An efficient omnichannel strategy used to be the ultimate goal for retailers — a milestone to work toward on a continuous basis. But times have changed, and both shoppers and retail itself have evolved.
Omnichannel is now the standard.
But what exactly does omnichannel retail mean? Let’s roll with this working definition: omnichannel retail unifies all available shopping channels (in-store, online, mobile, social media, etc.) in a way that provides customers with smooth, integrated experiences.
It’s that last part that’s the key, since seamless shopping experiences are one of the main things customers want from retail in the modern age. Today’s shoppers don’t differentiate between channels; rather, they switch fluidly from one to the other as if they’re one and the same. And they will choose the brands and stores they shop with based on this. So how can you upgrade your business’s game plan and increase revenue in the process? Here’s three main steps:
1) Start selling on more channels.
Brick and mortar shops were once the foundation of retail, and they are still hugely important. But nowadays traditional retailers also need to have an online store, to open up their customer base and give consumers the shopping options they want.
In order to increase revenue and maximize success, you want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to find you — which means you want to have a sales presence in as many channels as you can.
If you’re a brick and mortar retailer without an ecommerce site, it’s likely that you’re losing out on business. But you’re in luck: setting up an online store and syncing it with your physical location is easy, you just have to choose the right software to help you do it.
If you already have an ecommerce outlet, look to some other up-and-coming sales trends to round out your omnichannel strategy – for example, make sure your web store is optimised for mobile, and do some research into selling on social networks such as using Soldsie on Instagram.
Ideally, customers should be able to buy your products via every major retail and social channel: online, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and in-store.
2) Make your channels work together.
It’s not enough just to have a presence on all the sales channels mentioned above. Each of your channels must work together, functioning as parts of a wider ecosystem.
This means you need to have a comprehensive solution for the problems this presents. Among them? Inventory control, channel management, and returns — three things that are particularly important in creating a seamless omnichannel experience.
But how exactly do you get all your channels to work together? For starters, look at getting yourself a centralised retail management system if you don’t already have one. By implementing one system to bring together every part of your operations, you can simplify your business. Newer, cloud-based point of sale systems (as opposed to traditional, offline tills) can generally handle all those complex behind-the-scenes necessities, such as aggregating inventory in your store or across multiple locations to ensure you can see all your products and stock levels in real-time.
UK retailers including Number Six, Watershed, and By Walski all use a cloud-based POS system, connected to their online store, as well as their other key business tools such as their accounting system, to more efficiently run their entire business across multiple outlets and channels.
Doing this also makes a big difference to those time-consuming tasks and errors, that can occur when everything is working independently. For example, with all your channels synced together you’re less likely to have double-sells, or to sell out of a popular item without the chance to re-order in time.
Do some research to figure out which centralized point of sale system or retail management system might work best for your business, and make the switch. It’s a relatively small investment that’ll quickly prove its worth.
3) Play to the strengths of your various sales channels.
An effective omnichannel strategy also involves playing to the strengths of each sales channel and knowing both how shoppers use them and what they want from them.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do this effectively. The first step? Thinking critically about how you use these different channels. What do you want when you log in to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, or Twitter? Then think about your core customer, and how they would like to use these channels. Use those insights to develop a channel-specific content and omnichannel strategy.
Of all the potential social media sales channels, Facebook gives you the most space to share information. But remember the golden rule: the shorter the better! Facebook also lets you more easily invite customers and followers to exclusive in-store events, or workshops, just like London kitchenware store Borough Kitchen does, which can be a great way to attract shoppers.
Instagram, of course, is predominantly visual. This is where you curate a brand image and feature compelling photos of your products or services. If a picture showcases one of your products, always include a link to it on your website or information on how to purchase it. For some serious inspiration on creating a seamless brand feel on Instagram wander over to Watershed’s page.
And Twitter? Due to its 140-character limit, you’re fundamentally restricted in how much you can write. Because of that, it’s necessary to be strategic. Twitter’s a great place to showcase your brand voice — lighthearted, humorous, progressive, serious — while pushing to content, advertising a promotion, or simply trying to increase sales. Shoppers peruse brands’ Twitter accounts knowing they’ll likely be sent to a website via links, so take advantage of that. Use your tweets to send shoppers exactly where you want them to go. Check out ASOS’s feed for a crash course.