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How to operate a successful omnichannel retail environment

The world of retail once was a simple transactional process. Customers visited a store, browsed products and purchased them. However, times have changed significantly and so has the retail environment.

In today’s retail world, the customer journey isn’t simple and can have a multitude of influencing factors across various platforms. The rise of technology has had a huge impact on the way people view, browse and consume products. The creation of the internet that grandfathered the way we now shop online, using mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Not only that but businesses now have a range of tools at their disposal thanks to modern technology.

Retailers now have an additional challenge, not only just selling their products, but they also need to keep up with the ever-changing e-commerce landscape. In order to thrive in the modern e-commerce market, as a shop owner, you’ll need to make use of all the tools available to you and we’re going to run through exactly how to do that.

What is omnichannel retailing?

Keeping it simple, omnichannel retail is essentially creating and maintaining a presence on several channels and platforms. For example, a brick and mortar shop, mobile, social media etc and allowing your customers to interact and engage with your business across all channels and ensure a seamless, uniformed experience.

A working example of omnichannel retailing is, providing your customers with the convenience and flexibility to purchase an item online via your website or Google Shopping for example and pick up that item in-store and if they choose, let them return the item by post.

Pro Tip: The most important thing to remember when trying to operate as an omnichannel retailer is that you have to ensure that no matter where your customers are interacting with your business, their experience must be consistent and provide a smooth and pleasant experience.

How can this help me to grow my business?

When you’re operating a successful omnichannel retail environment, you’ll not only be opening up new sales channels but also providing your customers with more options when buying from you. This organically drives traffic and can result in a higher sales rate.

Most people will tell you that its best practice to post on your social media channels to increase engagement and brand awareness but omnichannel takes it one step further. The purpose of your social media channels now has a different direction, instead of sharing content and interacting (while you’ll still be doing this), you’ll need to ensure that everything you put out on your social media channels, is driving toward the same common goal.

For instance, if you’re running a limited time promotion, the look of your channels need to be aligned with the promotion and all content should point toward a single page on your website as a central destination for that promotion. If you have a brick and mortar store, you can direct your website traffic to convert into in-store customers.

Operating in this manner will also allow for higher value orders. A recent study showed that omnichannel customers were more valuable in multiple ways and they ended up spending on average 4% more in-store and 10% more online than single channel customers. They also discovered that within six months of the initial purchase, these customers had 23% more repeat shopping trips to that retailer’s store, and were more likely to recommend.

Where do I start?

Understand your customer journey

Before conducting any omnichannel activity you need to get a good understanding of where your customers are coming from and what their buying journey is. You need to focus on what the customer wants, ensuring that the shopping experience you’re giving them will be used and will be effective for your sales. If a phone number, for example, isn’t a channel your customers use, there isn’t much point promoting it as a channel for your customers.

Pro Tip: Remeber that omnichannel retailing isn’t all about technology, your customers may prefer a product catalogue but ultimately your strategy for omnichannel retailing should start and end with your customers.

Evaluate your brand

Now that you understand your customers’ journey, you’ll now need to evaluate your current brand channels and routes to purchase. For instance, your customers may prefer to order online and choose a delivery slot to best suit them but your current delivery methods don’t include an option for customers to choose when their parcel is delivered.

To give yourself a better idea of how a customer experiences your brand, go through the customer journey yourself, whether that be online or in-store – you could also enlist the help of a secret shopper, someone who would have an objective view. You might find that there’s something on your journey that you hadn’t considered that you can now include in your strategy.

Whilst doing this you’ll also want to ensure brand consistency across all channels and routes to purchase for your customers. You need to make sure that what your customers experience is the same no matter where and how your customers are browsing or shopping.

Get connected

Now that you know exactly what channels are part of your strategy you need some way to tie them all together to ensure your online shop and your brick and mortar store (if you have one) are all connected.

What’s important to know is that you’re going to need a sturdy inventory management tool if you don’t have one already. Luckily EKM have partnered with Khaos Control Cloud to make sure our customers can manage stock levels, orders, purchasing and accounts in one place.

Once you have an inventory system that supports your omnichannel efforts, you’ll be able to conduct your strategy in confidence knowing that all the inventory is taken care off, online and offline.

Review and refine

Finally, the last thing you’ll need to do is conduct regular analysis and reviews of each channel to ensure that they’re performing as they should. You’ll need to closely monitor how your shop is going after switching to this new strategy and it’s always good to gather feedback from your team and customers too. You may find that there is another channel that you thought wouldn’t work out from your initial research but it would actually help your customers journey that much more.

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