Achieving omnichannel success this Christmas doesn’t require the IT infrastructure or big budgets that department stores have access to, writes Mark Troselj. However, an integrated e-commerce solution is key.
As Australian retailers head towards the peak Christmas and New Year shopping season, the difference between a season that puts a merchant ahead and one that fails to live up to expectations, requires monitoring and managing customers across all channels, whether it be in-store, through a call centre or online via a laptop, smartphone or tablet device.
Retailers pushing to satisfy increasingly connected and empowered customers across multiple shopping channels are the ones that tend to achieve success over the busy season. Customers expect a consistent and relevant brand experience at each touch point. Without offering a unifying experience, retailers risk customers jumping to the competition, lost sales and the high costs of running separate systems.
For many Australian retailers, achieving omnichannel success might seem overwhelming, but the good news is that it doesn’t require the IT infrastructure and budgets of the big department stores to succeed. An integrated commerce solution that links physical stores and the web storefront with back-end order management, marketing and inventory, puts omnichannel success within reach of all retailers provided they follow these five steps.
1) Optimise your customer touch points
iPhones and other smartphones have become powerful shopping research tools for checking pricing, availability and reviews on the fly, while iPads and other tablets are increasingly being used to research and purchase products. Look to responsive web design to ensure that your web storefront can adjust dynamically to deliver content optimised for each digital customer touch point.
2) Make real-time inventory data available
Showing online shoppers what’s available in stores and what’s online is fast becoming a mandate, but it doesn’t stop there — in-store employees need access too. A mobile point of sale (POS) device can “save the sale” on the store floor by helping an associate quickly determine that an out-of-stock product is available at a store 10kms away, or can easily be shipped to the shopper.
3) Make the experience fast and convenient
There may be times when a customer doesn’t want to wait until an item is shipped, or doesn’t want to drive 10kms to the next store for an out-of-stock item. By having an integrated back-end system in place, you gain real-time visibility into the inventory in each store, accurate stock information and the flexibility to speed orders and fulfillment. For example, you can ship the item from your nearby store to the customer’s home, cutting days off delivery from a warehouse. Enabling shoppers to order online and pick up at their local store allows them to get their products quicker and save on delivery costs. Additionally, retailers can boost customer loyalty, store traffic and incremental revenue by allowing online purchases to be returned to physical stores, ultimately resulting in great customer satisfaction.
4) Provide superior customer service with a holistic view of the customer
Customers don’t appreciate it when an issue raised at a store isn’t communicated to a call centre or reflected in an online profile. A single view of each customer, such as what that customer has ordered and when that order has been shipped, will enable you to deliver the attention and support customers expect by providing visibility into all online, in-store and call centre transactions and interactions.
5) Leverage customer data to cross-sell and upsell
Increase the likelihood of future purchases by leveraging customer knowledge from all channels to promote the right products, to the right shoppers, through their preferred channel. A single view of a customer’s lifetime purchase and interaction history positions your organisation to deliver targeted cross-sell and upsell promotions and encourages deeper customer engagement.
As retailers work their way through these steps, they will realise that the drive to differentiate will ultimately require the flexibility to continuously enhance the customer experience. An omnichannel strategy quickly renders old bulk “spray and pray” approaches to online marketing as obsolete. Retailers will need to innovate with new marketing strategies, tactics and technologies. That means developing new ways to enhance your customers’ experiences through email, mobile, online, social, call centre and in-store touchpoints that engage and inform.
A successful omni-channel strategy will be the key to the survival of many Australian retailers in coming years, especially as the online environment accounts for an increasing proportion of overall sales. Getting an omnichannel strategy right can deliver substantial and tangible results. Choosing the right commerce platform — one capable of supporting the creativity the marketplace demands — will make the prospect of this innovation more an opportunity than a challenge.