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3 Ways to Jump Start Your Omni-Channel Retailing Strategy

Woman at shopping center

Retailers must embrace the omni-channel movement or risk being left behind in a changing retail landscape. Here are three key areas where brick-and-mortar retailers should start transforming their retail operations into an omni-channel enterprise.

  1. Establish a central ERP system: Omni-channel retailing means treating all shopping channels the same. That starts with having a central ERP system that can ensure consistent prices and promotions for the same products whether they are bought on the retailer’s e-commerce website or rung up on a brick-and-mortar store’s retail point of sale (POS) system. This ensures that customers are able to purchase products from any channel and receive the same prices and benefits.

  2. Know your customer: Ensure that your retail POS system can associate a sale with one of your organization’s customers as well as collect new customer data and store it in your central database. Remember, with omni-channel retailing, a customer is a customer; they’re not ecommerce customers and POS customers. You want to know your customers’ buying patterns and purchase history no matter where they buy your product from. But how you collect data at a brick-and-mortar store depends on wait time expectations at checkout. A customer who is shopping at a grocery store and purchasing only a few items expects to finish a sales transaction in a couple of minutes. But when the customer is buying a $10,000 suit, that person is willing to spend more time in the store or at checkout because the purchase is a greater investment.

    The easiest way to gather customer data is through a store loyalty program. Integrate your ERP system with your loyalty program to start associating customer data with sales transactions. If you need a simple loyalty program to get started, you can enter customers’ phone numbers in your POS system and connect the number with that customer’s purchase transaction. Remember, if your POS system doesn’t track a customer member number, it can’t track customer purchase history.

    Customer loyalty and rewards programs must also have the right incentives. Customers are savvy enough to ask “what’s in it for me?” Consider offering discounts and deals for participating in the program.

  3. Boost your e-commerce website capabilities: Many brick-and-mortar retailers have an e-commerce website, but often their websites operate as a separate entity. Technology driving the website typically allows an online visitor to drill down into product categories or to search for a product. In an ERP system, there is typically an inventory hierarchy, meaning this product belongs to a specific division group, but it can’t belong to more than one.

    In some retail ERP systems, the products are arranged in a dynamic hierarchy, meaning they can belong to multiple product groups and different hierarchies; a specific product can be listed under housewares, furniture or other multiple categories at the same time. A retail ERP system with this type of dynamic hierarchy gives you the base data for your e-commerce website.

    From an omni-channel standpoint, an e-commerce site that is designed around an ERP system communicates information better. When the ERP system and e-commerce website are separate, you have to figure out how to share information between them. Not only is that more difficult and expensive, but you don’t benefit from the immediacy of converting your operations into an omni-channel service.

    If your e-commerce website is already location-aware and has in-stock search capabilities, the next step for online orders is to offer in-store pickup or in-store reservation with home delivery. That takes more integration, which means more time, money and resources to accomplish. But for a retailer with a separate e-commerce website and brick-and-mortar stores to truly become an omni-channel retailer, it needs to integrate those systems.

The time to embrace omni-channel retailing is now. Setting up a central retail ERP system, gathering customer data and expanding your e-commerce website capabilities are three key ways to jump start your omni-channel retailing strategy.