Kaustabh Chakraborty, SVP-Operations, Urban Ladder
Customer service efficiency or rather the purpose of a good supply chain is to have the right product at the right place at the right time. Across the supply chain which pans out with good processes and systems enabling those processes and having enough visibility across the supply chain where things are falling through.
One of the largest problems that the retailers face continuously is to ensure stock availability for the customers. The out of stock problems or the lost sales problems are what retailers have to continuously solve and at the same time manage the inventory holding accordingly. The inventories require more space, hence one of the most critical supplies and efficiency problems to address is, how do retailers stock the right inventory, how do they hold inventory on the fast moving items, and reduce the slow moving items.
“It is important for a brand to maintain its reputation of having a great customer experience”
Creating infrastructure for enhancing visibility and tracking of shipments has become one of the main agendas of retailers these days. In retail, the visibility needed to provide customers is far more acute as there are some categories where products are customized to the orders. It is a fairly intensive investment from building the right infrastructure to finding the right partners. These visibility systems function most effectively when the people concerned with updating information and statuses are working in perfect and timely synchronization. It’s not the infrastructure investments as opposed to the behavioural investments that have to be made to get a different part of the ecosystem aligned on becoming better in their processes and system architecture.
It is important for a brand to maintain its reputation of having a great customer experience. The brand becomes stronger only by what consumers and potential consumers experience. The fundamental question is what is it that companies are trying to achieve by building a brand. Many companies are trying to build a level of trust with its consumers. Thus, brand building and customer experience go hand in hand and brands become stronger by building on the premise of customer experience. In fact, there are brands that do not spend on marketing and advertising, but by sheer investment in customer experience, have managed to strengthen their name.
The online channel is going through its own evolution in terms of adoption. When you look at macro numbers in terms of internet penetration, people adopting mobile phones with data connections are in healthy numbers and therefore e-commerce will continue to grow. But while looking at the overall retail market, online purchasing is still a very small percentage of overall retail. Even in countries like the U.S., only eight percent of retail is online. In India, it is expected to hit two percent of retail by 2020. The question isn’t about being online or offline but how effectively the brand can provide a more seamless experience to their customers. It is really about creating a seamless consumer experience.
Online and offline will not continue to be seen as disparate channels but will start to converge towards becoming complementary channels, where people may choose to add products into a cart and then walk into a store, look at the product, and buy it online when they want to. The experience will have to move very seamlessly. The largest problem to solve there is for the brand to know more about their customer, which products of their web store were viewed and added by the customer and the retail executive can then suggest similar products to the customer when they walk into the store, creating a more meaningful experience as opposed to the executive starting from scratch. The next wave of information technology helping retail would be the ability to navigate a customer across their phone, across the web as well as the physical store and to identify their needs and provide services accordingly.
Headquartered in Bangalore, India, Urban Ladder is an online furniture store started in 2012, which offers an extensive array of furniture and home decor products.