Why front-end customer service relies on backend operations

  • Posted on June 14, 2017

front-end platforms and back-end operations

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Nick Lefkonidjates.

The way consumers use digital platforms is changing at warp speed. Thanks to a rise in smart devices, more people are browsing, comparing and purchasing goods online.

To take advantage of this changing behaviour, retailers need to ensure that their technology is capable of catering for the digital age. Most importantly, this means providing a seamless omnichannel environment. A recent Worldpay survey found that 67% of customers begin their purchasing journey on one device and finish on another. So, it’s no longer enough to provide just a strong mobile experience; desktop and other devices must be equally prioritised, and information must be fluid. Customers will be lost if they have to reinput their data or refill their shopping baskets when switching devices.

For the omnichannel experience to become a success, front-end platforms (such as an ecommerce site) must align perfectly with back-end operations and systems (such as an ERP platform used in retail). But, as is often the case, it’s the front-end customer service platforms that get all the investment. After all, when was the last time that you noticed a retailer won an award for their brilliant digital back-end? In that same vein – why pump money into the back-end operations when it appears that the supply chain can work just fine without it?

But for retailers, ignoring what can be improved behind the scenes is a dangerous step.

An update in back-end IT processes can help retailers realise much needed efficiency gains. With the right technology, extra money can be extracted from existing operations. For instance, a system that gives retailers a detailed breakdown of their supply chain can allow them to go beyond using invoice prices to find revenue leaks. Instead, they can find out what supplier discounts and promotions are causing such leaks. These efficiencies from back-end operations mean retailers can drive down costs in other areas and remain competitive.

What’s more, having a robust infrastructure that can scale with demand means retailers are in a better position to respond to environmental changes. This includes expected trends, such as seasons, and unexpected disruptions to supply, such as a sudden sunny spell in mid-March, or a celebrity product endorsement. Again, a single view of the supply chain can help retailers plan, forecast and move stock accordingly.

Consumers live in an ‘always on’ environment. To stand out from the crowd, smart retailers will need to be constantly switched on as well. Back-end technologies may not be as visible (or exciting) as customer-facing tools, but investment is crucial. After all, it’s what provides the means for businesses to manage stock, fulfil orders and support the front-end customer service experience.

Download our latest guide ERP Reimagined and discover the practical steps to streamline your operations, for success in retail.

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