Manhattan Associates at NRF 2014—Improving the Omnichannel Experience

While the tried-and-true market leading warehouse management system (WMS) and other supply chain execution (SCE) products continue to be main breadwinners for Manhattan Associates, the newer capabilities of the company which focus on establishing an omnichannel commerce platform for retail order management, settlement, and fulfillment, has lately had impressive growth and traction.
Omnichannel represents a fundamental shift in the way retailers go to market. With the future of the brick-and-mortar store at stake, retailers are looking for innovative ways to extend the value of their store networks and real estate. Bringing the visibility and availability of the entire network’s inventory into every potential selling opportunity can result in a notably higher sales conversion rate—both online and in the store.
Consider, for example, the concept of the “endless aisle,” or selling items that are not actually located in the store. This strategy allows retailers to find a better balance between inventory and customer demand, i.e., increase product assortment while decreasing floor space. In many cases, retailers can even arrange for manufacturers to drop-ship items directly to customers. In product categories where the product is large, requires long lead times, or is highly customizable, retailers can save money and space by not having to purchase, warehouse, or display the item before it is sold. In addition, retailers are turning to in-store computer terminals that allow customers to shop and purchase from a company’s entire inventory. These kiosks have proven to be real money makers for retailers and a defense against the “showrooming” effect brought about by Amazon’s mobile apps, for example.

NRF 2014 Showing
At the 2014 National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Conference, Manhattan Associates showcased a comprehensive set of capabilities for executing on the promise of omnichannel, using the retail store as a focal point. Through a live walk-through demo in the booth, attendees could see firsthand how an enterprise-wide approach to omnichannel is suited to the store environment. The live in-booth demo walked numerous groups of attendees through a realistic omnichannel shopping scenario highlighting the following capabilities:
  • In-store clienteling, order capture, and store checkout—with a single credit card swipe. Starmount demonstrated how store associates can engage customers on the selling floor with a full suite of selling tools on a mobile device. By combining “save-the-sale” and “endless aisle” transactions with the clienteling and store checkout process, retailers can blur the lines between selling products online and in-store.
  • Store and online transactions available to customer service personnel enterprise-wide. Manhattan Enterprise Order Management, which uses advanced business rules to manage the flow of orders and products across channels, provides a single view of all customer transactions to customer service representatives (CSR) at any touch point. This enables CSRs—whether on the phone or in-store—to service customer inquiries from any channel. An internally developed call center module called Manhattan Omnichannel Customer Service has recently seen a new release with an improved user interface (see figure 1) specifically designed for omnichannel CSRs.
  • Ship from store, pick up in store, and manage store inventory—entirely on a mobile device. The Manhattan Store Inventory & Fulfillment solution allows mobile omnichannel execution capabilities in the store, such that store associates can maximize the time they spend with in-store customers. Live at thousands of stores, the solution provides inventory management (including critical cycle count) and order management capabilities that are purpose-built for high-employee turnover store environments. Retail associates receive “zero training”, and thus begin using the application with little guidance or instruction.



Figure 1
Figure 2
The aforementioned Store Inventory & Fulfillment product suite (see figure 2 for illustration) is now available on Apple’s iOS devices. Manhattan Associates offered the NRF 2014 attendees a first look at the newest version of its mobile application, which enables store operations to efficiently manage the flood of new omnichannel activities, such as order picking and parcel shipping, while still delivering desired brand experiences for in-store customers. Many retailers have quickly and painfully learned that trying to manage a growing volume of ship-from-store and pick-up-in-store orders without the right tools for in-store employees can be a recipe for disaster. And as the focus shifts from enabling these kinds of capabilities to optimizing those capabilities, tools for store associates will only become even more important.
To that end, store associates can quickly perform any type of order fulfillment request such as ship-from-store to customer’s home, pick up in store, and transfer from store to store. They must also have all the tools necessary to improve inventory accuracy and ensure they’re not wasting time searching for products that may not even be in the store. In addition, Store Inventory & Fulfillment helps interweave the new omnichannel demands with the frenzy of the sales floor. Whenever the sales floor demands their attention, retail associates can “pause” an omnichannel activity at any point and then pick back up right where they left off.

Starmount Alliance for Mobility
At the conference, Manhattan Associates announced that Starmount Engage, a mobile selling assistant, and Starmount Connect data platform feature out-of-the-box integration with Manhattan’s Omnichannel Commerce Platform. This optional combination provides the aforementioned complete solution from store selling through store fulfillment, with enterprise order and inventory management in between. Starmount software solutions bring the power of the Web and mobile into the store, where retailers can create more personalized, relevant, and dynamic interactions with customers. From mobile selling to cross-channel engagement platforms, Starmount retail solutions transform the store environment into a more connected and engaging shopping experience.
Starmount’s integration with Manhattan’s Enterprise Order Management, Omnichannel Customer Service, and Store Inventory & Fulfillment solutions aims to give store associates access to enterprise-wide inventory and rich customer data from their mobile devices. Store associates can use the information to locate and sell merchandise in the store, make recommendations for additional products based on history and preferences, place an order for products sourced anywhere in the retailer’s organization, and arrange delivery to the consumer’s home with one single-swipe transaction (see figures 3 and 4). Additionally, retail associates in the call center and in the store should now have a true omnichannel view of all customer transactions, regardless of where they occurred.
Integrating mobile selling in the store with enterprise-wide inventory availability and rich customer information can be a powerful combination and a way to extend the value of the store. Retailers no longer have to choose one over the other, as has traditionally been the case. They don’t necessarily have to ditch their old cashier point-of-sale (POS) systems either. By combining “save-the-sale” and “endless aisle” transactions with the clienteling (personalization) and store checkout process, retailers should be able to further blur the lines between selling products online and in-store.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Manhattan Associates’ open application programming interface (API) and Web services make this kind of integration relatively easy. Given that retailers typically already have an e-commerce solution in place, Manhattan Associates frequently integrates with products such as Demandware, Oracle ATG, and others. In the upper retail market, the omnichannel commerce platform selection typically comes down to Manhattan Associates and IBM WebSphere Commerce-Sterling Order Management. It is hard to predict at this stage how this duel will unfold down the track given both vendors’ strong offerings. For now, Manhattan Associates is not giving much ground to its mightier foe—quite the contrary.  

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