The three most important steps to becoming an omni-channel retailer

If you understand why omni-channel retailing is so important (and as eCommerce and mobile use continues to grow why wouldn’t you), the next step is what to do about it. Maybe you’re not sure where to start. These three initiatives will help you organise your thoughts and project planning.

Print1. Open up an online channel. Retailers need to focus on ubiquitous connectivity, and this is where you start. Having physical stores does NOT mean you can’t be an internet retailer, in fact quite the opposite. Several existing retail operations will  apply equally well to an eComm channel –  ranging and buying for example. Unlike online start-ups phyiscal retailers have the advantage of an established brand and hopefully even a digital relationship already in place with core customers via  email and/or loyalty communication … all provide a head start.

Care will need to be given to the relationship between the online channel and store sales;  online might be a separate inventory and profit centre with its distinct cost structures and possibly different retail pricing. Fulfillment logistics must be developed, and finding ways to send  eComm customers into the stores is important. One growth area is click n’ collect…..25% of UK department store John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas sales were online and around 35% of those sales were click & collect. Up to half of many British physical retailers’ eComm sales are fulfilled in a real store. Oh – and don’t forget to include a store finder and opening hours in your site – 37% of retailers forgot, according to EConsultancy!

Ecommerce sites are often enhanced with social sharing, customer reviews, wish-list saving, product recommendations and so on.  Whatever you do, you’re aiming for a seamless experience across all channels.

If you’re not in eCommerce you’re missing out on sales.

2. Ensure you are effective in mobile. Mobility is booming and large format screens make mCommerce easier than before so what you do online should be extended effectively to mobile. Much of the above holds true, and you must make sure your site is optimised for mobile search which sends customers into stores.  Mobile opens up geo-location relevancy tools, ie using the GPS on mobile to allow customers to find the nearest stores without having to scroll through drop-downs or enter locations.

Mobile devices provide shoppers with access to an ‘endless aisle’ in the palm of their hands, one that has the added benefit of allowing on-the-go comparison-shopping. Don’t fight it, be competitive because in new retail there’s nowhere to hide.

You may consider enriching the shopping experience with an app which opens up all sorts of additional functionality options. More about shopper apps here.

 

Huge stores a thing of the past?

Huge stores a thing of the past?

3. Digitise your stores. Embracing digital in your stores can mean a raft of initiatives, some more fundamental in their impact than you may think. For example, digital merchandising: providing customers with interactive tablets or kiosks  could allow you to reconceptualise the very role of the store – if they could browse the ‘endless aisle’ of digital product images,  check out a sample on the racks then place orders directly into the eComm site, choosing click n’ collect or  home delivery, imagine the potential reductions in floor space, stock holdings and staffing.  Fanciful? Best Buy is currently testing smaller shops with radically altered approaches to range, service and checkout, and reportedly planning to close up to 50 of its traditional big box format store this year. Digital stores become showrooms rather than stockists.  On the subject of shaking up the store,  now’s probably the time to have a look at mobile PoS options – maybe that cash desk isn’t needed any more.

Staff might use tablets for instant access deep technical information about products, and to view (and perhaps match) competitive offers on the fly. They need all this to avoid being on the back-foot when dealing with their fully empowered customer who might know more about the product than they do.

640_adidasNext, ditch the paper displays and go digital. Your customer have A.D.D… Analogue Deficit Disorder. Make your messages move, make them add impact and energy, make them engaging, entertain, informative. Screens can do this, paper cannot. Look into digital signage, video walls, interactive mirrors, scannable QR codes. All are ready and affordable technologies to bring your store in to the digital age.

There are two other benefits of digitising your store: Analytics derived through WiFi connectivity and interactive screens not only enables retailers to know who is the store but also to know much more personal information about each customer when the opt-in process supports using Facebook or Twitter to log on.

Adding WiFi connectivity gives both shoppers and staff access to a broad range of digital resources to ensure relevant, informed shopping experiences increase satisfaction and loyalty.

 

There you have it, three steps. Each must express the brand consistently and provide a seamless experience. And each will require operational adjustments to maximise potential and efficient deployment. Have a strategy, have a plan – it’s doable! You’re not the first to meet these challenges, there are lots of retailers dealing with the same journey. You can read more about each of these three project areas right here on Connected Store, or ask us in to chat about them in relation to your particular needs.