5 Tips To Jump-Start An Omni-channel Retail Strategy

Puzzle pieces spelling 'Strategy'

Say you’re a small bricks-and-mortar retail chain ready to set up shop in the omni-channel marketplace. How should you begin? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you strategically kick off your company’s omni-channel strategy. 

  1. Establish your retail chain’s e-commerce site: With all the resources available on the web, retailers venturing out into the multichannel world can easily set up a web page on their own. Often, resources to create a web page are free and open source, enabling retailers to build a web store using templates or packages. Of course, retailers can always hire someone to create the e-commerce website as well.
  2. Ensure ERP system data can be integrated with the e-commerce site: While adding a channel such as an e-commerce site is a good first step, the omni-channel stresses that all channels should be seamlessly connected. This means all channels that you choose should use merchandise and promotions that aren’t channel specific. The way you capture information regarding your customer and their purchase history needs to be consistent whether they purchase from your storefront or your e-commerce site. 
    In addition to populating a site with photos and descriptions about what’s for sale, the site’s product inventory level should be listed in real time. According to a blog post on the nChannel website, ERP system and e-commerce integration is vital to handling the exploding growth of online sales. Forrester forecasts e-commerce to reach $250 billion by next year. Integration may seem costly in the short term, but the benefits — such as the ability to manage multiple sales transactions online and offline — help retailers grow strategically.
  3. Determine the order fulfillment process for e-commerce site: When a customer orders online, will the product ship from a store or from a central warehouse? Will you allow the customer to pick up their on-line purchase in a nearby physical store? That will determine how to communicate inventory availability to the customer. A few online retailers, such as Amazon, show the specific number of items remaining when the product’s inventory level is low. Apple allows its online customers to see if the product they want is stocked at a store located near them. This information helps to provide customers with added confidence that they will receive their product or gives them the option of saving on shipping and being able to have their item today by picking it up at a nearby store. Once again, a well-integrated ERP system is an essential ingredient to the strategy.
  4. Develop a mobile strategy that gathers and provides customers with information to promote customer loyalty: A successful omni-channel operation depends on how well you know your customer. A mobile app is one of the ways to achieve that. A well-connected omni-channel strategy would know a customer’s history and the fact that he has subscribed to your mobile app, enabling retailers to send promotional offers based on past purchase history. For example, if a customer regularly buys a specific brand of spaghetti sauce once a month, the retailer could offer deals specific to that brand, creating the incentive to purchase more. It’s an idea that mirrors what many websites are doing now, which is recommending products based on what the consumer previously purchased before. An ERP system is the key to effectively manage mobile strategies, such as promoting loyalty programs or gathering customer information and data. That’s why an ERP data integration will help brick-and-mortar businesses jump-start a successful omni-channel operation.
  5. Consider changing your point-of-sales process: Apple Retail Stores turned traditional POS systems on their head. Instead of a stationary area for sales transactions, customers can get POS assistance from any Apple employee in the store. The employees use a smartphone to process sales information, eliminating the need for customers to wait in a checkout line. These types of systems also allow your sales staff to tap into additional information regarding a customer so that they can tailor the experience to the customer’s interests, buying patterns and motivators.

Using the above tips, retailers can start making improvements to their omni-channel approach today.

Comments

Great article - clear and concise - however the implementation as described is still the wild wild west with retailers of all sizes struggling to get vendors to integrate systems as clear and concise as this article. Step 1 starts out as free, however full implementation of steps 2 - 5 are likely going to push you over a million dollars regardless of store count.