Customers want the items you have available for them. Fortunate or unfortunate, they want to buy them when they want, through whatever channel is the most convenient when they want to buy. More importantly you need to be able to target and reach this consumer through the optimal channel. When this is all complete, your omni channel strategy will be well on its way. Though this seems like a lot it doesn’t have to be. Omni channel is really more a matter of using your technology resources to put together a smooth operation for customers more than anything else.
In the new retail environment, omni channel goes beyond in store and online, it offers consumers personalized, real time information. A smooth omni channel retail strategy delivers an exceptional experience. To accomplish this retailers must consider the user experience, online, in store, mobile, analytics, cloud, sensors, and social. These great technologies all come together in a simple, beautiful manner when combined to delight customers and send more product through the checkout.
This is all great but how do you get everything to come together in a smooth fashion that not only delivers a great experience to customers, but doesn’t have your employees scrounging around to figure out inventory levels, cash balances, untended orders etc. etc. This is where omni channel has many retailers struggling, which is why it has caught a lot of attention lately. In many ways this comes down to the technology running in the background to make everything go smooth. I’m going to run through a brief but important checklist to help you master the omni channel retail dominance you need to survive.
First, and most important is your internal operations as of right now. Are your systems handling inventory, warehousing, and POS all working together? Are they scale able as well? This is important because it establishes the foundation for expanding into new channels. If you don’t have systems in place that can deal with various levels of demand, new channels, new platforms and new locations, you need to consider replacing or updating this system. There are ways to move around this, our commerce system is able to simply replicate inventory levels so they stay the same but can be sold through any channel.
If you’ve got a solid system in place that you feel can handle the excursion into more channels and more platforms for distribution, pass go and collect $200. The next steps include establishing your online presence, primarily through the web initially. This will require a link to existing inventory through your current system so to ensure all inventory levels are the same no matter where the item comes from. Another important matter when you talk about online sales is where the funds actually go through. Your existing POS may be able to act as the gateway for your online sales as well as in store, which is a good sign. If not, consider using a payment provider that can run smoothly with an existing POS or at least connecting directly to your primary account for the business, to make it easier on accounting.
Now that you have a system in place that can handle more than one channel, you are well on your way. Things to consider now: can this inventory system and gateway work with mobile apps, social sites like a Facebook store, or even other marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay (be careful of fees here as they can really cut into margins if you’re not careful). Many API’s out there like the Proximo enables you to use the existing inventory connected through all channels to offer the merchandise on any available platform, or in the local proximity of your store for in store pickup.
This brings us to one of the last point’s I will make about omni channel retail operations, you need to accept orders anytime, anywhere. That being said, if the customer wants to order online and pickup in store, let them. This should be something your systems can handle because consumers are always going to want their items faster and faster, meaning now. If this can be done by providing a great way to buy through their device while they are out, and then fulfill the order in store, this is great news for you as it cuts down on costs, and delivers the product exactly when the customer wanted it. Through the Proximo platform we have been able to accomplish this with proximity marketing using geo location to target and notify customers as they came within a range of the store, which they could act on to purchase in app, and come in the store to pickup the item. It’s a wildly effective marketing tool and customers love the flexibility they have with your stores.
While there are many pieces and parts to the omni channel retail dilemma, you can start with a great foundation and branch out from there with less work than you may think. We have helped many retailers accomplish this, and you can too. Need a place to start? Pick up the phone and give us a call, we’ll be glad to help guide you: 401–300–4653.