In conversation with Victor Terpstra on omnichannel
BY THOMAS LUCAS-NÜLLE
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2015)
Digitisation is moving forward inexorably. And with it, new frameworks in the trading markets are becoming the rule. The market threshold is decreasing as a result of digital access. Suddenly existing, longstanding rules no longer apply and new entrants turn into dangerous competitors in a very short time. Sometimes they upset and change market leaderships – built over decades – within a few years.
Disruptive concepts require game changing action from established brands. New concepts that shake up existing business models require reshaping of established brands. Airbnb and Uber are radically changing business models that have been in place for decades. The enormous scale and (financial) power of the two largest market places, Amazon and Alibaba are a serious threat for European retailers. Amazon has more turnover than the other companies in the top ten of Germany’s online sales - combined. Alibaba promises to become a player with the same impact. Conversely, this means that borders will have to be lifted for companies to grow and services need to be improved. At the very least, some inspiring suggestions will have to be made so as not to interfere with the progress of the omnichannel sector from the very beginning.
Which soft factors in addition to all the above-mentioned hard facts should be taken into account?
Victor Terpstra: As the holy grail of contemporary commerce, everybody knows that customer centricity is the key critical success factor. It is what enterprises need to focus on if they want to remain in the market. But: it is much easier to promise customer satisfaction than to actually manage to deliver it. In order to do so, a lot of knowledge is required as well as the right technology and also the ability to empathise with people and to recognise their needs early on.
How can a brand manage to stay attractive in the long-term?
V. T.: In order to gain the hearts of consumers and deal with the already mentioned challenges, brands should always offer convenience. Not offering the easiest access to products or services instantly makes consumers shift to competitors with lower thresholds. The next thing is that companies should be consistent in addressing their customers. Brand loyalty and convenience are largely driven by a consistent experience throughout all channels. This requires an integrated approach of creating consistent data that can be used in a relevant way throughout all channels. Many companies still think within a silo structure. Tearing down those silos is eminent in order to keep up with newly established market players. Furthermore, a seamless user experience derived from the customers’ perspective is key to recognition and loyalty.
What role does personalisation have to play?
V. T.: This is certainly important. Brands should offer personalised interactions, at the right moment, in the right channel. These interactions should be based on real time data in order to ensure relevancy. This requires an integrated approach not only to product data management but also customer-, order- and stock data.
Which influence on developments in the omnichannel sector is being asserted by trends?
V. T.: Trends and technologies come and go overnight. Predicting the right bet is a huge challenge. Therefore, organisations should focus on agility, organisational ability, but also the technologies that are being embraced. Those who adapt will win.
How important is the integration of digital touch points?
V. T.: After years of huge promises and visionary statements about the true integration of channels, 2015 seems to be the year of the lift off. Many retail chains offer in-store ordering, either through tablets or kiosks. Assisted-selling helps to increase conversion through those digital touch points. Another critical development is new mobile payment methods such as NFC technology, which are dissolving the barriers of mobile transactions. Key driver of the RoI is the endless shopping aisle and the possibility to always making a sale. This development however, creates new demands for retailers: shop staff has to embrace new technologies, picking and packing out of store needs to be supported and complex return processes need to be implemented.
He started his entrepreneurship in the digital field as early as 1996. Three years later, he founded ‘Strawberries’. As an entrepreneur over the last 14 years, Victor Terpstra has been involved in numerous Dutch and International high-end e-business projects including Goodyear, Shimano, adidas, Gamma, Karwei, V&D, Eurolines and Dansk Supermarked. With the merger of Strawberries and Softlution, Victor became CCO of Osudio in 2013.
Picture credits © Osudio