Research Hub > Tear Down the Walls Between Online and Brick-and-Mortar Stores

February 02, 2018

3 min

Tear Down the Walls Between Online and Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Old meets new, and challenges ensue. The good news: IT doesn’t have to be that way.


The holiday shopping season is inevitably followed by the return season. That’s been a headache for retailers and consumers alike since the dawn of trade, but e-commerce has turned it into a migraine.

Why? Brick-and-mortar retailers are increasingly using immediacy and convenience to compete against e-tailers. Two ways are by giving customers the option of buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS) or returning in store (BORIS).

But BOPIS and BORIS often backfire by undermining the customer experience and profit margins. One common example is when store staff can’t look up an order to process a return. That irritates the customer and the people in line behind him or her, and it keeps those associates from tasks that could add more to the bottom line. Another example is when the retailer’s website says a product is in stock, but the customer gets to the store and finds out it’s actually not.

As a specialist in analytics, business intelligence and data management, I help retailers overcome these challenges. Typically, the culprit is a hodgepodge of disparate inventory, supply chain, e-commerce and other systems that don’t communicate with one another for a variety of reasons.

But consumers don’t care. They just want to take advantage of the BOPIS and BORIS the retailer is marketing, and if it can’t deliver, plenty of competitors are lined up to take their money. In Zebra Technologies’ “2017 Retail Vision Study,” 72 percent of retailers said they plan to reinvent their supply chain with real-time visibility enabled by automation, sensors and analytics. They’re the ones capable of meeting consumer demand for BOPIS and BORIS. Will you be among them?

Turning to the Experts

Digital transformation is no small task, which is why so many retailers turn to a consultant for help with projects such as creating a common back end for disparate systems. The ideal consultant has a varied, deep portfolio of vendor partners spanning key areas such as RFID, beacons, Big Data, analytics, Wi-Fi and payment. Those relationships enable the consultant to develop a custom suite of solutions to meet each retailer’s unique IT environment and business goals.

It’s also important for a retailer to determine when its legacy systems are too big or too complex to merge. In that case, a merchant should consider building links so they can start sharing data to support BORIS and BOPIS. At CDW, we’ve helped retailers develop long-term game plans, such as adding RFID to the supply chain to ensure highly accurate inventory — the kind that wows customers and the CFO alike by minimizing backorders and overstock. Another example is adding interactive digital signage for kiosks so customers can order versions of products the store doesn’t stock and have them shipped to their home. That convenience also helps both the bottom line by enabling self-service and freeing up associates to provide white-glove service to shoppers who prefer the human touch.

For a deeper dive into these and other technologies and strategies, check out CDW’s white paper, “Up to Speed and Into the Future: Modernizing Retail Technology.” And when you’re ready to transform your operations, customer experience and bottom line, contact your CDW account rep.

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