By Brandi Slaughter

Nearly every retailer has made it clear that creating a seamless customer shopping experience is a priority. In fact, a recent article from cited a survey Logistics Viewpoints conducted last year that found the top three reasons sellers are moving toward omni-channel initiatives include increasing sales, increasing market share and improving customer loyalty.

And according to multiple Forrester Research reports, omni-channel fulfillment presents retailers with great business opportunities. In fact, omni-channel fulfillment can generate up to 30% of additional revenue, and shipping from a store can produce a 20-30% uplift in online revenue.

But there is still an experience gap for consumers. Why?

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for this disconnect stems from the lack of integration between the front-end and back-end systems. Consistently shifting consumer demands, led by omni-channel expectations, has created a demand for greater transparency into inventory availability. And beyond that, consumers want to know how easy it is to get the product they want, when they want it. Without this insight, consumers most definitely will find what they’re looking for somewhere else.

Retailers need to be able to support innovative commerce services and effectively handle allocation and fulfillment processes as part of a unified shopping experience. It requires a coordinated effort across the entire retail organization for all of these pieces to work together correctly.

But the lack of guidance and tools has led to the adoption of ‘band aid’ solutions. And quite frankly, I don’t see these short-term fixes making a significant impact on either the near or long-term goals to reduce this experience gap.

What really needs to happen is a convergence of omni-channel and order management solutions. As I mentioned above, consumers are increasingly being driven by this phenomenon of instant-gratification – they want what they want, when they want it – and if they can’t find it with one retailer, they’ll move on to the next.

Omni-channel enablement is equally important for both the consumer and the retail organization. Retailers need to connect the back-end systems with the front-end functionalities; if the business information – primarily inventory – doesn’t align to what the customer is seeing, it opens the door to significant customer experience challenges.

A good omni-channel customer experience boils down to communication, ensuring the customer is presented with as much information as possible to manage expectations. This is particularly critical as we approach the holiday shopping season.

What are you finding is the most challenging part of creating this dynamic integration between inventory and customer-facing systems?