How Chinese Laundry Is Tackling Omnichannel

— November 15, 2016

Chinese Laundry is a true success story. Coming from humble roots as a shoe manufacturer selling to mass merchants, the brand is now a major influence across the fashion footwear industry. However, between its rapid expansion and progressively high customer expectations, it's become increasingly difficult to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience. With the help of a new retail platform, Chinese Laundry is on its way to creating a truly integrated omnichannel experience rooted on an enterprise-wide view of inventory.

Los Angeles-based Chinese Laundry is defined by several distinct brands: its namesake Chinese Laundry; Kristin Cavallari by Chinese Laundry; the value-centric CL by Laundry brand; its urban Dirty Laundry line, and the edgy Elise line. It is also one of the few fashion brands to successfully sell its products to customers through established retail partners such as Nordstrom, as well as through its own omnichannel operation comprised of brick-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce site. The company's overall goal was to streamline the shopping experience through a more engaging, responsive omnichannel operation that delivered a consistent shopping experience, regardless of whether customers accessed the brand through desktops, smart devices or in-store.

"Rapidly changing styles are a natural part of the fashion footwear sector, which really ups the ante on the importance of optimized inventory fulfillment and tracking," Scott Cohn, vice president of e-commerce said in a company statement. "Making sure customers can order and receive the merchandise want, when they want it, is critical."

When Cohn joined Chinese Laundry in December 2012 however, this capability was not available, as each sales channel existed in a separate vacuum. While the company made efforts to support growing sales across its increasingly digitally-influenced channels, Chinese Laundry started deploying separate point solutions, including new point-of-sale (POS) technology for its stores, to manage operations. Over an 18-month timeframe, these disconnected systems managed inventory and store order information, and even tracked customer payments.

Operating disparate POS and e-commerce platforms also created inventory and reporting nightmares, such as allowing digital shoppers to order out-of-stock merchandise, and providing executives with murky visibility into what merchandise was selling across which channels. There is no doubt that without enterprise-wide visibility, the company's omnichannel endeavors were destined to fail.

It is a major reason why 36 percent of retailers already have real-time inventory visibility, and another 38 percent of companies either have upgrades underway or will begin one by the end of the year, according to "The 26th Annual Retail Technology Study," a report from RIS News and Gartner.

Knowing this process can make or break the company's future, Chinese Laundry began working on a plan. When the existing technology contracts expired, Cohn saw the window of opportunity he needed to implement a new, single, integrated e-commerce platform. By tapping an existing relationship with Staten Island, N.Y.-based Celerant, which already supported the company's POS solution, Cohn added the provider's integrated ecommerce platform as a means of creating end-to-end omnichannel inventory visibility connecting all sales channels.

By deploying the vendor's Command Retail platform in 2014, Chinese Laundry now had a platform that tied together order and inventory information from different sources, and featured a customer relationship management (CRM) solution that provides a "single view" of shoppers, regardless of the brand or channel they visit. It also gained the back-end support required to launch a brand new web site and mobile optimized site.

The transition quickly began driving strong returns on investment. Omnichannel integration has enabled the company to effectively fill its rapidly expanding online orders, while improving internal control and generating meaningful reports on the performance of its product lines and SKUs. Specifically, real-time omnichannel inventory visibility contributed to a 20 percent drop in canceled customer orders. Meanwhile, integrated web and mobile channels are driving a 31 percent lift in electronic conversions, 50 percent more productive search pages, a 54 percent increase in mobile commerce sales and even an 18 percent boost to page load times — which is critical to customer engagement.

And by gaining intelligence into what merchandise is selling in specific geographies and customers, Cohn and decision makers now have the information needed to optimize inventory levels and product selection. Most importantly, this unified operating  platform allows Chinese Laundry to future-proof its business — a move that will allow it to more easily scale and streamline omnichannel operations, and better service shoppers.

"Continued growth in smart phone and tablet shopping is fueling a sharp increase to online sales," he added. "Real-time visibility into every order is key to scaling without jeopardizing satisfaction for any customer, whether online or in-store."

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