And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

The culture of most multi-channel retailers is one of great suspicion and possessiveness, created through silos within every function of the company. Whether it’s marketing and merchandising at odds with each other, or IT operating in their own world, or even accounting — seemingly lost somewhere in the abyss — these silos make working together extremely difficult. Factor in the business need to implement a major initiative (like holiday sales), and the divide becomes a chasm. What is the root cause of this discord? And, does it really have to be that way?

The answer here is two-fold:

First, numbers are to blame. Each division has its goals, and must account for reaching them through numbers. What counts as a sale for one channel, can’t be credited to another. Hence the focus on keeping customers shopping in a single channel and suspicion when another channel wants to partner (they must be trying to steal my customers!).

Second, it’s about control. Corporate America naturally fosters a spirit of competition. In retail, oftentimes internal divisions pit themselves against each other in an effort to be the “best.” However, this mentality is self-defeating, all the more so in a strained economy where dollars are tight.

So how do you break down the walls? Take a lesson from Retail 101: The customer is always right.

By shifting your focus from your own goals, and taking time to view your business from the customer’s perspective, a whole new approach is quickly realized. In a time where competition is fierce and the economy is slow, it’s a buyer’s market – – the recipe for success is to make the customer happy, and the goal will fulfill itself. So consider asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s the best way for the customer to shop? (and the answer may be through multiple channels, and may even change over time)
  • What offers are most valuable to them?
  • How do they like to communicate/be communicated with?

Use the data you already have to understand customer behavior across channels, and enable them to shop in the way that is most convenient for them. When each division within the company is working under this same pretense, the silos disappear, and everyone “wins.”

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