Being Unique with MCC: Can Something Buried Under The Hood Be A Differentiator?
Now, I had to think dispassionately here and hold myself from behaving like a proud papa whose star son was being given the cold shoulder by the school principal. So, I tried telling him that he's looking at this entire program as "enabling online fulfillment thru dedicated warehouses" (read: ONE order entry channel and ONE order fulfillment channel) and not as a foundation for taking the retailer to the Multi-Channel Commerce way. His counterpoint could be summarized thus "well, Sterling Commerce OMS can handle it, other retailers have done it, at least in parts, so where's the differentiation?"
Now, I could have swallowed it if he had used the term "innovation" or even "customer experience", rather than "differentiation" to describe the fact that others have done it in parts. Just knowing all the options available - say, five kinds of order entry channels to be matched to six kinds of fulfillment methods in all possible ways of order/order-line splits and combination fulfillment options - doesn't make something a non-differentiator. Why? because most folks today are only giving lip service to cross-channel strategies or are somewhere in the early miles into this long, torturous marathon of enlightened multi-channel order management/fulfillment due to the sheer complexity of actually doing it.
I didn't belabor the point looking at the obvious convictions of the other party; it would have been a limiting argument anyway, considering I was there to cement a relationship, not wreck it :-). That said, my PoV is that companies attemping even a wee-bit of MCC and actually getting it on the road stands to benefit big time. One of the fashion retailers in US who went live recently just tweaked a little bit of their fulfillment philosophy - exposing store inventories for online sales. The resultant spurt in sales the week after go-live when the system hadn't even stabilized resulted in massive doses of shock and awe, albeit of the happy variety. It also gave spurt to a parallel, ongoing program to enable store-to-store fulfillment.
Knowing all options on the table never makes for differentiation, implementing most of it definitely would help differentiate. For sure, it may not give immediate consumer pull like website checkout design or shopping cart performance. That said, if you can create a system that would fulfill customer orders, come what may, through any or all channels possible, word would definitely go around. Accurate fulfillment, timely fulfillment, increased fulfillment percentages all are back-end metrics that would never work to grab eyeballs, but if you aim to keep them coming back, that's where you'll want to throw some senior management bandwidth on.