Omni-Channel Retail Information Systems

Omni-Channel Retail Information Systems

Torben Tambo (Aarhus University, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch083
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Introduction

Information systems in the context of retailing are, though often overlooked as such, some of the most complex systems in the corporate information landscape – this solely on the basis of their geographical and probably also cultural span across nations, traditions, fiscal systems and workforce regimes (Joshi, 2009; Tambo, 2011). When retail information systems are expanded into being able to consistently handle the same information seamlessly across different sales channels, trading platforms, consumers group and logistical systems, then the complexity is increased by yet a magnitude (Ebeltoft Group, 2012; Frei et al., 2012). Contemporary retailing must be understood in the light of its technological character (Wightman, 1990; Heinemann & Schwartzl, 2010).

Cross-channel or multi-channel retailing has normally reflected sales of physical or non-physical goods in stores and Internet-based shops (Hadley, 2012; Williams, 2008). It has also reflected conceptually similar channels, e.g. the physical store could also be a concept store, a shop-in-shop, a trade fair booth, and the virtual store could, for instance, also be a TV-shop and a mobile commerce platform. Especially digital channels are growing in number and format, introducing social media commerce (Stephen & Toubia, 2009), e-shop-in-shops, gaming, social and professional communities, co-creation and various combinations of existing channel formats (Hansen & Tambo, 2011). Cap Gemini (2010) lists new digital channel formats such as highly interactive social networking, personalised e-zines, personal promotions based on situations, intelligent search optimisation, online comparison of competitive products and personalised mobile phone marketing.

Recently, the concept of omni-channel retailing has been introduced (Aberdeen Group, 2012; Arthur, 2012; Bomber & Caudhill, 2012; Demsey & Dunlap, 2012; Edelson, 2012; Elliot et al., 2012; Hadley, 2012; Harris, 2012; Winter, 2012; Wheeler, 2012). Omni-channel retailing is met with interest from key players in the industry of retailing (Wilson, 2012; Verizon, 2012) and covers the idea that anything can be sold anywhere with consistent marketing, reasonable efficiency of the supply chain channels and responsible customer service. This article aims at contributing to a characterisation and definition of omni-channel retail information systems (OCRIS) by using the information systems research tradition as a distinctive starting point (Treiblmaier & Strebinger, 2008; Avgerou, 2001; Parboteah et al., 2009). Omni-channel retailing has evolved since 2010 with the ultimate aim of aligning physical and digital sales channels by the use of technology, thus providing uniform customer experience and operational effectiveness across the channels (Hansen & Tambo, 2011).

The vision of OCRIS remains largely at a conceptual level. Selected point-of-sale (“cash registers”) products and retail management systems have been introduced to be able to cope with the challenges of OCRIS. However, as a business strategy, it is still evolving and not many of the actual implementations have been able to fully realise the vision.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI): A set of standards for information security related to the use of debit and credit cards in retail environments.

Cannibalisation: A sales activity taking sales revenue from another sales activity without increasing the overall sales revenue and potentially increasing complexity and cost, thereby undermining the overall business.

Touchpoint: Any product, service, transaction, venue or experience through which a customer receives a significant impression of your brand ( Westenberg, 2010 ).

Integrated Marketing Management (IMM): Software solutions managing and coordinating marketing activities within digital and physical platforms. IMM also provides cost planning and impacts efficiency management.

Channel: A well-defined, well-delimited environment of sales with the channel notion typically referring to the supply chain character of sales ending up in a retail operation. Classical sales channels are stores, markets, TV shops, catalogue sales, telephone sales, door sales. Newer sales channels include webshops, social media, games, mobile platforms, QR codes, “intelligent vouchers” and recommender sites.

Big Data: large databases of behavioural tracking as well as the tools required to handle these data. Ever-increasing databases and electronic recordings of individual activities and corporate and societal repositories. Cell phones, social media conversations, web browsing, GPS, CCTV cameras and use of credit/debit cards constantly leave traces of the individual.

Consistency of Service: Assessing uniformity of the services offered by the retailers among both channels (e.g. policies, private label credit cards, loyalty programmes, gift cards).

Connected Customer: Customers tend to be constantly online both in in-store environments and out-of-store; in-store, the customers can check prices, alternative channels and product features; out-of-store, the customer can make spontaneous purchases or show interest of purchasing, providing retailers with sales opportunities.

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