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The Maze Group’s Jeremy Levine on why technology comes second to culture

Posted by Alex Samuely on Jul 7, 2021

Last updated on September 20th, 2021 at 10:29 am

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While successful omnichannel adoption is rooted in the technology retailers use to sell across digital platforms, it also hinges on alignment around which part of the organization receives credit for each sale, associates understanding the different touchpoints in a customer’s sales journey, and leadership’s willingness to invest in the right tech partnerships.

According to Jeremy Levine, partner at The Maze Group, the pandemic offered retailers the opportunity to examine their technological infrastructure and ensure their personnel are equipped to sell through a variety of digital platforms. The Maze Group—which provides system integration technology services around Shopify Plus and Salesforce Commerce Cloud, as well as ecommerce service providers and marketing platforms—often assists clients with making the move to omnichannel by identifying their best-fit technology partner and helping sales associates feel like they receive credit for the work they do.

Jeremy recently sat down for an Endless Aisle podcast episode with NewStore’s Senior Director of Marketing, Marcus LaRobardiere, to discuss the most common retail challenges he sees in his role and why technology comes second to culture in terms of successful omnichannel adoption. Read on for several highlights from Marcus and Jeremy’s conversation, some of which have been edited for clarity.

On technology’s role in common business challenges

“One [challenge] is a newer business that’s been around [for] four or five years. They got to 20 to 50 million, and now they’re challenged in how they continue to scale. Their investors expect that growth to continue. They’ve done the right things in building their product and brand, but they don’t necessarily have the people, tool set, or experience to get to that next level. [Our work with them] starts out as a deep dive into what do you have, what do the opportunities look like, where do you want to be—those traditional discovery-type analysis projects. Then we work with them on everything from re-platforming to taking advantage of opportunities they didn’t know they had available. Quite often, whether it’s your email service provider, analytics, or testing and personalization within your ecommerce platform, there are things you can continue to take advantage of, but maybe didn’t have the internal expertise to execute. 

“Another scenario we see is a retailer that’s been around for a while. They might have been early adopters to ecommerce and digital. They have huge businesses, but their foundation is crumbling. They’re using outdated technology. It becomes hard for them to be agile in any way. We evaluate what they’ve got. Are there things we can do to get some of those day-to-day activities automated? Is it a situation where we’re standing up a new ecommerce platform, email service provider, CRM platform—whatever it might be?

“The best bet is to partner with technology companies that have these services—that are culturally a right match for you—and stand on their shoulders. Be a great merchandiser. Be a great marketer. Spend your time and resources in those areas rather than try to also be a technology company, because for the most part, retailers are not great at technology.”

On why omnichannel adoption relies upon cultural transformation

“Omnichannel experiences—it’s clear that’s what people want, and that’s what people expect. If you didn’t take COVID as a learning opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we have to make sure we’ve got the best people, the best technology, [and] the best process in place for what will forever be a constantly evolving and changing consumer,’ I think you’re in trouble. If you’re not thinking about the customer experience and all the different touchpoints and understanding the complexities and the diversity of those experiences, you’re doing it wrong.

“There’s [still] a lot of value that store experience provides, and omnichannel is as much a cultural transformation as anything else. The technology is second. It is cultural. In the early days of omnichannel, it is a battle of who gets credit for the sale. Does ecommerce get credit? If it’s a ship-from-store, does the store get credit for that, or does online? Those are reporting issues. Those are cultural issues. Those are easily solved by organizations that understand the customer experience comes first. 

“If you can make for great customer experiences, then you work on operational efficiencies— having the right technology that does things properly. As the technology continues to evolve and the cost of those technologies continues to come down, the reality of being able to sell down to the piece, for instance, and knowing exactly where that unit is, cutting down the time of somebody having to search through a whole stockroom to find something—all that goes away, so the cost of fulfillment in those situations goes down. That becomes more palatable to a CFO and a CEO, and they want to invest in those things. 

“At the end of the day, if the associates in headquarters and the store and the distribution center don’t all feel like they’re on the same page, and they’re all getting credit for what they do, it doesn’t work. You could invest as much into technology as you want. It doesn’t work if you’re not culturally aligned, and I think that is something that especially more traditional retailers are still grappling with.”

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