How Retailers Can Build E-commerce Without Impacting Store Operations

By Bob Phibbs


This is the final part of a three-part blog wrap up of IBM's Amplify conference covering omnichannel retailing, predictive logic on websites and improving customer service throughout retail. 


Think of most bad guys in a science fiction movie. Think Percy Jackson, Storm, even Queen Elsa. Many have sought to control the weather because the person who controls the weather is seen as the most able to control the world.Well IBM can’t control the weather but they have bought the Weather Channel and have integrated it with Watson. Why is this important? Weather dictates how much and what customers want to buy. For omnichannel retailers, connecting the dots between what the weather forecast is, what predicted foot traffic will be, and current inventory levels will optimize physical store sales by signaling a change of displays. It will also optimize online pages which will now automatically feature the most searched for items during a particular type of weather.

Make sure you watch the Watson example video below to see how this might work in the very near future.

When Marketing to an audience, we used to build buyer personas and try to fit people into them. Now with Big Blue analyzing social profiles, we can know the traits of our top customers.

Here’s how Watson analyzed my Twitter profile. Who knew I had so much in common with Snoop Dogg?

IBM Watson Analyzes Twitter Profile from Bob on Vimeo.

This ability to virtually know customers will allow smart marketers to create lookalike audiences who share similar traits with your best customers. We used to do this by neighborhoods, now we can do it by individuals.  You can market to a laser-targeted audience rather than throwing darts at the wall hoping one sticks.

Here’s an example of how IBM’s Watson was able to build a digital ad with information from the Weather Channel.


Branden Moskwa, founder of and an e-Commerce innovator, feels that while it is difficult to automate personalization, especially when the two words are somewhat contradictory in nature, Watson demonstrations and IBM's capabilities to pull BigData from sources like the Weather Channel will certainly deliver a more purpose-oriented customer experience and could forever change the future of online retail.

Store Operations

One of the biggest trends in retail is using the store’s inventory to fulfill online orders.


Shipping from the store costs just 25% of what it would cost to ship from a distribution center, so expect to see more and more of this from retailers.

If you decide to offer this service, note that the actual store, not the online store, needs to get all the credit for the sale. Otherwise you will create a battle between online vs. in-store. You’ll also have to adjust your KPI’s and POS to know how to allocate these sales accurately.

Also know ship-from-store affects:

  • Merchandise buying and planning
  • In-store shipping department
  • Merchandising/Clearance

To see how online orders could impact your stores during peak times, you’ll need to simulate various online scenarios using predictive dynamics models.

If you have multiple stores, you have to have an automatic system that routes orders evenly across multiple stores or you’ll flood employees at one store with so many online orders that they’ll ignore the paying customers in that one brick and mortar store.


Buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) is seeing 25% of customers buy other merchandise once they come to the store.  That’s really interesting because retailers originally thought shoppers chose BOPIS just to get an item quickly. to Once at your store, it appears they find time to buy more. All good.

See also, Omnichannel Warning: Retail Is About Discovery, Not In Being Discovered

In Sum

There is so much information out there, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and then shutdown and do what you’ve always done. That is disastrous.

Keep looking at what the current trends are in retail, in E-commerce, and in Big Data analytics. And looking isn’t enough; you need to act on them.

And if you are omnichannel, you need to make the experience in your store more human too. Omni means all. Remember we’re told 85% of sales still happen in a physical store.

That’s why it’s good to use my online retail sales training program,, to help employees learn greet a customer with an open heart, engage them, and build rapport that takes them from a stranger shopping to a customer buying.  

And at the same time, this turns your employees from warehouse fulfillment clerks into trusted advisors. As your store uses more online tools, this training keeps your employees grounded in face-to-face opportunities.

David Killebrew, at IBM Amplify walked away with one conclusion critical to retail. After all of the demonstrations pertaining to cognitive analytics, E-commerce, online marketing and online shipping issues he simply asked, Are you ready for it?

He agreed that "brick and mortar retail is still critical to overall profitability in almost every case. E-commerce is enabling easier and faster shopping, but many people would like an integrated retail experience. Having the capability to return an online order to a store is still important to consumers. If you can go look at a product in a store and see how it works, you may very well go home and purchase it later from a retail site.

So what does all of this mean? Integration of brick and mortar, mobile and your online site to make the easiest shopping experience possible is the recipe for success."

I couldn't agree more.

It is a brave new world with analytics, predictive logic, personalization and the rest of Big Data. While many retailers won't have the funds to play in many of these areas, anyone can appreciate the gravity of the situation with less traffic and shoppers continuing to demand more.

Concentrate on your own four walls and to what you can do to bring these trends to your operation to improve customer service and grow your sales.

And if you need more help, feel free to contact me.

This blog was too long so I had to break it into three blogs. If you missed the first two, they're here:

1) How Retailers Can Keep Up With Consumer Trends

2) How Retailers Can Use Analytics To Build Better Websites

Discover 12 Tips How To Become The Top Salesperson

The 5 Shifts Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Making to Generate Up to 20% Higher Profits Every Month

Are you a hungry brick-and-mortar store owner who’s ready for a fresh, people-obsessed strategy? This training is for you if you want to grow your business using a powerful customer experience formula proven to make your cash register chirp.

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