By Jessica Bergmann, Worldwide Marketing Content Manager

Although it missed top session billing, the subject of organizational culture received significant airtime in nearly every session I attended at Retail’s BIG Show 2015. Leading retailers acknowledge that even the most perfectly laid omni-channel plans derail without the right team and culture. Or as Travelocity founder and keynote speaker Terry Jones so aptly quoted, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

To help you consider and cultivate the right culture in your omni-channel journey, here is a summary of advice from top retailers at this year’s show:

  1. It starts at the top –The omni-channel officer role and executive buy-in
    Panelists from Macy’s, Lowe’s and The Limited underscored the importance of executive sponsorship and the newly established omni-channel officer role. Lowe’s and Macy’s placed generalists in the role, promoting individuals with strong management skills and experience across multiple functions within the company (stores, ecommerce, services, fulfillment, etc.) This broad background contributes an understanding of all of the levers of the business and how each channel satisfies the needs of the customer, while also ensuring a sense of impartiality and lack of bias for particular channels within the company.
  2. Omni-channel is everybody’s role
    It starts at the top, but omni-channel must be perceived as everyone’s job. To move up in the company, team members must be willing to act as change agents, putting aside territorial boundaries to collaborate and move the business. Capturing “aha” moments, like when Staples in-store employees realized the impact of digital kiosks on customer service, can also energize culture. And when silo mentalities or old vs. new conflicts resurface, unite teams by putting the focus back on the customer and winning against the Amazons of the world.
  3. Coffee, bagels and camaraderie – Developing training and operations
    Of course, aligning goals and putting them into action – day after day – are two different things. Saks / Hudson’s Bay Group created thoughtful training programs and an omni-channel operating committee to get business silos actively speaking the same language.The first step was to run a pilot program in one category, observing the team closely to see how they collaborated. Once it was clear what was needed to get over points of difference, multiple trainings were developed and implemented. As a training follow-up, checklists and job aids ensured things were accomplished. And another final component was the 8 a.m. breakfast club – a cross-channel operating committee that gathered representatives from corporate, digital, inventory, etc. every morning to discuss KPI deliverables. Over breakfast, the team talked about what was working and levers to adjust for the next day.
  4. Pilot and ABCD test
    The rules of the game have changed, so it takes experimentation to determine what works for each business when it comes to omni-channel. Multiple retailers shared that piloting initiatives with small, nimble teams was the best method to innovate faster, without the pressure of putting money and resources toward one big risk.And to really understand what initiatives and channels should have priority, make your data and analytics a spectator sport. True Religion places a huge LED screen in the middle of the office with real-time Google analytics on display. This helped convince executives that mobile had to come first and brought insight into how the use of mobile in malls and stores influences in-store behavior. It also turned Cyber Monday into an analytics watch party.

For more on the speakers and breakout sessions from this year’s BIG show, take a look at the conference recap.