As an e-commerce retailer, It’s hard not to wonder what today’s top online retailers might be doing differently over the average (struggling) e-commerce website. Aside from having an established brand, you can bet that today’s top online retailers have,  first and foremost, acknowledged that The Customer is King and adapt to consumer expectations. This strategy alone places them right at the front lines, and right within the consumer’s reach.

Keeping up in today’s rapidly evolving, consumer-driven landscape is a challenge for even the fittest among us. However, when challenges arise, looking at (and emulating) the strategies of the most successful will provide the tools you can use to give you the competitive edge. If you’re an online retailer wondering what the magic formula might be, here are key insights from a NetSuite report titled “A Single Commerce Platform for Channel-Agnostic Retailing.”

Old Channels Never Die, They Just Become Complementary

While many experts have suggested the impending doom of non-digital retail, one need only hang on to a month’s worth of catalogs and store circulars received in the mail to be reminded that old channels don’t die—they’re simply modified to complement new channels. Today’s mobile phone is yesterday’s e-commerce site, yesterday’s e-commerce site is last year’s catalog, and they all still rally around the venerable brick-and-mortar store. Therefore, an omnichannel strategy isn’t predicated on a question of which channel.

Progressive omnichannel retailers don’t ask that question—they let the customer decide, and then they determine how to best accommodate customer preferences. As mobile technology adoption continues to fuel double-digit growth in digital channels, competitive differentiation won’t be determined by which channels retailers operate in, but by how well those channels are connected.

The consumer expectation of an omnichannel retailer is that ordering, fulfillment, and returns should be enabled freely and that any step of the process should be executable in the channel of their choice. Merchandise advertised in stores should be available for purchase online. It should be fulfilled at the shopper’s discretion—to a store, to her home, to her workplace. That merchandise should be returnable to a store, or via parcel post. To the consumer, none of these permutations should be cumbersome.

Provide a Seamless Omnichannel Experience

Meeting those consumer expectations requires channel systems connectivity that enables access to real-time and accurate inventory data, process communication between department- and channel-specific associates, and cross-channel visibility of and communication with the customer. In a single-platform cross channel commerce environment, everyone in the company has access to the same data—a single version of the truth. That’s a tall order in a legacy systems environment. The omnichannel journey starts with the recognition that, to remain competitive, some things will have to change.

When data and systems are disparate and distributed from one channel or store to the next, associates are denied the opportunity to sell what they can’t see and customers are denied the opportunity to buy what appears unavailable. A cloud-based inventory, CRM and order management platform is the quickest and most efficient path to the omnichannel ideal.

Don’t Lag on the Omnichannel Initiative

Consolidating customer data across all channels is a prerequisite to prioritizing and implementing cross-channel capabilities, according to an RSR study. As such, the study says a single customer interaction platform that crosses channels, enterprise-wide customer visibility, and an enterprise-wide marketing and promotions platform are the top three investment priorities for the next 12-18 months. That finding paves the way for an all-out race to omnichannel retailing, and those who embrace the cloud will be on the fast track.