The quest for a seamless experience
The act of shopping is no longer a simple, walk-in walk-out operation.
Where once the task of purchasing an item involved bricks and mortar stores only, payment with cash or cheque at the point of sale (POS), followed by leaving the store with the purchase, we now live in a world where the task is a little more, well, omnichannel.
When customers shop they are looking for solutions. They research products, select an item for purchase, and receive it – passing through a myriad of options and channels tailored to their specific needs and wants.
Navigating the purchasing journey needs to satisfy the customer’s wishes. Want to put something in your online cart, change your mind and then check if it’s available at the local store to pick up – no problem! Want to order an out-of-stock item and have it delivered to your home address – certainly! Just window shopping online until payday – you can do that too!
In this multi-faceted environment, we entertain different ideas of what optimal retail systems and processes look like – and so do our customers.
Which is why we’ve arrived at the omnichannel solution.
The Oxford Dictionary defines omnichannel as ‘denoting or relating to a type of retail which integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers (e.g. online, in a physical shop, or by phone)’.
Which is a pretty good start. Yet while omnichannel refers to the many channels of retail, it doesn’t mean you need to be doing them all at once.
Remember too, the term ‘omnichannel’ is a bit of a buzz word – your customers probably don’t mind too much if you ‘do’ omnichannel, they just want a really satisfying shopping experience.
From the customer’s point of view, the landscape from point A to point B looks rather smooth – or at least, that’s what they expect. Rather than shopping in a linear fashion, the pattern is more of a zig-zag, as they move from one channel to another with the expectation each one will provide a very similar experience.
Starting out on the shopping journey, your customer will be use different avenues available to find out more about their potential purchase. For this reason, all your channels need to be aligned and working together with consistent and reliable pricing, promotions and stock information across online and physical stores.
Whether your customer is using POS in-store or ecommerce, the process must provide the same result – and a happy customer. Every purchase permutation needs to be taken care of and considered – like the customer who wants to combine their loyalty points with cash, or the one who wants to pick up one item and order another in a different size to be delivered.
A customer may insist on receiving their purchase immediately or be willing to wait, and with omnichannel nothing should be too much bother. Fulfilment needs to be straightforward, with a powerful ecommerce and order management system offering delivery, click and collect, ship to another address and any of the other multitude of options.
On the occasion customers need to return or exchange an item, they’ll want it to be quick and easy. The return payment and customer record updating, together with the price validation and inventory re-allocation solution gives an opportunity to impress if handled efficiency. The result is a customer who walks away, satisfied with the resolution, and more likely to return.
As a retailer, it’s in your best business interests to provide your customers with the optimal shopping experience to match their shopping preferences – and this means going omnichannel.
It’s important not to support a pseudo omnichannel existence, where things are not quite as they are purported to be. If your webstore states an item is instore at a specific location, it really needs to be there when the customer drops in to purchase it. In a similar fashion, if a customer has loyalty points at the in-store POS, then these points need to be available in the online store as well.
It’s about aligning the online and real world to work as one supersized retail brand.
This is where a robust retail management system is worth its weight in gold – or to be more precise, sales. It is essential to have a unified retail suite across physical and online channels which offers simplified management for you and a superior shopping experience for your customers.
Point of sale
The POS brings sales people right to your customer, regardless of which channel they use to shop.
The epitome of omnichannel for the customer is click and collect. This merging of online purchase and in-store pick-up offers a retailer the opportunity to really showcase its omnichannel capabilities, by offering the ability to return online purchases in-store, and by recognising customers at the POS in the same way whether they are at home online, moving around on mobile, or face-to-face in-store. Having a customer physically in your store also brings bonus touchpoint – so put it to good use and ensure your collection point is functional and enticing.
A significant element of the omnichannel solution is ecommerce, so it is essential there is harmony between the physical and mobile stores.
Ensuring they are working together means the same product, pricing, and customer data is present in both systems.
There is also the option to literally combine your physical and online stores by placing kiosks within your store, enabling customers to make a purchase in the comfort of the retail environment and with support staff nearby.
Optimal order management across physical, online, and mobile channels requires the consolidation of sales and inventory from all locations, together with a range of fulfilment options.
Customers are looking for a consistent experience no matter where they shop, and this is achieved through a single view of inventory and the ability to fulfil orders from anywhere in your business.
Tighter control of inventory operations and levels across all locations and customer touchpoints means your biggest cost – inventory – is management effectively.
The seamless experience is not limited to customers – it’s also important for you and your staff. Circulating stock around your business maximises sales opportunities, and together with real-time visibility, means inventory is available to be sold anywhere and at anytime.
Taking care of your customers should never take second place to looking after your inventory – and your business needs both to survive!
Customer management is all about offering your customers a relevant and rewarding shopping experience. In the omnichannel environment it’s necessary to capture your customer’s details where they shop and compile it into a single database. This ensures the customer is instantly recognised by your business whichever channel they choose, and their loyalty rewards also accompany them to their shopping destination, whether it’s online or in-store.
As the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the detail’, and the same can be said for data. A sophisticated corporate performance management system morphs large amounts of data – sales, inventory and customer - from all your retail channels and uses it to assess indicators of industry performance via key performance indicators.
Using this knowledge, you can optimise inventory, price and promote effectively, and segment and engage customers.
Am i ready for omnichannel?
Most likely you are ready for omnichannel – and so are your customers. It can be a 360-degree type scenario – your customers are looking at you to meet their shopping experience expectations and provide them with an awesome shopping experience, while you are looking at your customers waiting for them to show how they want to shop.
To avoid going around in circles, pick a starting point to begin the process of preparing for omnichannel. This includes:
- ensuring you have integrity in your data - your inventory management system and business processes must accurately reflect what is happening in the real world.
- assessing how your customers shop – are they a mostly mobile population who like to collect in-store, or are they more likely to visit their local store to browse and go home to order online for delivery?
Where to from here?
If you’re heading off on your own omnichannel quest, contact us to find out how to make the journey a little smoother. We’ll also offer you some great views of your business along the way.