Sears Learns That Merged-Channel Is All About Visibility. And If Systems Are Flawed, You Don’t Want That Stuff Visible

Written by Evan Schuman
May 30th, 2012

Sears has been going through a rough patch these days, but a recent detailed customer complaint about how a ship-to-store order was handled is illustrative for reasons that go far beyond this retailer. It’s a powerful reminder that what makes merged-channel work is visibility through tech automation, provided that what is visible is actually correct.

As chains become more merged-channel and outright encourage customers to fly back and forth between mobile, in-store, online, call centers and Twitter interactions, the lack of visibility into real-time inventory is going to create headaches much worse than mere out-of-stocks. Confusion and supply-chain holes that were once only known to associates are now becoming frighteningly visible to shoppers.

Making this worse, customer service is slow to react to these customer discoveries because, to the customer-service reps, this is nothing new. They forget that it’s new and maddening to customers.

This sad tale, which comes to us courtesy of The Consumerist, started with a customer this month trying to buy a camera from Sears and opting to use in-store pickup. The system initially accepted the order, but then cancelled it because the item was no longer available. The customer then gave up on the store and asked to have the camera delivered.

Note: When an in-store purchase is declined because that store doesn’t have any more of that product but the site does have access to more, shouldn’t that automatically pop up as a customer option? Why lose the orders of customers who might not think to try the Web site directly?

In this instance, that didn’t help, but it did illustrate another system hole. The Web system issued a confirmation of shipment and it gave an expected delivery date.

The customer’s credit card was charged, but the item never arrived. Customer service then said it needed seven business days to research the status. Really? You can check out the link for lots more details, but it seems that a lot more effort was being spent than was merited.

The point is that 10 days after the order failed to arrive, Sears couldn’t even tell the customer whether the package had been shipped. This is all about visibility within the retailer. A Sears case manager was depending on a human reply from a warehouse manager to determine whether the order had been filled. Where’s the automation? And if the automation to support it is not in place, merged-channel is impossible. Or at least it shouldn’t be permitted.

When IT fails, that’s an IT problem. When the IT was never put in place, that’s a complete failure of the business. There are lots of reasons to fix inventory system holes. Public humiliation is just another one.


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.