Customers have always been demanding and with the increasing number of brand interaction opportunities available it wasn’t going to be long before they naturally expected to be able to move seamlessly across all of them, online or offline, using whatever devices and platforms are most appropriate at that point in time. Now we are faced with the challenge of multichannel retailing – and how we can provide the best experience to the customer wherever they are.
Supporting a fully integrated multichannel environment can be a huge technical, organisational and cultural challenge. The beautifully simple idea is that seamless transparency across all systems throughout the entire end-to-end customer interaction process will enable businesses to deliver exactly what customers want, intelligently and efficiently, when and where and how they want it. The customers will be attracted through sophisticated cross channel, behaviourally targeted, campaigns, engaged through social media and their loyalty won through the best personalised offers, great customer service, follow up and support.
It’s a wonderful vision, and what it depends on is DATA. Not only data, but a “single point of truth” for viewing that data that is trusted by all stakeholders, suppliers and partners, and a “common language” with which everyone can discuss and analyse results.
However a recent survey by The Aberdeen Group revealed that only 19% of all retailers had anything close to seamless multichannel integration strategy for technology, management or customer facing interaction points. Until all key systems used anywhere in the end-to-end process are able to use and exchange data in a cohesive manner a true multichannel offering is a long way off. It’s a huge undertaking to manage, and to manage anything you need to be able to measure it.
For organisations that succeed or fail based on the integrity of complex, frequently changing inventory content and the validity of the multi sourced real-time data the SVMonitoring Suite delivers true business focused monitoring and reporting that enables all teams to understand the impact of site performance on the bottom line.
In some retail business, where bricks and mortal shops, eCommerce and mail order catalogues have been run as historically different units, or even acquired and continued to run as wholly separate brands or businesses, there is still a great deal of integration work to do. At the very simplest level the same products may have different SKUs, for example, depending on sales channel.
A website performance monitoring tool that replicates customer experience will avoid getting tangled up in such software specific issues. If used across the entire organisation to provide a common language for collaboration performance reporting may also help with management identification of problems that may not come to light where staff are only looking at data within departmental silos. In addition a tool like a user journey replayer can help identify front end issues with browser rendering time which may arise from conflicting content, design or customer acquisition strategies.
When thinking about implementing multichannel monitoring it is equally important to have insight into how the various backend systems are talking to and supporting, one another (whether that is event video streaming live to instore shop screens, or the inventory system updating eCommerce and mCommerce sites simultaneously, or a third party component providing time critical data to a search or trading engine for example), as well as reporting on the front end experience of the users of all of those channels themselves with 24×7 automated mystery shopping that can “do what the customer does”.
One critical issue to bear in mind is that a monitoring system must be “technology neutral”. It is very rare, once you are beyond the first months of being a start up, for any business to not have legacy systems in place that use a variety of incompatible technologies. Once you add in the intricacies of a complex supply chain that may involve everything from merchandising/demand forecasting, sales funnels, offer planning, all purchasing functions and card processing, customer account management, fulfilment, warehouse management, delivery tracking, inventory, and services from 3rd party providers identifying, diagnosing and resolving errors can be like searching for a very tiny needle in a very large haystack. While this causes a headache for sys admin and infrastructure teams it should not impact the monitoring data. For this reason alone it is often preferable to use an impartial 3rd party for monitoring, not a tool that comes with one particular system. Using a multitude of such tools can quickly make any attempts at wide ranging horizontal analysis impractical as what is measured, and the measurement methods, are unlikely to be consistent and so comparisons will be meaningless.
EPoS systems are a special case. For a true multichannel offering, they need to work with the eCommerce inventory system, and often interact with a fulfilment bureau or warehouse and dispatch that may be managed by a 3rd party. If a customer can see the item they want to buy, but not complete the process because an error occurs between backend systems somewhere then technical teams, and customer support agents, need to know about that problem as quickly as possible. Ideally, they want to know before any real customers even encounter it.
Users expect a consistent brand experience. If one element of your multichannel environment provides a disappointing experience then that will reflect on your brand as a whole. By viewing all your user journeys across different devices / platforms you will be able to ensure that you are not being let down by one element.
This gives you an idea of things to think about when defining your critical user journeys when you begin monitoring:
- How does the user experience compare across channels?
- Do users performance the same journey steps across channels, or do they reach the same goal by different routes?
- What are the back end “journeys” taken by data?
- What complex multistep journeys do your users take?
- Do journeys involve content or functions supplied by 3rd parties in real time?
- Does your pricing model change based on customer, time, location or any other variables?
- Is there sophisticated business logic that needs to be tested?
- How often is your inventory updated?
- What are your most “valuable” journeys?
- Is any of your content held offsite, for example on an image server?
- Do you have any “cross channel” functions such as “reserve online and collect in store.”?
Taken as a whole multichannel monitoring means that full strategic development, planning, prioritization, resource allocation and prediction of true company wide costs and ROI can be made with a much more stable foundation that is based on real data, not gut feel.
While traditional static website monitoring can only tell you if the checkout URL or search URL is up or down, the Automated Mystery Shopping that is at the heart of thinkTribe’s dynamic user journey monitoring tests the whole process, end to end, by ‘Doing what the customer Does’. In turn this frees your IT teams to plan effectively for hardware and IT infrastructure to cope with varying demand – such as “rush hours” and quiet periods, seasonal fluctuations and major campaign activities
The SV Monitoring Suite includes a number of products, designed for the needs of different teams, but which all use the same data and the same common language to provide a “single point of truth” to enable easy collaboration across the organisation.
All SV-Monitoring Suite Products:
- Use a single, intuitive performance monitor portal accessible anywhere via the cloud.
- Allow easy navigation, and live in-depth drill down as well as summaries and overviews.
- Are built on thinkTribe’s unique approach to dynamic monitoring: including multi-page routes, that can ‘Do What The Customer Does’ for all aspects of site functionality.
SV Monitor can detect intermittent problems such as missing or incorrect inventory details, timeouts and backward steps. Invisible to most monitoring solutions and web logs, these errors often go undetected yet on most sites they can affect an appreciable percentage of visitors at any point in time. SV-Monitor gives you granular control, filtering by error type and step by step performance breakdowns for each journey plus downloadable raw data.
The kind of time-dependent performance information available from SV Monitor Products is also extremely valuable fordecision making around activities such as ad traficking, context sensitive marketing offers, IT investment discussions, and prioritisation of support,developer and customer services time.
With a common language and a single point of truth meetings become quicker, discussions more productive, and decisions based on evidence. When an issue arises, a common, intuitive user interface allows immediate examination of the root cause of the problem.
Cross departmental collaboration is enabled as IT, Operations, Sales and Marketing are provided with all relevant information needed to solve problems, make key strategic decisions and improve performance.