Ten years ago if you had told someone that retail shopping would be done on phones, social media platforms, tablets, interactive kiosks, and more, chances are they would have laughed in your face.
But in today’s retail environment, that’s exactly what’s happening. While people still buy in-store, they also compare products and prices, research items, read reviews, and consult social media before making a purchase. If you’re not available everywhere, your limited presence will negatively affect both the user experience and your bottom line.
Retailers who want to be successful need to keep up with customers no matter where or how they’re shopping, which is known as omnichannel retail.
What is omnichannel retail?
Simply put, omnichannel retail is a fully-integrated selling approach that provides shoppers with a unified experience across all channels or touchpoints. It’s more than just brick-and-mortar and includes everything from mobile-browsing and online marketplaces to social media and everything — and everywhere — in between.
To truly be an omnichannel retailer, you also have to fuse all those channels together, so they give customers a seamless experience.
Why you should sell on multiple channels
Simply put, it makes good fiscal sense for merchants, as studies show that 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. When consumers are given more options to buy from you, it’s more likely that they’ll take advantage of those sales channels when it’s convenient for them.
In addition, having a presence on multiple channels can increase sales and traffic on other channels. If you’re active on social media, that can increase traffic to your website and online store. Having a great website can also drive shoppers to your brick-and-mortar location.
Not only that, but omnichannel customers spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online, and “companies with omnichannel retail strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers from channel to channel.”
Creating a more seamless transition from channel to channel helps you retain the majority of your customers — and gets them to spend even more. Follow the tips below to get started.
1. Find out where your customers already are
When we’re talking about omnichannel retail, you might think it’s all about technology — but it’s not. Yes, technology plays a big role in enabling sales on multiple channels and fusing them together, but at the end of the day, your strategy should start and end with the customer. That’s why the first step is to figure out which platforms, mediums, and devices your customers use most often — what their shopping journey is.
How do people find your business? What channels do they use and how do they use them? In what ways do they interact with your brand?
There are several ways to find out this information, starting with simply observing them in your store. Do they browse or go straight to a product? Are they checking prices on their phones? Strike up a conversation and ask them about how they find the products they buy, what websites or apps they use when shopping, etc. and incorporate this information into your strategy.
Next, check online reviews and comments on sites like your Yelp, Facebook, and Google business profiles to read what people are saying about your business. Consumers often take to online platforms to give their opinions, and you’ll likely pick up many insights into their store experiences.
2. Evaluate your existing channels and offerings
Now that you have an idea about the customer journey, it’s time to take a look at what you’re currently doing with the existing channels and what you offer. This will help you figure out the best course of action for going omnichannel.
What’s it like to buy from your store? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and literally shop your brand to get a first-hand experience of what a buying experience is like in your stores. Take note of the positive and negative aspects of shopping both in-store and online. What you’re looking for is brand consistency throughout the multiple channels to make sure you’re offering a cohesive experience no matter where and how customers are shopping. If you want a more objective opinion, invest in a secret shopper to take on the task and report back.
Next, take note of the technologies powering your sales channels. When it comes to selling online, that includes your ecommerce platform, fulfilment solution, or other marketplaces like Amazon that you might sell on. For in-store sales, that would include your EPOS system, inventory management solution, payment processor, etc. (We’ll use this information in the next section.)
Finally, do some research into what channels and services you’re not using and figure out why and if it would be beneficial to implement them. For example, if you don’t sell online yet, look into ecommerce platforms. If you don’t yet offer click-and-collect, research how you can provide that service.
3. Bridge the gap between online and offline
Now you need to figure out how to connect the different components of your omnichannel operation because just being present in multiple channels isn’t enough. Customers don’t just want to make a purchase in your store. They demand to connect with your brand both online and off, which includes knowing what’s in stock before they come to visit or being able to pick up an item at the register that they had in their online cart.
The best way to offer such capabilities is to integrate your online shopping cart with your EPOS system. Reach out to your technology vendors and discuss how you can connect your different sales channels.
To make this step easier, opt to use solutions that have existing integrations that allow you to easily connect their system with other platforms. Vend, for example, integrates with various ecommerce shopping carts, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woocommerce, so retailers can sell online and offline with ease.
4. Establish omnichannel business processes
Once you’ve successfully integrated the platforms, the hard part is pretty much done. Now it’s important that you create business processes to support your omnichannel efforts, and ensure your staff can correctly carry out your initiatives.
Just as you have processes in place for hiring and basic training, you should have processes in place for things like ensuring that online orders are efficiently processed in-store and that the products are ready for pickup once the customer arrives.
While the procedures will vary from store to store, some things to consider include:
● How you will communicate with customers and what kinds of notifications you will send them
● How you’ll prepare orders coming in from various channels and how to ensure you don’t oversell
● How you’ll deal with issues like overselling or other miscommunications
Be as detailed as possible when documenting your processes, and then educate your staff about those procedures. From there it’s your job to ensure that everyone is able to stay on top of your omnichannel initiatives.
5. Observe and adjust your strategy
After you’ve successfully implemented that omnichannel selling strategy, it’s time to step back and take a look at how things are going so that you can make any necessary adjustments. Ask associates, managers, and even customers about what they feel is and isn’t working.
Maybe you’re finding that it’s time to expand into other channels, or that your expansion onto one specific channel is more work than it’s worth. The goal is to create an experience that can be successfully completed and repeated on multiple platforms. Just remember to do what makes the most sense for your shoppers and really take advantage of your customer research. After all, omnichannel is all about the customer — so adjust your strategy accordingly.
Francesca Nicasio is Vend’s Content Marketing Manager. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and run more profitable stores. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.