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How EpiCentre is cracking omni-channel marketing

The move to an omni-channel strategy is never an easy one.

Recognising the inevitable change in customers’ buying behaviour, Danielle Siauw, manager of CRM, M&E-commerce and new media at EpiCentre, explained that its adoption of an omni-channel approach to marketing was borne out of necessity.

Speaking at Marketing’s Shopper Marketing conference 2015, she shared a case study of EpiCentre’s omni-channel journey as well as the varied challenges it has faced in its quest to omni-channel marketing success.

The case for omni-channel

“To be honest, rental is a big key component of the cost of running a store,” she said.

For this reason, venturing into e-commerce was a practical step for the company to reduce fixed costs and maintain a sustainable profit margin.
Rent increases every year makes it challenging for retail shops.

“Undeniably, there is always not enough space in the store for us to feature all of our items. The limited retail space in Singapore has made our push into e-commerce even more pressing.”

EpiCentre recognised it was becoming increasingly difficult for brick and mortar stores to compete with online retailers. Aside from this increased competition from online retailers, it also needed to combat the “showroom effect” of its stores and provide alternative ways that shortened the customer’s path to purchase.

She also recommended that a store should not be restricted by its geographic location.

“Don’t just limit your business in the tourist belt, there are many opportunities to combine your traditional on-ground marketing with e-commerce.”

She advised that companies should expand their market size and sell outside their geographical zone to facilitate cross-sell and up-sell between the channels.

Implementation phases

EpiCentre’s first adoption into a multichannel approach began with its use of ERP inventory management software for effective customer servicing and improved profits. Next, it started using membership CRM by Salesforce before graduating to a single source product CMS.

Content pumped into its CMS will serve into other channels, so it is important to integrate them since “all channels are good, but the kinds of incentives and promotions are even more important”.

In order to not get lost in the cloud of tech jargon, she warned: “You must find ways to allow your staff to be able to manage these things in your system. The implementation of these channels should not be too time consuming or it will fail.”

Too many man hours should not be spent to manage one aspect of the omni-channel marketing as it’s not productive, she added.
Having a good analytics programme at the back-end is key.

“To go truly omni-channel is not just about having multiple channels, it is also about having a holistic view of the customer’s needs.”

Because marketing tends to be more traditional, adding a new programme constitutes the need to communicate the changes to the ground-level staff, that is, the sales people in the store – in order for e-commerce to succeed.

“Communication is the toughest thing that we have done so far, even the technology and marketing aspects are not as challenging as convincing the people on the ground to co-operate with our e-commerce strategy.

“Stores must get the basics right before adding on new components to their marketing plans.”

For example, EpiCentre’s implementation of iBeacon was intended to drive footfall into the stores.

“For closed door sales, it enabled us to update customers on stock availability.”

The store’s approach to omni-channel is thus dependent on its need to communicate with its customers as well.

“When it comes to adding channels to marketing, what matters is how you use them and what incentives you have for customers.”

Noting the challenges of hiring quality sales people and understaffing on the ground, EpiCentre generated a scan-code system using QR codes where customers can scan-code on items to find more information on an item and purchase it online. This ease of shopping has helped increase conversion, according to Siauw.

“Stores should also incentivise actions that you want customers to do. We issue rewards points for customers who leave reviews.”

Challenges

One of the most challenging aspects of making the leap to e-commerce is convincing the top management of the new marketing strategies, while simultaneously encouraging the team to be on board with the plan.

There is a need for a cultural change for traditional marketers to understand and accept this paradigm shift in order to stay relevant in the business. Companies must change the mindset of staff on the ground; training and communication are very important.

“You cannot expect a traditional marketer to be a digital marketer overnight.”

For this reason, managers should address all concerns staff may have about any newly implemented omni-channel approach.

“In order for omni-channel to work, companies must have commission schemes to keep staff motivated.”

At EpiCentre, it conducts training regularly for ground staff on how to sell via iPads, thus combining its e and m-commerce goals.

More importantly, a company must be willing to invest in good talent because the learning curve for succeeding in e-commerce is very steep.

“Staff must understand the intricate web of movement of goods and processes.”

Lastly, it is essential to have a strategy and an end in mind. Still, when it comes to going big with e-commerce ambitions, time and patience are key.

“It took us two years and we had to take a lot of detours to get to where we are. You need time to see the ROI, especially when it comes to e-commerce.”

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