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Bringing the channels together through new data standards

Barcode standards creator GS1 is developing transformational new data standards that will align online items with their physical equivalent in-store. By Glynn Davis

OMNICHANNEL

Bringing the channels together through new data standards

This will enable stock visibility across the whole supply chain, which will help retailers deliver a seamless omni-channel experience to shoppers.

Ahead of taking part in a panel discussion at the Retail Bulletin Omni-channel Summit 2015 on February 4 in London David Smith, head of digital at GS1 UK, says customer adoption of mobile is driving retailers to engage more with shoppers but they are being held back by the fact a lot of the information the customer requires is not fully available across-channel.

The problem is that retailers do not have a single view of their stock across their various channels, which is why GS1 is working hard at the moment to develop standards to “uncover the information in the supply chain and surface this information across mobile and tablets so the customer can utilise it to find out more such as stock availability and detailed product information”.

Having such information available – to both retailer and customer – will enable retailers to confidently offer services like click & collect between stores whereby goods are transported between outlets for customer collection at their selected store.

“With a joined up supply chain it makes it easier for customers to return goods and for retailers to get them back onto the shop floor quickly. This is the heart of what GS1 UK is working on with its improvements across the supply chain,” explains Smith.

This aligning of products online with in-store highlights how digital and physical stores are now complimenting each other as consumers increasingly shop across channels and take the online channel into stores via their smart-phones and tablets.

This is a different scenario to what Smith remembers in the period up to the dotcom crash when he says: “There were lots talked about stores dying. But I could not see them disappearing. This was not because people like to touch and feel goods as they had previously bought from catalogues and never touched them.”

In many cases retailers themselves were not that convinced about the online channel and built internet stores as “adjuncts to their physical outlets”. This worked in the short term but Smith says it is customers who’ve driven the trend for shopping multi-channel. And retailers have had to react.

“Retailers have had to move from multiple channels to looking at the consumer experience whereby people are shopping across all channels and in a seamless way,” he says, adding that the big impact has been made by mobile devices that have been fully embraced by consumers. This has caused some problems.

“Consumers have been ahead of the retailers with mobile usage. We’ve one or two that are good at the multi-channel experience and so customers have been expecting this same experience elsewhere. This poses a challenge for the slower retailers, many of which have problems with their legacy systems,” explains Smith.

The GS1 developments represent part of the solution for these retailers, which will ultimately bring them into the multi-channel world.

Make sure you register for this important event where you will also hear from retailers including Pets at Home, Carphone Warehouse, John Lewis, feelunique.com, Snow+Rock Group, Virgin Media, The Co-operative Group, River Island, Jarrold, Dressipi. Click here  to register your place. 

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