Want a Successful Retail Omnichannel Strategy? Focus on Talent

Retailers are increasingly focused on omnichannel, a business model that unifies customer touchpoints across multiple channels, providing a seamless experience regardless of how a customer interacts with the retailer. Perhaps the biggest challenge of omnichannel strategies is ensuring great customer experiences. Whether that’s a store associate having an online order ready for pickup, or a call center rep helping a shopper order a product seen in a store, aligning employees with the supply network can be tricky.

Retailers typically make big investments in systems to support omnichannel strategies, yet too frequently they don’t focus enough on the people side: talent, training, and skillsets needed to support omnichannel efforts. If a store associate can’t help a customer because he doesn’t understand in-store fulfillment, or an online shopper has a bad call center experience, omnichannel technology investments aren’t worth much.

Retailers need to be able to quickly find, hire, and onboard digitally savvy, customer-centric employees.

In fact, research shows that the customer experience is a weak spot for omnichannel efforts. According to TimeTrade’s recent study of more than 5,000 consumers and 100 retail executives, only 26 percent of consumers say retailers provide a consistent customer experience across channels—even though 51 percent of retailers think they succeed at giving a consistent experience. The worst touchpoints from the customer’s point of view are the people-facing ones—call center interactions and in-store pickup.

Focus on the Workforce

To start delivering on the promise of omnichannel, companies need to have an HR technology system that provides visibility into the capabilities and skills of their current workforce, and identifies the skills and capabilities they need to hire for. Then they need to be able to quickly find, hire, and onboard digitally savvy, customer-centric employees for a successful omnichannel strategy.

Successful retailers understand that positive customer experiences start with great employee experiences.

This includes not just customer-facing employees, but getting the right business hires, too. Retailers are becoming experts at developing big data strategies to sell their products and are competing with the largest tech companies for IT, operations, and marketing people.

Getting the right talent includes having the right leadership in place to execute the strategy. Sometimes these leaders have newer types of titles, such as chief omnichannel officer and chief merchandising officer. L2’s Intelligence Report: Death of Pureplay Retail predicts the most common new executive title for omnichannel retail organizations will be chief customer experience officer.

HR plays a key strategic role  by helping to identify the right sets of expertise needed.

Experience Matters

Successful retailers understand that positive customer experiences start with great employee experiences. It’s more important than ever to find the right people, train them, foster a strong corporate culture, and deploy people in ways that support both the company’s strategy and provide them opportunities for future career growth.

The HR department plays a key strategic role in effecting this transformation by helping to identify the right sets of expertise needed for particular roles within the organization. In addition, HR departments can help define the key measurements for success in achieving these goals.

To operationalize omnichannel, retailers need to spend less time on the tactical aspects of hiring and onboarding, and more time helping their workforces provide the best customer service experience possible, regardless of channel. HR leaders need to streamline routine processes so they can focus on partnering with the business to help employees develop the skills that lead to great customer service. Those person-to-person interactions are the ones customers will remember the most and help drive loyalty.