without the cost and complexity of traditional middleware or custom coding. Retailers can use the platform to connect any combination of cloud-based and legacy on-premise systems.

To get more in-depth information about organizations that use the Boomi iPaaS platform, please visit our customer page. For more about Boomi retail solutions, download our industry brief and check out the Blackbird Vineyards case study.

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Source: Blog | Dell Boomi

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