Sibling rivalry is a competition (sometimes a destructive one) that develops between siblings as they vie for their parents’ love, attention and respect. It’s an apt parallel to the competition between a retailer’s physical stores and ecommerce channels, with executives playing the part of the parents, doling out respect, attention – and budget.

Brothers and sister are taught to get along by learning to share. So, too, must retailers’ digital and physical channels; by sharing all data across channels, in real time.

It’s no secret this has been a struggle. In fact 30% of retailers have been unable to implement real-time inventory or real-time pricing/promotions, according to the 2016 Boston Retail Partners POS Customer Engagement Survey. The same survey found that 42% of retailers have implemented but need to improve their real-time inventory capabilities, and 41% need to improve their real-time pricing and promotions capabilities.

Real-time retail is vitally important because it enables retailers to provide a shared and accurate view of customer, pricing, product and inventory data across all channels. This might sound rudimentary on its face but is in fact mighty complex. But retailers must confront the challenges and complexities, because the benefits are too great to ignore.

  • With real-time inventory, an online order could be shipped to a customer from the closest store with available stock, or an out-of-stock item could be sold to an in-store customer and shipped from warehouse inventory.
  • Real-time pricing/promotions means a customer can access and use the same personalized mobile promotion regardless of their path to purchase.
  • With real-time returns management not only can a customer return an item to any channel, from any channel – it also means retailers know the precise amount paid, including any discounts or promotions.
  • Real-time analytics allows retailers to provide instant, up-to-date, and accurate customer information. This means a customer could receive an online promotion based on their interaction in that retailers’ store earlier in the day.

Stop your store and digital channels from fighting over customers. After all, they are both pursuing the same thing – sales. When channels share a single view of customers, pricing, promotions and inventory data through real-time retail they have the ability to provide a more enjoyable consumer experience, and earn the shared respect and attention of their CIO and CEO.