Omnichannel strategies impact customers, sales, and brand growth

woman shopper holding plant smiling at male worker holding a tablet POS omnichannel strategies

Shoppers love the convenience of online shopping, but still want the benefits of visiting in-store, which is why having an omnichannel presence is so important.

A unified commerce experience means shoppers can start in-store and finish the purchase online – or vice versa. Returns are easy and customers can even plan their in-store trips with updated inventory available at a mouse click.

Driving both online and in-store sales

female shopper at laptop, looking at her smartphone to check retail payment

Unified retail can offer the customer flexibility to shop how and when they want, while also giving them targeted and appropriate offers and recommendations that are exclusive and will enrich the overall experience. 

Digital doesn’t just drive e-commerce; it also gets people in stores. 

Smartphones have become a personal shopping assistant for people once they’re inside. Marketing strategies must therefore accommodate customers and help them buy products and services on any channel. 

Research has found that omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. Unified retail helps convert shoppers to buyers seamlessly and with minimal effort on their part.

Stop the Silo

Many retailers are still running on systems that operate independently of each other, with data unintegrated between the two systems.

Siloed information stores information in separate databases and servers. A better system communicates between data and connects all applications, including e-commerce but also POS, back office, vendor supply chain, mobile and order management.

That type of integration can mean, for example, that inventory can easily be moved from a web warehouse to a store and associates can anticipate and plan for that shipment.

Better stock visibility and operational time savings like this can help retailers improve decision making and efficiency, which will be key to scaling brand growth.

Create Better Profiles

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With siloed data, brick and mortar retailers only see a subset of information about their customers – the part that is reflected by in-store sales. Likewise, e-commerce sites can only recommend products based on previous online purchases.

Investing in a 360-degree view of the customer provides holistic visibility and provides data on which to base predictive models.

Customer information can be varied and may include: past purchases, contact information, size preferences, website browsing history, wish list, and customer service interactions.

Armed with more complete customer profiles, retailers can shape more personalized offers and experiences, helping customers get what they need and enjoy from the retailer.

Calling all Products

shopkeeper lady in a store with various types of products omnichannel strategies

Retailers seeking to unify commerce should determine how product information should be formatted, and then consolidate all of it into a single location.

That will result in fewer redundancies and errors in product information and will allow you to trace and manage products more easily. Retailers should also invest in technology that helps associates check inventory in real-time on the sales floor.

A better handle on products and their availability will help retailers ensure customers don’t leave disappointed by out of stock situations but rather have their need met, even if via a different store in te retailer’s chain.

Unified retail is the next step in providing superior customer experiences. By implementing solutions that work to provide enhanced communication between inventory and the customer, retailers will see more robust sales and, potentially, repeat business due to a more responsive, personalized experience.


RFID and Your Omnichannel Inventory Management Strategy

shopkeeper checks inventory on mobile device while thumbing through a stack of shirts

A successful omnichannel strategy depends upon having accurate inventory and timely order fulfillment.

Because retailers are fielding orders from different sources – including online purchases with home delivery, online purchase with an in-store pickup (“click and collect”) and in-store purchases —  keeping track of those sales and inventory is mission critical.

Omnichannel inventory management helps the customer make purchases confidently

Girl sitting on couch with laptop on her lap holding up her credit card as she looks at the screen happily
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Robust inventory management provides the means to get the correct products to customers quickly and efficiently.

Omnichannel inventory management is integrated across all sales channels, offering clear data visibility to retailers, as well as stock information to customers. It’s often coupled with smart warehousing, which automates back-end decisions and tasks, improving employee efficiency.

Omnichannel inventory management ensures that customers who want to use different devices and buy through various platforms are able to do so successfully. Omnichannel is a unified process in which each platform communicates with another, creating a seamless whole.

While multichannel retailers sell using many platforms, most of them are unintegrated. Store and online inventory management must be integrated with your other systems, including order and CRM software.

By integrating the inventory management systems, retailers have improved data visibility. All data on sales, suppliers, returns are in one centralized location.

When orders are placed – in any channel – stock is updated in real-time. Therefore, all employees, from the inventory picker to the store manager to the customer checking online supply, can be confident in the data they access, even if the orders were placed in a different country or channel.

RFID innovates, making taking inventory fast

Despite the heavy-hitting technology omnichannel retailers rely on today to conduct their daily business, physical inventory counts continue to be invaluable.

Such counts verify inventory and ensure there are no variances caused by overages or shrinkage, for instance.

However, this activity doesn’t have to be manual. RFID technology can help speed up inventory counts while providing workflow automation.

An RFID tag is placed on stock and read with a handheld device. RFID can scan or “read” many items at once and doesn’t require line of sight.

Products or pallets can be quickly read without positioning the tag directly in front of the reader, a big advantage in warehouses or other dense environments.

How RFID further empowers omnichannel operations

shopkeeper lady looks at tablet while in an aisle of hangers in store

Keeping inventory counts accurate requires the integration of in-store POS that reflects the actual count on the floor, which is reflected in online data.

Although back-end technology is important to maintain accuracy, inventory is a customer-driven aspect of business.

Improving practices and systems assists retailers to meet more customers’ expectations, increase satisfaction and retain more customers.

Tailoring an omnichannel inventory management system to focus on customers helps retailers reap the benefits of having a loyal, satisfied customer base.


Why in-store fulfillment is a must for retail & how to pull it off with less resource strain

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Today’s customers are looking for a seamless purchasing experience, whether that’s in-store, online, or a combination of both. But the so-called “last mile” — the time it takes for a shipment to reach a customer —can be a thorn in the side of a retailer. Enter in-store fulfillment. 

Benefits of in-store fulfillment

curbside fulfillment - girl  wearing mask holding shopping bags sitting against her open trunk

Mounting shipping costs are costly for retailers who are reluctant to pass them along to customers who are looking for the best price for every item, as well as free shipping. 

By offering in-store fulfillment, the delivery process can be seamless as customers choose from curbside delivery, click and collect, and buy online/return in-store options. 

Employees can address customer requests in real-time, monitor inventory, and deliver attentive service.

In-store fulfillment means retailers no longer have to route products exclusively to a warehouse.

Nordstrom and Kohl’s are excellent examples of putting the strategy into practice. 

They can fulfill orders from the store closest to the customer’s location, leveraging their stores as fulfillment centers and shipping orders directly to customers, reducing costs and speeding up deliveries.

Requirements for in-store fulfillment

sales associate executes sale fullfullment using Retail Pro Prism POS

While the benefits are clear, implementing in-store fulfillment requires an omnichannel strategy in which inventory data is tightly integrated across ecommerce and the in-store POS

Ship-from-store, ship-to-store, and in-store pickup can then be handled with one solution that optimizes in-store inventory usage and reduces the time and cost for fulfilling online orders.

Perhaps the most daunting part of the process is getting a 360° view of inventory by connecting data from e-commerce sales with in-store transactions. 

Determining the correct timing for syncing online data and orders with in-store POS is vital; solutions can be configured to sync data at any interval, including real-time, hourly, nightly, or at other intervals that make sense for a retailer’s operations and network capacity.

If syncing lags, inventory can fall behind, and there’s a risk of selling out of products that have already been committed to online orders. 

With seamlessly connected channels, shoppers can buy products online and pick them up in the store that same day. 

Store associates can receive pick lists to select and package the products ordered online. 

Selecting off-the-shelf products increases inventory turn and decreases the duplication that comes with holding a separate online order inventory.

In-store fulfillment completes the frictionless purchasing experience. 

Customers get quick, free delivery — often receiving their items even faster than ordering online. 

Retailers, in turn, move inventory more rapidly, helping to maintain price stability. 

Both shoppers and retailers benefit from a more efficient customer experience.


Retailers benefit from unified commerce insights

For retailers, a unified commerce strategy is built on the foundation of integrated retail technology for an efficient, frictionless customer experience across channels.

Unified commerce gives retailers a smooth, efficient means of transacting business, because inventory, sales, e-commerce, and fulfillment system data is integrated to regularly and automatically keep inventory availability and customer details synced and up to date.

From Point of Sale to e-commerce, from CRM to inventory management, all these technologies need to be connected so retailers have a clear picture of who their customers are and how to provide what they want.

Interaction with customers

Woman examines various items of dishes. Beautiful woman shopping tableware in supermarket. Manager helps a costumer.

Each time a customer enters the retail store, they leave behind a wealth of data for any retailer who can measure their interactions within the store:

  • What was bought?
  • What was picked up but not purchased in the end?
  • What was the dwell time near products that were not purchased?
  • How long was the customer in-store?
  • Was this an online pickup?
  • Did they purchase other items along with their online pickup?

Those answers, when documented with technology, inform a retailer’s back-end systems, so inventory can keep pace with demand, and so marketing teams can keep pace with customer needs.

To collate and analyze that information, retail processes and tools must be intelligently integrated in a retail management platform like Retail Pro to enable sharing of relevant data across both customer-facing systems and those that integrate with backend vendor systems.

Applications from the point-of-sale report on purchases, inventory, and customer data. Sharing this data with an integrated warehouse management system allows warehouse staff to have insight into stock levels currently on the shelves, and to place orders with suppliers as supplies diminish.

Sharing the data with a loyalty and personalized marketing platform like AppCard for Retail Pro allows marketing teams to create targeted campaigns around a customer’s purchase history.

Consistent data across channels

That principle also applies to in-store sales staff—they should have the same product information available as retailers’ online channels.

Integrating your ecommerce software with your POS can give store staff the visibility they need to serve customers who call in to verify stock availability before coming in.

Customers who started their retail journey at home but then switch “channels” to come into the brick-and-mortar store must be certain that inventory is in sync: Surprises such as realizing that products aren’t in stock when the web site said they were there are unacceptable.

If your website indicates there is a pair of shoes in certain size on the shelf, your in-store staff should be able to verify that through an inventory management application.

Retailers that use disparate, unintegrated systems risk delays in communication because data is manually updated at the end of the day, causing inventory counts to become out of sync and unreliable.



Customer-facing systems for engagement

There are a number of technologies that retailers can put in place to provide a seamless customer-facing experience.

Shelf labels and cameras can map consumers’ movements within the store. That helps in product layout for future products, and in product forecasting. They can also indicate where is the heaviest foot traffic within the store.

Beacons can communicate with an app on the customer’s phone to notify them of product sales when customers are in the store’s vicinity, enticing them to stop in.

When integrated with the POS as well, interactions in the app which originated from a beacon trigger and resulted in the ultimate purchase can be properly attributed to track the efficacy of the tools and campaigns put in place.

The connected data then provides insight also on unvoiced customer needs which are nevertheless discernable through their interactions with a retailer’s various channels.

Integrating data in retail technologies provides the foundation for retailers to more effectively determine and act on customer needs for a better customer experience.


Unify commerce & streamline operations with Retail Pro

Ecommerce helped retailers get through a rough 2020. But sudden growth in digital operations also exacerbated the resource costs and inefficiencies of working with unintegrated inventory and customer data.

Retailers will need to evaluate their needs and gaps to determine the best way to unify data & operations across their organization.

Named top POS for mid-market retail by IHL Group, Retail Pro is the proven, globally localized platform to build omnichannel operations for today’s tough retail market.

Didn’t get to meet with us at #NRF2021? Request your consultation now >

POS and retail management platform

Connect all data in Retail Pro Prism for omnichannel visibility & total control over inventory, customers, orders, pricing, promotions, back office, & store operations.

  • Cut resource cost of manual data exchange with seamless integration
  • Connect all points of purchase for efficient order management & fulfillment
  • Spot trends & opportunities with the whole data picture: 1 unified view
  • Simplify path to purchase across channels for better CX

Deep reporting

Maximize your data’s value with operational reports, dimensional analytics, & KPI dashboards.

Powerful RFID

Increase stock accuracy to 98%+ & finish physical inventory in minutes with affordable RFID.

Business intelligence and visual analytics

Unify social media, sales, merchandise, & other data sources into 1 holistic view for intelligent insight.

AI-driven loyalty and personalized marketing

Leverage AI in marketing campaigns to understand & trigger your customers’ buying behavior.

Ready to unify commerce? Let’s start the conversation.

How connected data personalizes shoppers’ experience

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Providing a personalized experience that’s “just right” — not overly intrusive but offering information relevant to each shopper — is the Holy Grail of retail.

Deep visibility into data unified across channels and technologies through the Retail Pro Prism platform can give retailers the level of information needed to offer the right products to the right customers at the right time, through a preferred channel or combination of channels.

A single view of inventory, orders and customer data provided by a unified system of technologies offers retailers insights about their entire business in real time.

But unified commerce has a customer benefit also, allowing customers to take advantage of up-to-date product inventories and the flexibility to browse, buy, and fulfill orders any way they choose.

Read now: What does it take to unify commerce?

Creating interaction points to learn what your customer wants

Image: Andrea Piacquadio

Customers want efficient trips and will seek retailers that streamline the purchasing process, and which may include an online-to-offline experience.

Enhancing purchasing channels so they complement and build on each other helps retailers optimize their investments, focus efforts, and support their customers’ journeys.

Omnichannel offers customers multiple touch points, each a part of a seamless experience, and unified data helps retailers deliver instant, informed personalization.

One way to do that is to review past purchase data, converged between transactions in-store with Retail Pro, on ecommerce, mobile, social sales, and any other channels a retailer may use.

But for new visitors, providing interactive content not only engages the shopper but also benefits the retailer by sharing customer likes—and dislikes—with the retailer.

That data helps build a unique profile for future interactions whether online or in-store.

Every personalized shopping experience is created based on customer interactions.

As the retailer determines customer intent, an online strategy must be in place to quickly feature certain products in a relevant manner, with pertinent information and offers readily available and presented to the customer with immediacy.

Matching products to the right customer with personalized recommendations

While customers appreciate personalized shopping, unified commerce also provides retailers the data for targeted inventory.

By converging a customer’s interactions with your brand at various touchpoints into one cohesive customer profile and analyzing that holistic data, retailers can learn what products are popular for which types of customers.

The information can inform text and email messaging through AppCard for Retail Pro, providing personalized content which entices shoppers to visit (or return to) brick and mortars.

Stores can reduce or optimize in-store inventory by matching certain high-inventory products to potentially interested customers.

Based on analyzing shoppers’ data, a store can determine what products will appeal to which customers and present those options proactively.

Communications that are in the know with the customer

Image: Torsten Dettlaff

Customer segments may require different handling; some use email, others text messaging.

Retailers who can reach the customer during the decision-making process will remain top-of-mind as a trusted provider of quality goods and services.

Engagement might be driven through personalized email reminders that highlight where they can pick up their purchased product in-store, as well as recommending complimentary products to the items they just purchased.

Mobile push notifications or text messages can highlight related items to opted-in shoppers via the retailer’s app or loyalty program.

Most important is the unified experience from the customer’s point of view: When he or she returns to the retailer’s site, they should also see updated recommendations and search results based on in-store — or previous online —purchases.

Unified commerce provides the foundation for customers to easily shop whenever and wherever they want, including starting on one channel and finishing through another.

And that is an important step toward frictionless retail.


US retail’s recent rush to adopt contactless payments

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The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated retailers to turn to technology to help their businesses plan better, increase productivity, and service their customers.

Contactless payments are one of the areas that, because of COVID-19, will change forever the way retailers do business.

Safer and faster checkout

safe retail shopping during COVID
Image: Anna Shvets

These RFID-enabled payments have been available for years but have surged in popularity during the pandemic.

Not only is contactless more hygienic – in the time of COVID-19, no one wants to touch cash that’s been touched by hundreds of strangers – but it also streamlines the entire checkout process.

While the pandemic may have provided a strong push toward a cashless society, customers could still choose to use a traditional payment card, rather than NFC technology, and be safer from virus exposure during the transaction because they are operating the card reader rather than handling cash.

However, because they use radio-frequency identification, contactless payments reduce time waiting in lines.

The “tap-and-go” process generally results in speedier transactions. While the transaction time for a chip-enabled card can take as long as 30 to 45 seconds, a contactless transaction can be as short as 10 to 15 seconds.

Global adoption of contactless payments

Contactless transactions build upon RFID and typically use NFC technology, the foundation for services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Globally, this method of payment is very popular. 

The United States, however, has been slow to adopt contactless payments.

In 2018, only 3% of cards in use in the United States were contactless, compared with 64% in the United Kingdom and up to 96% in South Korea, according to global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Even prior to the pandemic, Juniper Research reported that contactless payments would triple to $6 trillion worldwide by 2024, up from roughly $2 trillion this year.

OEM mobile wallet transactions were predicted to increase as banks expanded the use of contactless cards. 

In the U.S. market, contactless transaction values were expected to rise at an even higher rate than the global market, reaching $1.5 trillion by 2024, compared with the approximated $178 billion in 2020. 

Once COVID-19 hit, contactless payments began to surge.

By August 2020, the global contactless payment market was valued at $ 1.05 trillion by 2019 transaction value, and is now predicted to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 20.01% between 2020 and 2027.

Today, the global contactless payment market value is expected to surpass $ 4.60 trillion by 2027.

Customers have enough friction getting out to the store today. By offering contactless payments, retailers can provide an efficient, safe method for purchasing goods and services while enhancing the customer’s overall experience.


How AR can bring immersive retail to shoppers staying at home

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Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told Bloomberg that augmented reality (AR) is “changing the whole experience of how [customers] shop.”

Considering the typical experience of entering a store, looking through the merchandise, speaking to an associate and paying for the purchase has, in some cases, changed very little in the United States since Colonial times, until COVID-19.

Now, with social distancing and the Stay at Home life, augmented reality can bring brand stores home to their customers.

AR for COVID-19 omnichannel

Image: cottonbro

AR could be a very effective tool for retailers looking to enhance their omnichannel retail strategy while shoppers are still hesitant to return to stores with the pandemic’s ongoing threat.

AR adds digital elements to a live view usually by using the camera on a smartphone.

In a store, shoppers typically already have their smartphones out, so taking over that screen’s real estate with AR content can deliver additional information that will grab consumers’ attention and keep them focused on making a purchase.

Brick and mortars and e-commerce could benefit from AR advantages over more traditional advertising efforts.

Merging digital and physical retail

Image: Oladimeji Ajegbile

The technology can merge online and offline customer experiences through an intuitive, context-sensitive, and socially connected interface.

How will that desk look in my home office? Will that color red look good on me?

AR puts the desk in your room or the blazer on your back, using the smartphone’s camera.

AI currently serves as an attention-grabber for retailers looking to deliver novel experiences.

It also provides interesting potential benefits to customers – such as allowing them to “showroom” a product at home, or see a product in its future environment, helping them to make more informed purchase decisions.

With shoppers unable or unwilling in many regions still to visit stores, augmented reality’s showrooming benefits could be an opportunity for a more consultative approach to distance sales.

Bringing customer value

Image: Ola Dapo

Customers have been slow to warm up to AR, often considering it gimmicky and failing to see much value in it, but COVID-19 may change that perception.

The technology can deliver real value during the lockdown if firms are able to prioritize actual customer needs, such as more efficient and enjoyable shopping experiences that reduce decision-making uncertainty.

In contrast to other emerging technologies, which immerse customers into a fully synthetic environment (e.g., virtual reality), AR supplements reality rather than replaces it.

As such, it is the perfect lynchpin between the online and offline world.

Contextualizing experiences & spreading the word

Image: Anna Shvets

AR contextualizes products and services by embedding digital content into the customer’s physical environment, interactively and in real-time and increasingly allows customers to share their enhanced view of reality with others.

Customers draw on their own physical experiences and actions to learn more about products and services, while also relying on others to support them in product or service evaluation.

Because people have a natural tendency to share their experiences with peers, customers commonly consult peer reviews, go shopping together, and increasingly share their shopping in real-time through highly visual social media such as Snapchat.

AR blurs the boundaries between online and offline channels by providing a combination of embedded and extended experiences.


Retail Pro Prism: Tracking inventory needs and movement in COVID-19’s accelerated Omnichannel

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The uptick in online sales due to COVID-19 has been explosive.

Listrak reports a 40% increase in ecommerce revenue since the United States declared a state of emergency in late Spring.

Research from Klaviyo shows a sudden spike in demand for product categories that help people make the most of time at home, such as the “new essentials” that include electronics, housewares, and office supplies.

Order values of electronics this June 15 was approximately $8 million, for example, compared with roughly $4 million one year ago.

Retailers in the home goods industry are likewise seeing an impressive increase in sales, likely because shelter-in-place laws have made people a bit more conscious of their home environments.

As demand surges, many manufacturers are finding it difficult to keep up. Retailers are faced with figuring out how to efficiently manage inventory during production slowdowns when products are in high demand.

No retailer wants a repeat of the infamous “toilet paper shortage.”

With the uptick in sales, retailers are keeping a closer watch on orders to ensure satisfied shoppers.

Having accurate inventory data is crucial to survival for retail, which is where retail management solutions such as Retail Pro Prism fit in.

Tracking inventory available for omnichannel sales with Retail Pro

Because many physical stores are not yet opened at full capacity, a greater percentage of sales are being funneled through e-commerce platforms.

However, as states and nations reopen commerce, curbside pickup and in-store purchases are being added to the mix even for non-food retail, making it increasingly important that inventory counts across channels are accurate.

But many retailers were only on the path to omnichannel when COVID-19 hit and have had to accelerate digital efforts to create somewhat of a make-shift omnichannel to fill moment’s need.

As the platform for omnichannel data connectivity, Retail Pro Prism also helps retailers fill in the gaps as they transition toward fully integrated data across systems.

Retail Pro Prism gives retailers full visibility into their inventory at each location, whether the goods are at the warehouse, in transit, in the back room, or on the sales floor.

This kind of detailed visibility gives retail managers greater accuracy in tracking inventory, helping minimize unprofitable overstocks and the opportunity cost of shortages.

Automated replenishment capabilities based on minimum and maximum values in Retail Pro also ensure purchase orders are placed in time to prevent shortages.

Integration with retailers’ ecommerce platforms gives a threefold benefit:

  1. Shoppers are given visibility into which locations near them have the products they want in stock
  2. Store inventory can be used to fulfill online orders, increasing turn and reducing the need for duplicate inventory sets, one for each channel
  3. Changes to inventory triggered by online purchases or purchases in store are automatically updated in both platforms, keeping availability accurate

Gauging staffing needs based on transaction and traffic volume

Image: Edmond Dantès

Proper inventory tracking processes not only guarantee items are on hand when requested but can also help with employee staffing.

With less shoppers in stores during COVID-19, certain support staff jobs are not being performed at the same rate, so stocking up on the materials used for those jobs isn’t imperative.

Reduced foot traffic means moving resources and shifting focus. Warehouse workers may need to adjust schedules and workloads to accommodate.

Using reports and visual analytics in Retail Pro, you can compare staffing levels to number of transactions completed per hour, including the number of items per transaction and foot traffic counts.

These kinds of data together will help determine whether an increase in staff would be needed to improve the experience for shoppers as they are coming back to your stores and wanting to find items quickly.

Levi’s: better turn even during COVID-19

Levi Strauss credits smart inventory management with helping it to remain strong during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the first quarter of 2020, the company reported inventories were 7% lower than the prior year’s.

During an investor call, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Harmit Singh said that Levi’s strategy will continue to focus on inventory management and added that a significant majority of its inventory is core replenishment.

That includes stock it can carry over into future seasons: More than 70% of Levi products are so-called “evergreen products.”

In addition, the retailer plans to increase its ship-from-store capabilities, allowing retail outlets to fulfill e-commerce orders.

When they do venture into a store post Covid-19, customers will want to see well stocked shelves and will not want to wait for shipments to arrive.

With a more proactive approach to tracking inventory and stocking shelves, retailers can keep existing customers happy — and attract new ones.


Is your omnichannel meeting customers’ expectations?

 


 
Today’s customers often want a fast, efficient shopping experience, and retailers are increasingly providing omnichannel experiences that are refined to meet those needs.

While retailers hope to gain revenue and gain efficiencies in marketing, what do customers view as a successful omnichannel experience?
 

Origin of omnichannel

 
Ten years ago, a retailer might offer an online as well as a brick and mortar experience, hoping to catch shoppers who couldn’t make it to the store.

In essence, e-commerce began as a way retailers could extend their shopping hours.

Today, for many, e-commerce has evolved into a preferred means of shopping for many common items, but it doesn’t replace traditional shopping entirely.

That’s where a strong omni-channel strategy comes into play.

Clothing, electronics, furnishings — those are items that customers typically want to see in-person before buying.

They may not want to purchase them in-person, however.

Additionally, shoppers often want opinions of their friends before committing to those types of purchases.

Best-in-class omnichannel retailing serves shoppers through multiple sales channels—primarily online, in-store and social media — in a way that is presented cohesively, no matter how or where the customer journey began.
 

The reality today

 
From the customer’s point of view, most businesses currently provide a multi-channel experience.

There is a brick and mortar store, a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and, perhaps, a blog.

Those platforms engage and connect with customers, but rarely as a cohesive unit.

In most cases, there is no seamless experience or consistent messaging across channels.

Many times, “buy online, pickup in store,” or BOPIS, is unavailable, because inventory systems are disparate.
 

What it takes to do omnichannel well

 
A successful strategy should build a coherent, aligned experience across multiple platforms and involve stakeholders including the product, marketing, sales, customer support and customer journey teams.

Each shopping channel should work concurrently to provide a truly powerful experience through many shopping touch points.

Among the most important areas to align include:

  • Inventory: Online reflects in-store stock
  • Rewards programs: Use and earn points online and in-store
  • Shipping and delivery: Delivery status can be checked in-store or online

While the biggest changes have come primarily from the largest retailers, many smaller companies have actually driven the customer experience crusade, using social media platforms to engage directly with shoppers.

Start-up retailers generally have omni-channel “baked in” as a foundation, leaving larger companies challenged to compete.

Retail consultant McKinsey notes that an omni-channel transformation is the only way for a company to address rising complexity, provide an excellent customer experience, and manage operations costs.

A true omni-channel strategy improves communication within the retailer itself, because different departments are routinely updating statuses that are then reflected throughout the internal supply chain.

As a result, the strategy better meets the needs of today’s customer.