Ensuring order visibility: How control towers can help retailers meet the customer promise

By Bobby Shome, Global Business Development Director, Centiro.

In today's competitive market, ensuring delivery success is more important than ever for retailers. Around the world, customer expectations about the standard of product delivery continue to rise, with those in the more mature ecommerce markets growing increasingly picky.

In Europe, YouGov research revealed that a poor online ordering experience would drive almost two thirds of people (63 per cent) to switch to an alternative retailer next time. US consumers in particular are growing accustomed to shorter delivery windows, with Amazon's launch of a two-hour Whole Foods delivery window being the latest in a line of roll-outs to push customer expectations ever-higher.

It is clear that as competition has increased, home delivery has become a key battleground for retailers, and one that can really make or break customer relationships. However, because of the legacy systems that many retailers still rely on, many struggle to maintain complete visibility throughout the lifecycle of an order, making it more difficult to resolve any issues should they arise.

At a time when many retailers are finding it difficult to attain complete visibility over their delivery operations, control towers are emerging as a solution to the problem. So how can control towers help retailers meet the customer promise?

Joining up business functions

Due to separate functions often acting as siloes of data, with information not being easily shared between departments, many retailers don't have a clear view of the lifecycle of an order. This disconnect can often lead to frustrated customers, as the retailer fails to accurately track orders and deliveries.

By deploying a control tower, retailers can join up business functions, such as supply chain operations, marketing and ecommerce, and create a unified view of a purchase from order to fulfilment. This helps shed light on common customer bug bears, such as the 'where's my order?' question, while also creating a more collaborative, efficient fulfilment operation.

Tapping into new data sources

Retailers around the world are finding that with new technologies comes the promise of new data to use. Through the influx of customer data that a control tower can provide, brands are able to optimise the services and goods that they offer individuals, and get closer to their customers. For retailers, such opportunities for direct communication with customers are few and far between, but a can be a key differentiator. Control towers can create a more personal experience for the customer, and when coupled with other technologies, such as IoT, an extra dimension of data is added for control towers to use.

These technology collaborations allow retailers to not only produce, but also analyse data throughout the lifecycle of a product that have may not have been visible before. For example, a footwear manufacturer could use data to tell consumers when the heels of their shoes are wearing down, and suggest that another pair is delivered at a time that suits them. Not only will the customer be impressed, but the retailer will have earned themselves another sale, all stemming from control towers.

True return on investment

Lastly, control towers yield a great return on investment (ROI), and true value for money for retailers. These are factors that often make or break a new technology in its early days, and the ROI of control towers manifests itself in numerous ways, with multiple business units reaping the rewards.

Take customer experience as one such department – by creating visibility and solving the 'where's my order?' question, retailers are able to provide a better service at a reduced cost and are able to proactively approach customers more effectively. This means that retailers can cut investment in the customer experience department, whilst operating it more efficiently. Additionally, by having visibility over the exact location of an order, retailers are able to more efficiently handle a greater number of orders per day.

Finally, control towers offer greater visibility over invoices, meaning retailers will be better placed to optimise and pick the best route. This will improve both the bottom and top line, keeping the sales team happy.

Small improvements increase small margins

In this increasingly competitive market, where consumers are blessed with more choice than ever, visibility is key to the success of all retailers, whether they're based in New York or Newcastle. Control towers can create visibility that allows retailers to help get rid of siloes throughout the company, streamline profits and get closer to their customers. Consumers vote with their feet, and it is these small improvements that can make a real difference, and mark a retailer out as a market leader. Those that don't look to take advantage of this new technology are sure to be left behind as their rivals push on with the better service at a lower cost that control towers can provide.

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