Architecting Your Omni-Channel Initiative
Learn how building a multi-channel reference architecture allows businesses to reach a greater amount of customers through the power of APIs.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Multi-channel retailing has multiplied the opportunities for Retailers to do more business with their customers by going beyond their bricks and mortar in order to sell over the web, through smart phones and tablets, perhaps soon on smart TVs and through Partners and Resellers.
I wish to help you see how you can achieve a significant increase in revenue by adopting an IT architecture that will bring you a rapid return on investment and help put your retail business right at the helm of a fundamental change in the industry.
From Multi to Omni
An emerging trend identifies a particular kind of multi-channel customer who is of extreme value to your retail business. Allow me to introduce her to you:
She is smart, well-informed and very much on the move. She wants to get the same level of information about products, the same promotions and access to product reviews whether she be in the store, commuting on the train or sitting at home.
She is smart, well-informed and very much on the move. She wants to get the same level of information about products, the same promotions and access to product reviews whether she be in the store, commuting on the train or sitting at home. She wants to be able to make a purchase online and perhaps pick it up at the store or even the store of her choice! She wants to purchase at the store and and have that purchase afford her possible discounts from her mobile phone. Wherever and whenever, she wants the same deal. She is the Omni-channel Customer and she is likely to consume up to 70% more than the average single-channel customer and she is also likely to influence her friends with her purchasing habits by the power she wields through her Facebook posts!
From Single-channel Visibility to 360 Degree Visibility
Part of this trend is the recognition of the mutual benefit of achieving a “360 degree view” of your Customer across all the channels. It is of tremendous benefit for your business that you know your customer and recognise her in every one of her interactions. You must learn about her preferences and purchasing habits in order to tempt her with opportune recommendations! She must feel that she gets the same deal wherever she shops, that her experience is of your brand, NOT the channel within your brand!
From Applications to APIs and Apps
Modern SOA architectures have shifted the focus of IT from the isolated requirements of departments or lines of business to the enterprise as a whole and from the development or purchase of similarly focused black box application software to orchestrations of reusable services that map to the business processes of the enterprise as a whole and consumed typically by internal and customer facing web front ends.
The same architecture is now forming the basis of a new wave of much simpler, coarse grained, customer and partner facing Web APIs which reuse the same automated business processes. These typically RESTful APIs are completely decoupled from the clients that consume them and so are open to a multiplicity of light-weight consuming Single Page web front ends, Android and iOS Apps and even the services that Partners have in their own IT infrastructures.
One API for Many Channels
External facing APIs can effectively expose your Business as a service to any consuming App in any of your business channels. Whether it be your main web-portal, your iOS App or your Android App or the Point-of-Sale in the store, the decision to centralise the execution of your IT automations in Web APIs will allow you to bridge the channel gaps so that all those touch points are providing your Omni-channel Customer with that single, familiar experience she demands and the 360 degree visibility of her transactions that you should strive for.
One API for More Channels
By providing your loyal customer with this Omni-experience through this single point of entry into your automated business: the same API can provide access to data which may be of keen interest to other Retailers. You could monetise the use of your APIs to these unforeseen partners who may wish to exploit the valuable statistics they can provide and use them in their own recommendation engines.
Case Study: Álainn Cosmetics
Having identified the Omni-channel industrial trend as key to their strategic growth, Álainn Cosmetics have embarked on a program to guarantee a 360 degree view of their customer so that her loyalty is rewarded regardless of how she chooses to shop with them. They will provide her with personalised promotions, allow her to get news on the top selling brands and trends in the markets, receive recommendations, read product reviews, draw up a wish list, make orders and spread her enthusiasm for previous purchases through social media. The expected increase in revenue as a result of this initiative is calculated at 40% within 2 years.
The IT department has already invested significant effort in building up a suite of reusable services as part of their SOA architecture. Orchestrations of these services are currently kicked off from the web portal and from points-of-sale in the stores.
The new architecture has 3 broad goals:
- It should provide that defining element of Omni-channel: a common experience for the cusutomer across all the channels. In order to achieve this, the team must guarantee a decoupling of all of the back end systems from the channels they cater to. In effect, there must be no channel specific systems.
- It should facilitate agile solutions which are responsive to changes in the Business, whether they take the form of modification of existing Business Processes or the addtion of entirely new Busienss Processes. To this end the team must strive to build and purchase Solution logic guided entirely by Business Process and focussed entirely on Business Process.
- It should faciliate a great reduction in Time to Market. To achieve this the team must guarantee heavy re-use of the solution logic.
The current SOA landscape at Álainn is considered the ideal stepping stone to delivering a consolidated and uniform interaction with the customer and partners by web, mobile and all other channels in line with the stated goals.
It is also expected that the data collected through these distinct touch points on the common API will be of great value to other retailers who are interested in the purchasing habits of cosmetics shoppers and are willing to subscribe to the API to the benefit of their own recommendation engines.
- New Customer Portal: replacement for current Portal aiming to deliver a Web 2.0 experience through the Angular framework
- iOS Apps: apps for deployment on iPhone and iPad to be developed by external provider
- Android Apps: apps for deployment on Android phones and tablets to be developed by external provider
- Point-of-sale: migrating them to consume new REST facade instead of directly into SOA services in order to bring them in under the API Management umbrella
- Partner APIs: partners and resellers in order to expose our products on their own front-ends.
- Other Retailers: retailers interested in the statistics we gather round all interaction with our customers
Choice of Platform
Álainn find the complete lifecycle message of MuleSoft´s Anypoint Platform for APIs extremely compelling and having thoroughly evaluated the platform, they have agreed to deploy the IT solution on the API Platform and Mule ESB.
Anypoint Platform for SaaS, SOA and APIs
The need to expose a single layer of APIs which consumes reusable SOA Services is met entirely with Anypoint. It boasts the following features:
- Complete Lifecycle: Design, Build, Test, Document, Deploy, Manage, Engage and Consume APIs.
- Standardised Definition: RAML boasts an extremely lightweight language and complete Design, Test, Document features in API Designer.
- Centralised application of Policies: Whether it be Security, Quality of Service, Contract Enforcement or any custom logic you can think of, all can be applied at the flick of a switch with literally zero-coding.
- Fine-grained Analysis: Analyse the traffic of your API Consumption based on the Applications, dates and times, geographic location and platform.
- REST and SOAP: Exposition and consumption of both SOAP and RESTful Webservices.
- Easy Administration: Centralised control and visibility of Servers, Applications and the Messages passing through there.
- Write once, deploy Anywhere: On-premise or Cloud (API Gateway, Mule ESB, Clouhub) deployments of the same Application.
Published at DZone with permission of Nial Darbey, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.