Much has been written - and will be written - about the omnichannel revolution underway in the retail industry.
Omnichannel has become the watchword of the decade and has a dizzying number of definitions.
As the dust starts to settle, retailers and their trading partners are realizing that omnichannel simply describes consumers’ desire to have a seamless shopping experience regardless of where and how they engage with a seller. It’s about providing the item customers want, when and where they want to purchase it.
Many companies have made valid recommendations about how retailers must reinvent their front-office functions, including merchandising, marketing, sales and customer service.
Others have focused on streamlining back-office functions, like IT, finance and operations. All of these improvements need to work in unison to satisfy the expectations of the omnichannel consumer.
While consumers crave simplicity, retailers have to master enormous complexity and reinvention behind the scenes to deliver the simplicity consumers seek.
But this inward focus will not be enough.
Retailers need to look beyond their four walls to achieve true integration across shopping channels, including physical and digital commerce (e-commerce, mobile commerce, and social commerce).
The relationships between companies - namely, how retailers work with their suppliers and other trading partners - must be reinvented from the ground up.
The only way retail companies can successfully navigate the complexity of the omnichannel landscape is by taking a “networked” approach to their relationships with their trading community.
Just as social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, have changed how individuals, brands, and companies connect with each other, communities of retail trading partners known as retail networks are transforming the retail industry.
By allowing retailers, suppliers and other trading partners to integrate with each other as quickly and easily as friends “like” each other on social networks, retail networks have removed the barriers from turning omnichannel vision into reality.
These emerging networks, described in detail in the forthcoming pages, are becoming part of the fabric of competitive retail organizations.
Retail networks are becoming a powerful force in the retail industry as thousands of companies conduct millions of transactions per day with other trading partners using the network.
Companies simply integrate their business system of record into these prebuilt communities to completely transform the way they source items and vendors, manage product assortments, fulfill orders, and use data and analytics to collaborate with trading partners.
By joining a retail network, organizations can retain their existing infrastructure while accessing modern, cloud-based technology to enhance their supply chain relationships.