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Merchandising

Seamless omnichannel experiences start with better internal communication

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Image of Abnesh Raina, CEO of PlumSlice.Today, improving the customer experience is top-of-mind for retailers. But sometimes the complexity of a company's internal processes make it hard to deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels. As the Shop.org Annual Summit approaches, we spoke with Abnesh Raina, CEO and Founder of PlumSlice, our event blog sponsor and one of the more than 200 solution providers exhibiting in the EXPO Hall, about the challenges inherent in retail product management. 

Abnesh Raina, CEO and Founder, PlumSlice

What opportunities do you see in the way companies currently approach product management?

I see a lot of opportunity in addressing the disconnect between those involved in communicating with suppliers, internal stakeholders and even with the customer. With suppliers as well as internal teams located around the globe now, it's easy to see how this can occur, especially if your number of items is large or growing fast. And with customers shopping a myriad of channels, engaging them with your products is even more critical. Getting correct and relevant product information to the customers across all channels is also an issue that challenges companies.

Could you give us an example of that?

If you're sourcing your products from different countries, there are time zone changes and varied moving parts at each supplier's location. Despite this complexity, you need to ensure that a jeans style, for example, meets all specifications and doesn't ship with the wrong inseam or wash. Another related example is if you are publishing information for different sizes of these jeans or even for the same size on different channels like e-commerce, mobile, catalog or stores. This product information needs to be consistent across all sizes as well as channels. I am sure you heard of the issue where one retailer had a shopper who sparked a controversy on Twitter after discovering that the same gray dress was listed as "Manatee Gray" in the plus-size version and simply "Heather Gray" in the "Missy" category. The company had to scramble to apologize for the snafu.

So how can companies avoid these kinds of problems related to product management?

We have developed a solution that brings this product management coordination into the cloud via a collaboration dashboard. This streamlines the back-and-forth with these multiple suppliers, and encourages faster handling of production issues. Mistakes are minimized since errors are avoided or caught quickly. It's critical to provide consistent, accurate product information across the enterprise so that team members have one "data point of truth" for both internal and external use. With customers shopping on mobile devices, on company websites, and in brick-and-mortar stores, consistency of product information is absolutely critical to success. Customers now expect a seamless experience regardless of the channel they use to browse or purchase the product. Retailers must deliver consistent product information—such as pricing, product mix, messaging and availability—across all channels.

Where do you see an opportunity to build more customer engagement?

Typically, retailers get most of their feedback after goods are shipped, and either praised or returned, but we believe very strongly in bringing the customer upstream in the process, as early as the inspiration and design stage. We have designed our collaborative dashboard with a customer component so that customers can be engaged early on in the development of new products. Since some companies have to plan a year in advance for a trend, really listening to the customer will further ensure they don't miss out on the next big thing! And since customers are talking about their wants and needs on social media, retailers need to be listening at all times. Our dashboard pulls in information from social media channels as well as blog and news feeds as part of our enhanced listening to the customer. We also enable management of targeted visual surveys and inspiration tiles. We want our dashboard to be a place for select customers to pin their inspirations so the experience is more interactive. It can create a powerful sense of ownership by the consumer for your brand.

Sounds like an exciting time for PlumSlice. What's next on the horizon?

We're in beta mode right now and getting great interest from beta users. In listening to suppliers and retailers on the front lines, we see the PlumSlice solution meeting a great need for better communication and collaboration among all stakeholders. For more information, visit our website and download our ebooks on the cloud and peak planning.

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